Events, Family, Open-source, Personal, Software, Thoughts

Working for a Development Firm is Like Being a Rented Sports Car

As my last post alluded to, I am leaving my current development firm. The reason is primarily a boost in earning potential at another employer, but also a culture change. To explain the culture at a development firm I created this analogy:

Imagine you rent a Mustang, or a Corvette. (Of course you are gonna get the insurance!) What are you going to do with that car? Everything that you fucking can! You are gonna imprint the gas petal into the floorboard, and drive fast and wreckless. After all, you have to get every dime you can out of your rental before your time expires right?

Now imagine you own a Mustang, or a Corvette. Yeah, you would probably hot dog it, but it also your purchase, so if you wreck it, you are gonna be upset with yourself. In other words, you are going to maximize your purchase by caring for your vehicle, and obeying the speed limit (most of the time anyway).

I have just described the difference in my view of an internal development team, and an outsourced development team. Clients want to maximize that dollar when they outsource, which is done by getting the most work in the least amount of billable hours. They want the sports car rental. They aren’t going to set a moderate pace; they are going to speed! I’m not saying that all development firms, or all clients are like this (I’ve worked with great clients in the past). But I am saying there is a struggle between maximizing value and being realistic about what you promise.

How does a client pick your development firm? By your firm being the lowest bid. They understate the hours needed for the work. They over-promise features on an unrealistic deadline. When Company A quotes $100k under Company BCompany A gets the work. And the client isn’t going to be cool with missing deadlines, or cutting functionality. So now management is in a battle with the client who is pissed off because the original bid was unrealistic, and wants to rectify the problem. That shit rolls down hill to you – the developer.

And I can tell you, its not possible to write good code faster. Someone micro-managing me, asking me what I’m doing every five minutes isn’t making me any more productive.

There are lots of companies that push hard. You can make a good living working for these places as long as the compensation, or bonuses are commensurate with the work that you put in. But busting your ass all day, every day – every day feeling 10 hours long – every day being full of epic code pushes, and near impossible deadlines met in the 11th hour – that is a young man’s game. That is pretty appealing when you are 22, fresh out of college, and eager to prove yourself to the world. Stressing out at 4:50 on a Friday, trying to get something delivered while your wife and daughter patiently wait for you to get off work just isn’t worth it. I’d rather enjoy my time with them. I’m not mad about it – its just how the game is played.

Which is why this Sports Car is up for ownership. He is done with the rental game, being driven too hard, too long. He wants a nice garage somewhere, and a driver that just takes him out on Sundays for a trip around town. I want to spend time with my daughter while she is still young, instead of delivering some milestone that I wont remember in a month. If I wanted a stressful culture, I would have worked for a startup. Then at least I have some small chance of hitting it big when we get bought by Google.

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Computers, Personal, Software

Working From Home: Redux

In July I wrote about my experience of working from home after one month. Six months later, I’m still working from home, but more the wiser. I had a lot of fears, and uncertainty one month in, and despite the silver lining, I wondered how some of the long term attrition would affect me. Happy to say, six months later I’m alive and kicking, hoping to never set foot in an office again! Here are some thoughts looking back.

Isolation It was a fear that never manifested itself. A coworker of mine warned me that after several months of working from home, he was like a lost puppy when someone would walk through his front door. Hell, I’m a bit strange after staring at the computer screen for a few hours, let alone months of working from home. I attribute this mitigation to my wife and my daughter, and keeping an active social life. I always eat lunch with someone, and keep my weekends full to break up the weeks.

Work is a great place to meet new people, but its not the only place. I still meet friends through friends, and have family, etc. I find that not having a soul-sucking commute and eight hours a day at a desk has made me more social (or at least more energetic). At the end of the day, I want to go out and do things and hang out instead of come home and crash on the couch with some greasy snack food named “regret”. My biggest connection is now user groups in the area. Its educational, and fun.

Reduced Visibility Since you aren’t there, are you going to be passed over when it comes to opportunities, praise, feedback, inclusion in discussions, etc? The answer is YES. The bigger question is if you really want to be in all those silly meetings anyway. I’m guessing you wouldn’t choose to work remotely to place work more in the forefront of your life. After hearing the glorious silence, I find all of the managerial office discussions distracting and just want to know what the outcome is. Less is more.

While I have upheld my end of the remote work bargain, there is still a trust issue. it can be frustrating for your boss when you don’t immediately respond to communications because the fear is “Oh man, we cut this guy loose, and we will never hear from him again!”. We started a new project and I had to (and still at times) push back on the amount of micromanagement. I think there is still a failure to understand that if the agreement is to let me work remotely, then the implied statement is that I am disciplined enough to get my work done.

I think I will prefer ROWE. An employee should be able to work when they want, and how they want without conforming to office hours. The bottom line for a business is that I deliver, not that I put in exactly 40 hours. More on this in a moment.

Getting into a Rut It happens to everyone from time to time. Maybe even more so in the winter. Its cold outside, and the daylight hours are short. When you are working from home, the days start to blend together, and it becomes harder to remain motivated. Caffeine will only carry you so far…

The best thing I did for myself was joining a gym right up the street. I try to visit a few times a week. Its amazing how much stress, tension, and anger you can eliminate just from jogging in place for 30 minutes. I come back refreshed, focused, and energized. When I have several visits in a week, I begin to look forward to the next visit, an this helps me get through the day.

For God’s sake whatever you do, don’t setup for work within arms reach of the junk food in your kitchen!

Another drain is being constantly focused. When you need to be, this is a good thing, but the human mind can only concentrate for so long before fatigue becomes a factor. I read an interesting article called the 10x Developer in You where the author describes the Pomodore Technique. He suggests 25 minutes of concentration, and a 5 minute break. I have opted instead for 45 minutes of concentration, and a 15 minute break, since I often get into problems that extend beyond the 25 minute mark. I have found my productivity (and attention) back to where it was when I first started remote work.

ROWE

ROWE focuses on results, and not hours. Remote work is half of the dream realized, but you still have to conform to office hours. What is the point in working from home if you still have to act like you are sitting in an office?  I think the ideal job would allow remote work and practice ROWE.

For those of you that aren’t parents, a one year old’s sleep schedule is quite erratic, and my shifts don’t always line up with her awake times. I resent having to work while she is awake, only to get off five minutes after she has gone down for a long nap. My daughter goes to sleep around 7pm, and I would prefer work after she is asleep so I can spend more time with her during the day. ROWE accommodates this, whereas a traditional schedule does not.

Charlie Maffitt has some great advice on breaking old habits and adopting a ROWE work style: http://blog.bignerdranch.com/1183-old-habits-die-hard-adapting-to-rowe/

 Final Thoughts

You might be sick of hearing those lucky bastards say it, but this is a game changer. Light traffic is irritating to me now, and I don’t know how people deal with it both directions, 5 days a week. I have a lot more time for reading, playing, and relaxing.

My wife and I have plans for long term travel just around the corner. We underestimated the costs of moving, and the overhead of renting a place for an entire month on top of your current rent. Nevertheless, its still on the books, and later is better than never.

We are also looking to move further out of the city. Without worrying about the commute, you can move further out and maximize your purchasing power.

I think this is the next revolution for workers. This wasn’t possible before for the most part because the technology wasn’t ther, but many jobs today can be done as easily from home as from an office. The entire notion of putting on a silly suit, sitting in traffic an hour, and sitting in a stuffy cubical away from your family most of your life just strikes me as bizarre. The workers will start to demand it, and the employers will have to stop being so controlling about monitoring their staff. This is how you fix rush hour – not by adding mass transit and more lanes. This is how you lower gas prices – not with more fuel efficient vehicles. This is how you fix the depressed American worker – not with medication.

Food for thought!

 

 

 

Personal, Thoughts

Saving Money

As I walked out of the Lilburn International Farmer’s Market today with four full bags of groceries for $22, it struck me that I’ve been overpaying for groceries my whole life.

How to shop is a learned behavior, and my parents never took me to a farmer’s market. We went to premium chain grocery stores, and payed premium prices. I’ve been spending money on things without thinking about it for a long time. The way I bought everything all came down to doing what my parents did. But times are different now. The consumer has a lot more knowledge of competing retailers, and thus a lot more choice.  I thought I would pass on a few everyday (no financial advise!) tips for a more frugal lifestyle:

First off – the “Golden Rule”: Never pay full retail. Yup. There are simply too many competing products in every space, too many retailers, too many sales, and an abundance of used items to every pay top dollar.

Groceries: As I mentioned in my opening, find a local farmer’s market. There are probably plenty around you. If there aren’t brick and mortar stores, check with your city’s website to see if they have a market on the weekends. Buying local, and direct can saves lots of money, especially on produce. Eat less meat. Meat is expensive, and too much is unhealthy. Substitute expensive meat for cheaper, healthier options.

Dining Out: Skip dinners and go for lunches instead. The prices are usually one third to one half cheaper than their dinner counter parts. Usually the portion is reduced, but not by the same percentage as the cost. Reducing portions is healthier anyway, as restaurants have distorted what is a reasonable meal size. On the subject – skip drinks, appetizers and desserts at restaurants. There is usually a high markup for these items. If you go with someone, split an entree. Depending on the restaurant, this is usually more than enough for two people. If not, order an entree and a side.

Clothes: Try TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Khols. You still get new, name brand clothing, but for a fraction of the price. Shoes can be purchased at Payless, or other discount sellers. You may not find exactly what you want, but I think forcing you to expand your wardrobe diversity is a good thing. You might like the look of something you never considered. If you are buying for kids, try consignment sales. Lots of items are never used, since kids grow so fast.

Furniture: Craigslist! People get tired of perfectly good furniture all the time. Let others take the hit of the retail cost. You get to pick from thousands of items on websites like Craigslist for a fraction of the cost. My wife’s latest Craigslist trophies include a $2200 leather sectional couch for $400, and a $600 ottoman for $115. Half of our furniture at this point was acquired from Craigslist.

Utilities: After spending almost three years in New England, I have learned that it’s acceptable to open your windows. Save the AC for when its above 80, or excessively humid outside. Cut cable and pick up a streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. You don’t need 300 channels if you only watch a handful of shows.

Transportation: While Atlanta’s options aren’t overly appealing, there are usually enough public transportation options to use for your commute. Outside of commuting, you and your spouse can get away with sharing a car on the weekends. Carpool with friends, or alternate weekends in which you get the car. You will not only save on the cost and maintenance of a second vehicle, but also gas, and insurance.

Books: Stop buying them! I’m not advocating that you stop reading of course, but rather check them out from your library. You are paying taxes to fund these municipal services, so leverage them. If you must read the latest best sellers, check what your friends have. When I finish a book I never lend it out – I give it away to whoever wants to read it next. Even e-readers have services that allow for lending digital copies.

Games: Lots of video games quickly depreciate in value. Within a few months of the launch date, the game may drop $15-20. Within six months the cost is probably half the launch day price. Within a year, the game usually ends up as part of a bargain sale. Forget the hype of playing the latest and greatest. Lots of online deals websites are heavily biased towards electronic items, including games. Keep an eye out!

Interestingly, we have less income now that my wife stays at home. We also have more expenditures now than we did when we made more income. We pay considerably more rent, own a new car, and yet we still manage to pay down our debts we accumulated when making the higher income. The trick is to shortcut everyday expenses, and prioritize your wants, and differentiate them from your needs. You aren’t entitled to have all the nice things your parents have. They are older than you and have been accumulating their possessions their entire lives. You are younger, so don’t make the comparison.

I wish someone had imparted this advice on me when I was younger, and I hope that these tips helps others to stretch the all-mighty dollar and live a little more comfortably.

Computers, Events, Family, Personal, Thoughts, Vacations, Web

One Month Perspective On Working From Home

Today marks one month of being a remote worker for my employer. I’m still learning on how to be the most effective with this new environment, but I wanted to reflect on my experiences for anyone else considering this working arrangement.

Lets get this out of the way: its not all unicorns and rainbows. I think that was the biggest surprise to me. It seems like a dream to wake up, walk into another room of your house, work a few hours, and already be at home when 5 o’clock hits. For those expecting instant happiness – you will be slightly disappointed.

The reality is that, like most things in life, working from home is a mixed bag. For those looking to make the transition, consider the following issues:

Isolation can be a big problem, depending on your personality. I think this blow was softened because I am a software developer, and I am used to working with a computer more than people already. I have already cut my teeth on reduced interaction. What I do miss is the comradery in working in a team environment. You often have lunches with your co-workers, entertaining side conversations, and a million other things that contribute to the work culture. When you are working remotely, you exclude yourself from most of that, and it can be frustrating to feel like your avenue for interaction has been reduced.

Reduced visibility in the company is another disadvantage. I feel that I need twice the participation in communications just to prove that I really do still exist. You aren’t in the chatter loop anymore, so information may come to you seemingly out of the blue. Its important to remember that the company isn’t just swinging at things to see what sticks – they are in discussions that you aren’t part of anymore. There is something to be said for that office grapevine. I also get the feeling that I am quietly passed over when it comes to opportunities. The “online” indicator in a chat room isn’t the same as being a warm body in the room when it comes to picking a person for a job.

Getting into a rut in your routine is something that you have to constantly work against. While it seems so simple to sleep in one room, and work in the next, my mind craves more experiences in a day than the walls of two rooms of my house. Like it or not that soul-sucking commute, and those bleak off-white painted walls in the office provide some stimulation. I think it is key to be mobile. Work from a coffee shop for a day, or visit a local university, or other facility welcoming of guests, and providing free wi-fi.

Take your lunches out a few times a week, just to stay connected with the outside. You will be amazed to know that the rest of the world isn’t in a stasis. Things on the outside change. New restaurants open, roads get built, technology improves, books get published. Partake in the changes by going outside your house.

Join a meetup group for fun, or for professional development. In addition to providing networking, and keeping you up on the times, it is also and excuse to go have a few drinks with some peers.

Its not all gloom and doom, as there are some really positive things about working from home. Some of these you probably already know (and maybe even dream about!):

You will have a lot more time. Simply commuting is an average of two hours a day – 10 hours a week that you instantly get back. Also, if you cook at home for lunch, often you can use the remainder of your time to complete tasks mid-day instead of waiting until the end of the day when you are tired. I often do some laundry, or vacuum, take the dogs for a walk, sit outside and read my book, etc. My wife and I have a seven month old daughter, and every minute is precious to me. Having more time to spend with her is priceless.

There are cost savings to remote work, including reduced wear and tear on your car, and fewer fill-ups at the pump. I actually got to reclassify my vehicle as as “for pleasure” on our auto insurance, since it is no longer used for commuting and falls under the cap for average miles per year. Other savings include cheaper lunches (unless you go out) since you have a full kitchen at your disposal, and a thus are able to prepare a range of foods. You may find other savings including no more mid-day dog-sitters, saving on a parking spot, or public transit (just kidding – this is Atlanta!).

You will be hyper-focused. A co-worker once told me “an office is a great place if you don’t want to get anything done”. I understand what he meant by this now. Co-workers can be lots of fun, but when you are trying to buckle down and squeeze something in on a deadline, the office is the least likely place that is going to happen. I often get “in the flow” for 3-4 hour straight in a day when working from home. Its important that you recognize the speed you are working at, relative to your output before to understand how productive you are. The first week, I felt like I was moving in slow motion trying to adjust to the new environment, only to find that I had increased my work output. I would wager I am twice as productive in a day at home relative to a day in the office.

That being said – take frequent breaks. Your coworkers aren’t there to give your brain a break – so its up to you. I find it the most ethical to take breaks doing tasks I can relate to my work. I read HackerNews, read a technical book, or use the time to test out some new technologies. I have already been able to fold some of this exploratory knowledge back into the projects at work.

You are free to travel (and for extended periods!). Lots of people binge vacation, one or two weeks a year. When working remotely, you aren’t tied to a particular location anymore. As long as you have a laptop, access to the Internet, and power, you can be anywhere in the world. My wife and I are gearing up to spend a month in St. Augustine, Florida. I will work during the day most of the time, taking only a few PTO days. After 5pm, or when the weekend hits you are already in the middle of vacationing. The best part is that the month long vacation schedule is one you can physically sustain, with plenty of rest between the activities.

The final benefit I will mention is being able to set your own schedule. You can’t get carried away, especially if your employer enforces office hours. But if you need to take lunch earlier, or later, you can. If you need to step away from the computer for a few minutes to handle something, you can. There is trust that has to occur between employer and employee, but in my experience, your employer is most concerned with work output. It is a loaded gun to know that you are being entrusted to operate with almost total autonomy. You no longer have the eye of an overseer watching your every movement, which is a liberating feeling. Just get what you need to get done, and don’t go crazy with power!

So far, I am loving it. I have heard mixed reports of people adapting to working remotely. Some people crawl on hands and knees begging to come back to the office, and some people work remote the rest of their career. I think it comes down to your particular personality. If you are like me, you just have to try something to know if it works for you. This is one gamble I am glad that I took.

For anyone seriously considering a teleworking gig, I would highly recommend a few resources that helped me get started. First first is a short post like this one from Kyle-Kulyk. I don’t touch on it, but he makes a great observation about how working from home will affect your relationships with significant others. Benefits of, and managing your new teleworking lifestyle can be found in the 4 Hour Work Week. This book contains lots of great resources for how to negotiate a remote work arrangement, and tips for extended travel. Finally, Joel Gascoigne has some great pointers for keeping yourself mentally happy during this big transition.

Events, Family, Personal, Software

Working on the Javascripts From Atlanta

Goods news – I survived the two day journey back to Atlanta! My folks offered to help us move (or maybe it was to help their granddaughter move back). We rented a truck, and got everything loaded up Wednesday. After an exhausting day of packing, and cleaning I said good-bye to my Barrington, RI residence and hit the road. After living in the smallest state, its difficult for me to drive long distances, and Atlanta was a long distance destination. The drive was easy, and at the end of the journey I had friends, family, a big house, and my best friend’s wedding reception to make it to. It was the fuel I needed to keep my sanity.

After an overnight stop in Strausburg, VA, I made the rest of the journey with time to spare for the reception. It is amazing how different Atlanta looks form an outsider’s eyes. I got used to the close together houses, and the small, but dense cities of New England. When I got off of I-85 in Braselton, GA and start making my way on backroads to my in-law’s house I started to get shaken. I couldn’t believe how country it really is in rural Georgia. Parts were charming, like the road side tables with local produce for sale, and other parts were just run down and sad. At this point I had yet to see the house that I signed a year and a half lease on in person, and this was swaying my confidence in my decision.

After John and Anna’s wedding reception I called it a night, with move in day starting bright and early the next morning. We finally got moved in thanks to friends and family into our new house. The house is beautiful, and has been truly renovated. We have lots of space to grow into, and Morrigan finally gets a toy room. We have central air again, and a wrap around deck overlooks the tree canopy in the heavily wooded back yard. We are up against a creek, and so far, it has been very peaceful, but the the neighborhood is no Barrington. I missed the cicadas and fireflies.

Over the last few weeks we have been getting to see lots of folks, and are making up for lost time. A lot has changed, but not so much that we can’t catch up. I have enjoyed talking with everyone, and I feel so happy to be back.

Another big change for us has been my adoption of a teleworking arrangement. I am home during the day, working out of my office. It has been great not having a commute, and getting to maximize my time with Morrigan and Kristin. When I would go into work, I would spend most of the day waiting to get back home. Now I have both things, together. Before you cut me down with your death ray stare, it isn’t all perfect. I miss my coworkers, and the opportunity it provided me to get out and break from the routine. I will give a telecommute update in a few months once I find a good rhythm.

In programming news, I have become intrigued with Node.js and developing in Javascript. A client project at work turned me onto it, but the timing was terrible since I was a new, first time dad. I had to let that project go, but a recent Hack Day at MojoTech gave me time to focus my energy on Backbone. I have been slowly building a card game in the browser using Node.js + Backbone + Mongoose. The project is one of love, as I used to play this card game a lot in Middle School, but now it is a dead franchise. More updates on Javascript, and my side project in the days to come.

Computers, Hardware, Linux, Personal, Software, Thoughts

Self Realizations – Part I

During World War II, when you needed to get communications between two points, you often had to run a telegraph wire through enemy territory. I’m picturing the scene from Enemy at the Gates – where a soldier puts on a helmet, gets a spool of wire, and crawls on his belly through the mud, dodging enemy fire, and landmines. The goal is to not get picked off before your reach your destination because everyone is counting on you to make the connection.

Lately I have been engrossed in a side project that has given me an opportunity to work with the Android SDK. I have been so tickled at figuring out everything for the first time. Though I am moving at a snail’s pace, and it can be painful to have to constantly reference the documentation, StackOverflow, and Google at large, it has been a fun experience. Small things like talking to a database, or rotating a bitmap feel like big achievements, and make the struggling worth it. Seeing the Java side of the world puts some things about Ruby into perspective too. I know I am better having tinkered with it, and I had fun while doing it.

I have come to realize that its why I love programming. I love running that first line across unknown territory. It is proof that I can accomplish what I set out to do even with almost no prior knowledge about an environment. It is the same rush I get when tinkering with my car, or building computers, installing a ceiling fan, compiling a kernel, or raising a kid. It is about creating something to solve a problem using common tools and applying knowledge to make something awesome of it all. If I didn’t program, I’m not sure what other career I would have that would give me this same chance to tinker with new stuff.

As part of this self realization, I have discovered by my child-like excitement in my accomplishments, how much I miss this in my current work capacity. I’m not building new things anymore. I’m just polishing the same things, and the details don’t really excite me like the prototypes do. I like “broad strokes”. We need people that do the detail work too, but its decidedly not for me.

So find out what it is that you love, and make it happen. Your job and your passion aren’t always in phase, but don’t let let your passion die out just because you are getting paid to do something else.

Open-source, Personal, Software, Thoughts

The Great ICS Upgrade Scandle: Everyone Just Calm Down

I have been hearing an increasing amount of chatter lately about the infamous Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) delays for Android. I want to discuss the actual impact, and propose some resolutions to this problem.

The article that inspired me to write this is Jason Perlow’s post “I’m sick to death of Android“. Hopefully that title is a hyperbole, but it does address the primary issue that I have with people complaining about ICS delays – I don’t see it as show stopping. Name me the new features that are in ICS? How is this OS upgrade going to change your day-to-day phone experience? Sure it would be nice, and there are probably plenty of small touches, but this isn’t revolutionary.

Jason is the (proud?) owner of a Motorola Xoom tablet, and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The former was recently acquired by Google, and the latter of which is a Google Experience handset, meant to be a developer reference device. He argues that not receiving timely updates has caused him to “throw in the towel”.

I can sympathize with him about not getting updates on his Galaxy Nexus device, as its primary marketing angle appears to be “first” when it comes to updates. If I had dropped the money on that phone, I would be upset if major updates weren’t being released. However, Galaxy Nexus already has ICS, and he is addressing other updates from “bugfix iterations”. Not too exciting. I feel less bad for him about his Motorola tablet. Unless Jason is clairvoyant, he didn’t buy the Motorola tablet because of its strong candidacy for timely updates from Google after they acquired Motorola.

The Problem

ICS was released by Google in October 2011, which has been six months ago, but still accounts for only 1.6% of distribution of Android versions. I can’t defend that. It is a red flag for major distribution problems. Apple’s iOS adoption rate reached 61% in only 15 days and people are tempted to draw a comparison. Google’s Android, and Apple’s iOS are both mobile phone platforms, however they are operating on completely different distribution models. Android was never meant to be a closed ecosystem like iOS. You can’t install iOS on non-Apple hardware. You can with Android.

I think a more apt comparison is between Google and Microsoft’s distribution models. Microsoft makes the Windows operating system, and hardware manufacturers install it on their devices. Its not exactly the same since Microsoft charges for upgrades, and you bypass the hardware vendor to install the upgrade on your device. The mobile carrier middle-man is also non-existent in the Microsoft model.

When Google releases an Android OS upgrade, and handset manufacturers push it to their own devices when they are ready. Further, the mobile carrier may withhold a device OTA update until it deems it is ready (or even necessary). Handset manufactures have clearly prioritized selling new devices over supporting current devices. I’m sure they have ran the numbers, and have made this decision because it yields the most profit. They are a business after all. Apple pushes these updates because they get a cut of every App Store sale, and a failure to upgrade a device is a potential loss of revenue.

Why would a mobile carrier dedicate resources into deploying an OTA update for devices that are “working just fine?”. It comes down to money again, and their decision is clear. Apple probably provides monetary, or exclusivity incentives to the mobile carrier to push their updates. There are many Android phones, but only one iPhone, so carriers probably acquiesce to Apple’s demands.

Solutions

So how can we make this work, without abandoning the entire Android concept over just this one issue?

Incentivise upgrades for carriers/handset vendors. What if OS updates were not free, like in the Microsoft model? A nominal free for upgrading may offset the costs of handset manufacturer, and carrier costs for supporting such an upgrade. Businesses like money, and Ice Cream Sandwich is worth something to me, especially given that most of us are locked into a two year contract anyway. I would rather put some money towards an upgrade now, then wait until my contract runs out to upgrade to a device that has the update.

Educate ourselves. There is no correlation between handset manufacturer’s sales and past performance on OS upgrades. This doesn’t seem to be an issue with the majority of consumers with Android devices. Without it affecting sales, there is little reason to divert resources into maintaining already sold devices.

Open the device boot-loaders. Maybe OS upgrades aren’t the responsibility of handset manufactures or mobile carriers at all, like in the Microsoft model. If people who wanted the OS upgrade had a way to load the update themselves, then this would act as a pressure release value for the current scenario. The idea of a locked boot-loader seems to be archaic anyways, and is rooted in fear. Let the consumer own their own device and do with it as they please.

Make a kickass OS upgrade, and drive consumer demand. Ice Cream Sandwich just seems so lackluster to me. (Maybe I stopped believing it was so cool to keep from going crazy). Short of a few new features, there isn’t anything game changing about this release. Android has plenty of problems that are within the realm of the OS to address. Give me greatly improved battery life, blazing fast performance, zero boot time, fantastic reception, FM radio, overclocking abilities; something – anything to get me excited about an upgrade. I don’t see ICS as changing the day-to-day use of my phone in any meaningful way, and thus I’m not rallying hard for it on my device. I can’t imagine I am alone in patiently waiting for this meek update.

Forget UI customizations; the differentiator should be upgrade latency. People have prophesied about the race-to-the-bottom happening for Android devices the same way it did for PCs. Manufacturers are differentiating themselves in meaningless ways, such as skinning the stock Android UI, or building useless shit that consumers don’t care about. These customizations prolong upgrade turnaround times, when in fact manufacturers should be doing the opposite. As OSNews.com’s Thom Holwerda states: ” they’re wasting considerable resources on useless and ugly crap that does nothing to benefit consumers. Android may have needed customisation a number of versions ago – but not today. ICS is ready as-is. TouchWiz and Samsung’s other customisations add nothing.”. Instead of scaping the bottom of the bucket for ideas on how to differentiate, lets have one manufacturer try this. Hopefully stronger sales would substantiate the idea that consumers care about OS upgrades.

Acknowledge that the lifespan of a phone is only two years. The predominate cell phone sale model in the US is one of subsidized hardware. You pay inflated monthly prices to offset the cost of a low up front purchase cost on your device. Most people upgrade devices at the end of their contract period, since the inflated subsidized price never drops anyway. It is in your best interest to have the latest and greatest because the current model is so abusive to consumers. This being said, the average lifespan of a phone is around two years. How many major OS releases will occur in that timespan? Probably just one. Maybe this short lifespan doesn’t justify the need to have these devices be upgraded at all. Remember that computer you may have bought because it had extra slots to upgrade the memory? Did you actually fill those slots, or just buy a newer faster computer a few years later instead?

Final Thought

So Jason, enjoy your 2.3 experience, because it is probably near identical to the 4.0 experience you are dying to get. I wouldn’t throw in the towel yet on Android because ICS is taking a while to come out. It will get here, and as soon as Google is hurt by lack of adoption they will take action. I hope that my solutions provide some food for thought on how to fix the current problem. Instead of compulsively pressing the “Software Update” option, I’m going to enjoy my experience, and stop letting the media dictate how I should feel. Though “fragmented” we Android users may be, an app targeting the 2.1 platform can be run on 97% of the current devices. That is what developers will be targeting, and I’m sure I’m not missing much from the other 3% of apps that I can’t run before I receive my update.