Developers dont want ping pong tables, fire pits and chocolate fountains

An article, describing an interview with Joel Spolsky (CEO of StackOverflow) at the Geekwire Summit, states that developers aren’t looking for ping pong tables, lounges, fire pits and chocolate fountains as it decreases the overall productivity.

In the article Joel describes the needs for developers to have a closed office, where they can tune out and concentrate, go to a discussion board to ask and seek questions. Obviously this stands very much aligned to Joel’s company, StackOverflow (SO), which is an often frequented destination for developers who needs answers to technical problems. I’m not going to go into my own personal opinion of SO or the value it has (or hasn’t where that’s the case), but more to look at what the core message of the article is about. Namely office environments.

Office environments and Developer Productivity

We all know that crunch-time is a stressful part of our jobs. When we’re almost there and deadlines are looming. We need to focus on delivery and we need to get things done as fast as possible.

This means uninterrupted time with your code and external distraction can seriously hinder concentration and drop productivity. We (read: developers) handle that in multiple ways. We work from home; we wear headphones to block out ambient noise; we close the door; Obviously in some environments that’s not possible.

In my experience, it takes approximately 15 minutes to get into things and reach your “Zen” zone. This is where you’re focused solely on writing the best code you can. Having a constant flow of people around you moving about is a distraction and can very well mean that you never reach that zone throughout your entire day. That’s bad of course. But we also have other distractions. Colleagues and team members asking questions. Emails inbound that needs your attention then and there. Your phone ringing or messenger application popping up. None of these distractions has anything to do with having a hip environment with said ping pong tables. They’re part of your life to some extent.

So for all of the focus on your environment not containing ping pong tables, breakout lounges and so forth, there’re many more ways to distract us than just that. We need uninterrupted time to focus – that’s obvious.

Does having a ping pong table in your office distract you from your work? Ok, if you go there instead of writing code or if team mates are loud and disruptive when playing, then yeah it does indeed bring a level of distraction to your job.

We can all agree that we need to concentrate on getting the job done and the environment can definitely bring that distraction.

Is ping pong bad?

Earlier I mention the ping pong tables and can agree that it brings distractions to your environment. But it also brings something else to your environment that a sterile, closed environment doesn’t: Time at the office, with friends and colleagues, that helps bond traditionally introverted people together. That’s also very important. We shouldn’t forget that developers achieve very little on their own. Most projects of any substance are a collaboration between many developers, all working on specific tasks. When we work as a team we are likely to be far more productive than when we work in isolation. That at least is my view as I’m an extremely extraverted developer. I personally need interaction with my peers and colleagues; I don’t need it all the time but it energises me a lot more than sitting in a closed office for 8hrs (read: as long as it takes) a day. My productivity drops throughout the day and i counter that with some social engagements. Yes, it’s time where I don’t write code but it helps me recharge my batteries.

On long hauls – projects lasting months, if not years, the long term effect of having something to take your mind off things are extremely important. We cannot thrive positively if all we have is stress and 100% concentration. We are humans and need to engage with other people. The ping pong table can offset some of that stress.

Ok, I’m focusing on the ping pong tables a lot; It could literally be anything. Air hockey, pool tables, arcade machines, dart boards and any other activity that can offset and counter build up stress in people. I’m thinking long term, which I don’t think Joel is in his views from the article. I’ve never seen, in my nearly two decades in this industry, that staff retention wasn’t a big problem for companies. Of course it is. Losing talent is a major issue and not just for software companies. If you’re just looking at developers as a productivity figure, you’re likely going to be losing some along the way. Work environments are extremely important for retaining your staff and not all developers are the glass wearing nerds that just run on caffeine (ok, we do), pizza and long nights at the office crunching code for 20hrs a day. As a matter of fact, those are the rarest type of developers today. Programming used to be viewed as magic and attracted only the most introverted personalities. Today not so much.

Finding a balance is far more important long term

I think it’s possible to get the best of both worlds. Yes, you may not attract talented developers purely because you have ping pong tables. Of course not and with that I agree 100% with Joel. But also just offering them the ability to work from home and closing the door to your office isn’t going to make anybody excited.

You need to balance both worlds and we as people aren’t just black and white. You can have both. Don’t place the ping pong table in the middle of your developers cubicles, look further in your office layout. Have the break out rooms built in a basement, or another building if you have the cash to build a campus. Give developers the best of both worlds so that it’s possible to have your cake and eat it.

I personally don’t believe that developer productivity can be measured in how many lines of code they have written. I think that’s a very flat view of what a developer do and personally don’t see that productivity is dictated purely by the environment you are in. Of course, Joel isn’t being all that black and white either and he raises some very good points during his talk at the Geekwire Summit. He compares the rates Facebook pays over other tech companies. They pay more and he contributes this to the fact that Facebook can’t attract developers due to the work environment. I think it’s a little bit more complicated than that to be honest.

The strategy for attracting a developer is very different to that of retaining one.

Mostly a developer want to work on cool projects, with the newest technologies. I can understand that. I wish for a lot of things in my career to have been different, but am now also realistic enough to understand that not all projects are the most exciting in the world. Sometimes you have to eat a sour apple and that’s really just part of life. Much like paying taxes and servicing your car.

The point of finding a balance with what you want, need and can get becomes far more important the longer you stay in the industry. Longevity is incredibly important.

As an IT consultant (read: developer mercenary) I understand that I cannot rely on my client and projects to give me all I want in life. Of course, I’m often far more transitional than a traditional in-house developer and some, if not all, of the rules doesn’t apply to me personally. But I’ve been doing this for long enough to understand what to focus on that’s important to me.

If I have to choose of a perfect environment for me than It would clearly be that I had the office door to close when necessary, that I could work from home when I wanted and that I worked on the newest platforms available. I would also want that ping pong table available to me and my colleagues when I needed a break. Work isn’t always just about work. Yeah, it.

But why can’t I have both – doesn’t seem that hard to me to be honest and it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

Article: Just shut up and let your devs concentrate, advises Stack Overflow CEO Joel Spolsky –

Across the pond

2016 began with a very big decision for the Madsen family – we were leaving Australia and moving further north; Sweden to be exact.

I wont go into the reasons for going. Instead I’ll go into some of the experiences that’s come out of this. It’s a big decision, upping your family from one country to another; selling your home, cars, furniture et al. But as with many other experiences in life, it has it owns rewards.

First and foremost – Sweden. Yeah, it’s cold and really dark during winter. Definitely  a big difference from Perth, Western Australia. That being said, Sweden makes it relatively easy for Nordic citizens to settle in. You don’t need a visa or anything else. And yes, I’m a Danish national so I fit into that category very easily.

…What to do first

If you’re ever considering going to Sweden, be aware that the first thing you WILL need to sort out is the “skatteverket ID”. Basically it’s your tax ID. Uh, shouldn’t be a surprise seeing as swedes really love paying tax. This is a two-stage process. First step is to register for the ID itself. This takes 4 weeks to process. You need to do this in person and make sure you read the details of what documentation et al you’re likely to need. Expect to spend a good part of the day waiting in line as well.

The ID

Without the “skatteverket ID” you can’t:

  • Get a mobile phone subscription, internet access (fiber, DSL etc)
  • Register your public transport card (yes, you can buy it, add funds to it, but you cannot register it)
  • Get a bank account
  • Access the library
  • Get paid
  • pretty much everything that requires you to identify yourself…

The second step is to get the ID card – because, well, yes the card is somewhat more important than the actual ID. The reason why? simple, it’s an official government ID that verifies that you are who you say you are and that your ID is valid. This ID card is a photo ID. Once you get this ID you’re set to go and can get your bank account set up, access the library, get paid etc. What you can’t do, till you have a full income is get a mobile phone subscription. It takes about 2 weeks for the card to arrive and you’ll have to pick it up in person.

Yes, a mobile phone subscription actually has an additional requirement. You must have an income. Doesn’t matter how much money you say you have sitting in the bank. A credit check is actually run against you and if you don’t have an income it’ll come back negative and you’ll be rejected.

The ID card is the holy grail of IDs for foreigners – with it you can pretty much do anything. Without it, well..not so much.

The biggest problem for the period of time where you don’t have your ID is that you’re a non-entity.

Now that’s the practical out of the way. Had to be said as it’s incredibly important that the “skatteverket ID” is attended to ASAP.

…But wait, there is more

As mentioned, it’s a big decision to move. So where do you move to? Ah, here’s the biggest issue with Stockholm in particular. The rental market is tough. It took us quite a while to find a place to rent. And don’t expect to find anything below 12,000sek that’s worth living in. That’s quite expensive compared to what your repayments on, say a mortgage is here in Sweden. The interest rates are crazy low here and has unfortunately pushed the housing prices way up. I mean, stupidly high. So, finding a place to live. That’s a tough one. Don’t go into central Stockholm, unless you really have the cash for that.

Sweden has two types of rental agreements. First-hand contracts, which are between you and the owner directly. It’s the cheapest by far but there’s generally a waiting list around 2-4 years so you might as well forget that. The other is a second-hand contract. Where the landlord has “bought” the apartment/house from the “owner” (yes, doesn’t make sense, but there you go) and you end up paying quite a bit more. Probably averaging around 2x the cost of a first-hand contract. Luckily most utilities are included in the cost (if you get a fair landlord). We got a great landlord and water, electricity and even our fibre internet connection is all included in our rent.

Here’s where, as a foreigner, it becomes a bit hard to manage – most landlords will want to meet you in person before they will sign a contract with you. Doing this from overseas is not easy – so try to find a proxy that’s willing to assist, otherwise, forget about it; buy a tent instead. Most landlords will also want to see that you can pay your rent; so proof of employment can be very important. Not always, but it can be.

Expect also that things will take 4-8weeks to finalise for a rental. There’s a lot of paperwork to sign and it’s all very official. You might also want to ensure that your landlord has gotten permission from the owner to rent it out. If not, then you could very easily get booted out the minute you set foot in the apartment; wave goodbye to your deposit et al.

…The journey

For practical reasons I left Perth before my wife and kids. There was a lot of things to resolve before they could follow and my wife really pulled out all her magical powers of organisation to get things finished. Honestly don’t think this move would have been possible if it wasn’t for my wife’s effort and the help of a lot of our friends.

Lucky for me, the rest of the family followed 2 weeks later.

We also got here at the right time of year. There was still some winter left, but we managed to avoid the deep winter and incredible cold (-15c or below) and still got a taste of snow (much to my kids’ delight).

We’re now in April and getting a good deal of sunlight – this of course also means the weather is getting better. e.g. the cold is pretty much gone. Expect April to hit between 11c and 3c. Light rain is common too.

…What to expect from Sweden?

Well – first and foremost, expect things to cost a wee bit more than AU at least. Petrol is about 2x the cost of what we saw in Perth. The easiest would be if you just take the cost in AU and automatically add 25% on top for most other services and/or products. It’s a bit of a head-bender when you see a bottle of water being sold at 15:-

Another thing is the language – unless you’ve had a babelfish embedded, Swedish is nothing at all like English. But the swedes are more than happy to accommodate you and speak English to you. That’s initially really good because you don’t have to look like a failing, unemployed mime when ordering your food or asking for direction. After a while it becomes a nuisance as you will need to learn the language and the best way is just to start speaking it.

Sweden does also offer SFI; not sure what it stands for but it’s language schooling for migrants – sign up for that as soon as possible. We’re going to be enrolling fairly soon.

Another part is the public transport – you’ll love that for sure. It costs about 790sek for an adult to pretty much have 30-days of public transport. That’s cheap folks – especially compared to AU prices.

I mentioned interest rates are low and housing being expensive? yeah, think i’ve already covered that. It’s important to keep in mind tho. Also, if you do get a job then it’s likely that you’ll be able to purchase quite a few things without paying MOMS for it (E.g. VAT, GST) which is 25%.

sb-logotypeLastly, alcohol – yeah, that’s a tough one. Nearly all super markets stock alcohol…not. it’s light/mid-strength only. For the good stuff you have to go to Systembolaget; a government run liquor store. Kid you not. Full-strength alcohol can only be purchased at this place. Prices are what you’d expect. about 25% more than what you’ll see in AU. Selection, very limited. However they do have to order home pretty much anything that you want. Might want you to buy 6 or more bottles of it, but they will order it in.

…Schools – for the kids that is

Education conceptMan – here’s probably one of the biggest changes for us coming from AU. The school system here is brilliant. And i mean brilliant. The school we enrolled with is local to us. It’s a public school (we’re used to having to put the kids through private school in AU if you want a good education, and lets face it, that’s not even a promise with the quality of private schools plummeting) but incredibly organised. We literally had a meeting with the headmistress on a Friday afternoon, and the girls started the following Monday. They have an interpreter available and have been teamed up with other students who’s bilingual. Big bonus. Plus, your kids get fed at school. Breakfast if you want, but a hot lunch is always served.

Once you have your “skatteverket ID” you can enrol your kids. Doesn’t take much, just contact the school and set an appointment to see them. Easy Peasy.

…Pros and Cons

weather - stockholmIt’s an adventure; Whatever reason you have to move across the pond, make it an adventure and you’ll do fine. A lot of people think it’s a massive move and full of risks, but remember that in Sweden you’re very heavily protected as an employee. That limits the risks significantly once you’ve landed a job.

Another benefit here is that everything is incredibly organised and it all communicates/integrates. It’d almost be scary if I wasn’t already Danish and familiar with the amount of knowledge the government has about you.

Some things that’s not so good – well i touched on housing. That’s a really big problem, but not just for migrants. Get registered on, pay the fee and start looking. It’s cold as well. If you don’t like the cold, don’t go here. Winters are bad for beach-goers. It gets dark and you’ll get close to 18hrs a day without the sun (at least if you go this far north). The same goes for summers of course. Some really, really long days during summer.

The industry is booming here – ok, when i say the industry i mean IT&T. Stockholm in particular is a start-up heaven. Nearly 90% of all VC funding for start-ups in Europe are expected to go to the north. That means that IT is a big thing here.

This also means that the job market really needs more people. Especially technically skilled people. Which of course is good for us geeks.

The perfect travel companion – Yoga 900 review

I recently made the trip from Perth, Western Australia to Stockholm, Sweden. This wasn’t just some short trip overseas to catch up on the northern weather, but a full family move. And of course I brought my Yoga 900 along with me.

But, this is not about the why and when of my move..It’s about the experience I’ve had to date with the Lenovo Yoga 900. I should quickly add that I’ve also had the Yoga 3 Pro, the predecessor to the Yoga 900, which has also been covered by me in a previous post, and I’ll be drawing some “end-user” comparisons.


The specs of my Lenovo Yoga 900:lenovo-laptop-yoga-900-13-silver-laptop-mode-3-big

CPU: Intel Core i7-6500U 2.5GHz 1866MHz 4MB
OS: Windows 10 60-bit
Display: 13,3″ QHD+ 3200×1800
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 520
RAM: 16GB LPDDR3-1600
Weight: 1.29kg
Thickness: 14.9mm

A few things first. The CPU is a massive improvement to the Yoga 3 Pro; it’s a 6th gen i7 and having 16GB of RAM to play with is also a huge difference. I can definitely recommend looking at this configuration. I also got the silver edition instead of the orange version. Again, they’ve packed a 6th gen i7 into a device this thin and making it work!

Initial Impressions

It’s almost needless to say, but looking at the thickness at 14.9mm and a weight of only 1.29kg, you’d know that this is a thin and lightweight laptop. I’m a very heavy handed guy and sometimes when I pick up hardware that feels fragile, i’m almost overtly cautious about it. This was the same with the Yoga 900 – it’s so light and thin that I was seriously worried about breaking it. That quickly went away though – it’s a solid machine and doesn’t seem to have the “flexing” that’s been reported on the Yoga 3 Pro. At least, it was not something that concerned me at all after having handled it for a couple of hours.

The unpacking was, as expected, incredibly simple. The Yoga 900 rises neatly out of it’s setting when you opened up the lids (i’m generally not much of an “unboxing” fan, but this did give me a little smile) and everything is neatly packed away. It’s a no-frills package that’s there to provide a purpose, and the minimalistic approach is very much aligned to the look and feel of the Yoga 900. It’s a no-nonsense device with a very clean design…a shod’s absolutely beautiful.

lenovo-laptop-yoga-900-13-gold-hinge-detail-6-bigThe Yoga-hinge is still present, but Lenovo has simplified it a bit (i’m not a mechanical engineer so i’m not sure how this is simpler), and it’s still a work of art in my not-so humble opinion. I mean, this is simplicity, form, function and beauty all in one. It also functions as a sort of heatsink as two tiny fans push the hot air out onto it. You’ll feel this getting warm under heavy load, but never hot.

The screen is fantastic. I mean, absolutely brilliant. The touch capability is spot on accurate and the audio, whilst not being terribly loud, is crisp and nice for both music and movies (think Netflix folks).

Ok, I’ve mentioned “laptop” a few times now. It’s actually not just a “laptop”; it’s a 2-in-1 convertible…But….

Is it a “laptop”?

We mostly attribute the word “laptop” to work machines, or heavier gear that can take a pounding from the kids. My version of “laptop” is something I can work on and this one easily kept up with demands during the workday. Running Visual Studio didn’t seem to phase it a bit, although it did get a tad warm at times. Secondly, had it hooked up to a second monitor and the onboard Intel HD 520 chip had no issue with that either.

As a consultant I’m also frequently on the move – 1.29kg is nothing for a bulky guy like me and this makes it absolutely ideal to bring along to client meetings. I actually found myself unplugging it and going for long periods of time without plugging it back in again. From a workload vs battery life then it almost went a “full” day for me. When i say “full” day then i should probably quickly say that i’m a 6am to 6pm worker. I never tried leaving the charger at home – can never be prepared enough as a consultant, but i’d feel confident not needing it for most of the day.

So, from the perspective of this being a “laptop” or a “tablet” – well it did provide the form and function for me during the day when I needed a “laptop”…But…

Is it a “tablet”?

Most tablets come in the 8″-10″ range. This is a 13″ tablet. No doubt about it. It’s not the one you drag out for the selfie-shot. It’s a work “tablet” and home “tablet” in one. Light enough when you need to bring both a tablet and a laptop along for your trip and powerful enough to step up when you need a little extra working resources.

I got several tablets – Yoga Pro 3, Yoga 10+ HD, Surface RT. Each of these are “entertainment” tablets. I use them to consume information, not to work on. (Will review the Yoga Pro 3 at some later has a friggin’ projector in it!!!). With the Yoga 900 I use the tablet to work on as well. Love the WriteIT app and the touch screen is super accurate, making it well enough to use during meetings, at the park, in the car and on the plane.

Why a convertible?

This isn’t just an easy question to answer. I’m like Jeremy Clarkson most of the time – gimme POWER!!! and i’ll lug around a power brick the size of Chernobyl happily enough. Over the years i’ve had some of the most powerful laptops out there – big, powerful monsters that was meant to crunch numbers and run virtual machines. With the cloud available 24/7 (yeah, yeah, yeah..not entirely true, but for 99% of the time it is and that’s all that matters to me) I’ve found that I don’t need to lug this monster around with me all the time. I can go lightweight and still be able to do my job (yes, there’s times where I do wish for some additional power, but i got my Y50 for when that’s needed and i’m looking to get hold of a mobile workstation as well).

Secondly, space is an optimum these days and it’s not always available to me. Especially if I need to cart around headsets, notepads/compendiums, external hard drives, cables, charging cables etc etc. I don’t want to look like an arctic explorer each time I go to a client meeting.

The convertible has the best of both worlds without setting foot in either camp entirely. It’s flexible and multi-purpose (check your phone folks, why do we suddenly log around smartphones that’s getting larger and larger?) and I’ve found the Yoga 900 to be a perfect travel companion. It doesn’t tell me what to do, it doesn’t push its elbows across to my seat on the plane and I don’t look like Quasimodo walking around Stockholm. It’s also not a fashion accessory like a pretty handbag (or dare I say Apple device??); it’s a functional device, which looks darn good as well.

Back to the beginning..

I had multiple choices as far as devices went, when I travelled from Perth to Stockholm, but I settled on the Yoga 900 as it was super lightweight. at 1.29kg it didn’t push the limit of what my luggage was allowed to weigh and I really didn’t want to be stuck in an airport (in case of delays and what not) without a device that gave me some flexibility.

It proved to be a great choice. Not only did it entertain me on the long flight (my eBook collection was sync’ed nicely so plenty of reading material in case I had a seat with a dud entertainment system) but it had enough battery charge to get me all the way. Granted, i had a nap along the way as well but for the majority of my trip I was reading and writing. One thing that did concern me was the reclining seat from the passenger in front of me. Would a laptop be too big and make it awkward for me to type and work? nopes, enter “Stand Mode”. With the awesome hinge I was able to flip it around, automatically disable the keyboard, and still sit and read.


The Yoga 900 is a huge improvement over the Yoga 3 Pro. It has many of the same characteristics, but the improved CPU, more memory etc really puts it into another class altogether.

It’s the perfect travel companion too…

Leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback…Happy geeking!

Windows Phone 10 update, stuck with error 0x8024201f; easy fix

I’ve always been happy to give cutting edge apps, operating systems and gadgets a go and when Windows Insider opened up for Windows Phone 10 preview I definitely had to sneak on board and get my trusted Nokia Lumia 930 (a gift from a very dear friend, Jin) upgraded.

To be honest, the experience hasn’t been altogether a happy one. That being said, the actual risk is minimal, but frustrating nevertheless. Especially with apps failing (apps i was using frequently, such as Outlook or my Calendar) in steady streams.

Over the past 5 months I’ve done more than 15 hard resets of my phone – purely because it became too unstable or vital apps (such as the Phone app, durr) became unresponsive. Granted, it’s an easy process to reset, but time consuming.

It came to a head in the past 3 days – 11 hard resets and a couple of updates keeps failing. Especially 10514 and 10536. Kept getting a message “an update was not installed” or somesuch, with the phone then proceeded shortly after with another update download. This went on and on and on, not only making the phone unusable for me but also very hot to touch.

Finally deciding that this was going to stop I figured a downgrade and another upgrade would see the WP10 updates install properly.

So here’s the fix if you’re actually stuck with not being able to upgrade..

  1. Download the Windows Phone Recovery Tool 2.1.2 from here: onto your PC/Laptop
  2. Install the app and connect your phone to your PC/Laptop
  3. Once connected up, click on the “Install Software” icon (this can take a while so be patient)
  4. Go through the full install and setup your phone again. This will bring it back to WP8.1.
  5. Go to the Store and install the Windows Insider app
  6. Once installed, open the app and sign up for the “Fast” track (only Apple fanbois should go with the slow route)
  7. Once done, restart the phone
  8. Go to Settings -> Phone Update and download the update. Once it’s downloaded it’ll tell you to install and restart. Do so. Voila, I skipped what i believe is the troublesome update 10514 straight to 10536.

(I didn’t have any issues with the phone not being recognised, but have heard some have that issue. Do a Hard Reset if that’s the case first before going through with this process)

This brought me straight to the 10536 update and it’s working a treat again. Apps are stable and I’ve gotten new versions of many of the apps I always used (Outlook, Calendar, Phone, Messaging etc).

There you go, stay happy and keep coding..



String.Interpolation – C# 6

One of the new, and probably very unused capabilities of C# 6, is String Interpolation. Ok, that’s not really a new concept. We’ve seen it with String.Format() and the ideologically wrong String.Concat() methods.

Hell, we’ve probably all (at some point in our lives) done [string + ” ” + string] and made it work. Of course, not going into why that’s completely wrong, lets assume we’ve been using the String.Format() method most..

 internal static string ReturnValue(TestObject x, TestObject y)
    var orgExpression = String.Format("{0} in the year {1}", x.Name, y.Year);
    return orgExpression;

Of course, a very simplistic design – but it shows the string interpolation (e.g. loosely translated [the method of which one point of data is created out of multiple points of data]).

With C# 6 we’re seeing something a bit niftier (and dare say I…neater?)

 internal static string NewMethod(TestObject x, TestObject y)
     var newExpression = $"{x.Name} in the year {y.Year}";
     return newExpression;

The biggest hassle with String.Format(); well aside from the fact that it’s somewhat error prone if you started to get a bit complex; you see, the order of the parameters are extremely important. Getting too smart here could get you into some serious trouble.

Plus, the new way of doing this is a lot more readable (read: maintainable)..

As in the “old” days with String.Format() we can still use format expressions.

internal static string NewMethod2(TestObject x, TestObject y)
   var newExpression = $"{x.Name} in the year {y.Year:D4}";
   return newExpression;

We can even use conditional expressions if we need to.

internal static string NewMethod3(TestObject x, TestObject y)
   var newExpression = $"{x.Name} in the year {(y.Year < 1 ? "AD 0" : "AD 2015")}";
   return newExpression;

I for one am very happy with the development of C# these days.

Have fun, stay safe and keep coding.




IFA 2015 in Berlin – Santa needs TOIL

Yeah – Santa seriously needs some TOIL this X-Mas

Most know (by now you should anyways) that I’m a geek and all excited about new gadgets – CES and IFA are two of my most favourite shows. Gadgets everywhere.

This year’s IFA has just kicked off this week in Berlin and to say that there’s a few toys that’s caught my attention, is probably an understatement. Since they threw about 80 new devices out there, it’d be too much for me to cover (some also isn’t that important to me) – but the ones i’m the most excited about is here..

Moto 360 2nd Gen (link)

..yes..i know, it’s a ‘droid watch – but damn, it’s one fine looking specimen. I’m (secretly) a watch whore..s’cuse me..enthusiast, and the wearable market is flooding with smart watches (and no, i do not count the iWatch as being smart), but they tend to look like “packaging” rather than something you want to wear.

lenovo-launch-moto-360-bigok – some of the 2nd gen designs are a little bit “blingy” for my taste, but the matte black steel link is just awesome.

some key points on the 2nd gen:

  • There’s now a men’s and women’s collection (yes, ladies, you can play with the cool guys too)
  • There’s an inbuilt fitness tracker (can see some awesome applications coming for that, g’bye Fitbit)
  • Thinner bezel than 1st Gen 360

Oh, and lets not forget it looks a hell of a lot better than both Galaxy Wear and the Apple iWatch.

This one is on the top of my list of toys for the next year.

IdeaCentre Y700/900 (link)

With the Y700/900 Lenovo steps right into the high-end gaming market and mentioned during the reveal was tool-free install, from end-to-end, 32Gb ram and Dual-GPU, not to forget Skylake CPU.

lenovo-launch-ideacentre-y700-bigI actually didn’t think Lenovo would make this move to be honest – yes, we’ve heard them ask for “What do you want in a gaming rig?” on more than one occasion, but the gaming industry is a numbers game. Bang-for-buck is the mainstay for gamers these days. The true enthusiast will of course shell out their second kidney for the coolest tricked out rig on the market, but they’re not the mainstream users that most manufacturers target from the bat. No, that was what we saw with the entry level Y50/70 gaming laptops. They’re right in the sweet spot on price and capability.


Yes, they looked good and the addition of the 4K screen was something totally unexpected, but it was a numbers game predominantly – again, bang-for-buck.

For gaming i’m usually by far a desktop and console type of guy; have owned both dedicated gaming laptops before and the experience (especially with the Dell XPS 1710) left me with a bad, bad, bad taste in my mouth. The Alienware later owned took the edge of the bitter experience – but, that was also some seriously expensive kit. Would take something seriously impressive to make me fork that kind of dough out for a gaming laptop again.

Lenovo doesn’t sit still of course – the Y700/900 shows that and I for one can’t wait to see what the guts will look like when more is revealed.

That leads me to the next toy..

IdeaPad Y700 (link)

As just implied, the gaming laptops are mostly a gimmick for me – ok, owning one of the Y-series laptops would be awesome but not for the mobility aspects of it. They come with some serious guts that I can appreciate and I don’t currently have a desktop.

It’s coming in 4 flavours (awesome, awesome’er, awesome’er’er and awesome’est):lenovo-laptop-ideapad-y700-touch-back-1

  • 14″ entry level, yet still with AMD R9 discrete graphics
  • 15.6″ with Intel RealSense
  • 15.6″ with Touch screen, and
  • 17″ (which is rumoured to come with the Skylake chip – unconfirmed at this stage)

Lastly, one device that I think is epic.

Yoga Tab 3 Pro 10 (link)

I owned (guess you can say “we” own it now) a Yoga Tab 10 HD (the little cousin to this one), which is a 10″ Android tablet. Still, I’m not a fan of Android, but this little device is here to stay. It’s probably one of the devices that gets the most usage around the house and that’s because of the awesome battery life this tablet has – 18hrs.

So, the YT3P10 is the same as the Yoga Tab 2 Pro and maintains the nice build quality – and of course it has a projector in-built. Yeah, the Yoga Tab 2 Pro also had a projector in-built, but rumour has it that this one is even better (projects a 70″ display onto any wall).

Here’s the total list of devices that got revealed..

Lenovo IFA 2015 Products Showcase (external)

Retro ThinkPad Survey 4 – misc options

David Hill’s latest blog post, Retro ThinkPad Survey 4, takes us through the last and final survey on the Retro ThinkPad. An estimated 25,000 people have participated in the three previous surveys(#1, #2, #3) so the Lenovo team got a ton of information to work with. I personally think this is a huge outcome and with the last survey launches it looks like the interest in the Retro is definitely real.

ThinkPad Powerhouse – not a thin little fashion accessory

Survey 3 had honestly very few surprises (in my book that is, David was a little surprised that the SD card option rated as high as it did) with powerful dual and quad core CPUs being the preferred CPU range.

We didn’t see any charts on this, but the two top choices had significant numbers behind it that I suspect it was an easy overview.

With previous ThinkPads being powerhouses in terms of performance, build quality and durability, I’m as I said not that surprised that the CPUs with the predominant choices were the two biggest CPUs on the market. Did surprise me a bit that there wasn’t any news in there on the new Xeon chipsets – but, maybe we’ll see them when they’re launched.

Feedback is important

I don’t think many realise how big a step these surveys are in terms of market segmentation – but in my last blog on the surveys I mentioned a bit about it.

Getting this much feedback on product and device features is a huge benefit. It’s not a closed door with some fancy marketing ads springing up, showing happy hipsters sitting parks or looking relaxed and stress free. This is real feedback, from those that buy quality kit, and I seriously hope Lenovo pays attention to everything in the surveys AND the comments that’s coming in on David’s blog posts.

linuxist couldn’t have been any more spot on with this comment.

Comparing Lenovo to Apple, I think Apple would be never to do a survey like this and absolutely not as extensive a survey as this. They believe they just know what’s best. This is their tragic flaw. Sometimes they get it right, but sometimes they’re just plain wrong.


Another spot on comment from David’s blog by Alex:

Sometimes it is good to have a benevolent dictator. But of course, asking a niche group of users like us will also give you the chance to spot new trends.



Take the last and final survey here.

LIDNUG: Scott Guthrie – Open Q&A

Free webinar with Scott Guthrie…

scott_guthrieOne of the coolest names in the industry – yeah, The Gu himself, is visiting LIDNUG for an open Q&A. This is without a doubt one of the most anticipated sessions we have, with Scott answering questions from the attendees in this 90 minute session.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft Corporate VP, has been coming back to LIDNUGs members each quarter for the past couple of years and it’s been one of the best sessions to get answers directly from The Gu himself.

In this session Scott answers questions on technical solutions, advices on implementations and draws comparisons between methodologies – all in the span of 90 minutes where his sole focus is to answer whatever question that comes in from the attendees. Its him, isn’t?

LIDNUG & Scott Guthrie – Open Q&A

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM (PDT)

Register for this event here

The guts, more guts and then some – Retro ThinkPad survey #3

Now as I mentioned in my blog post from last week, a laptop is more than just a fancy accessory for me – it’s a tool and I spend a lot of time weighing up what I’m going to be using it for. That’s why the 3rd survey (in a series of 4) for the Retro ThinkPad is one of the most important ones for me. This survey now looks at the guts of the laptop – yup, and it’s now live.

More than 6000 took the 2nd survey!!

What? That’s absolutely awesome and I can only say that this amount of responses are going to do  the Retro ThinkPad a lot of good. The more that answers the surveys, the more accurate Lenovo and team Hill can be when it comes to actually building it.

Some of the answers that’s come out of the 2nd survey actually surprised me – especially how equal the votes were around Lighting.


Would you prefer ThinkLight or Backlit keys?

  • ThinkLight: 50.6%
  • Backlit keys: 49.4%

This question came from the 1st survey as well and was asked again in the 2nd survey as the results weren’t clear enough. Guess that’s still the case.

The question around what screen size most wanted didn’t surprise David Hill (the 14.1″ came out on a clear winner) and neither was the aspect ratio (at 16:10) which more than half of the responses favoured.

Some of the true diehard fans commented on David’s blog that they were disappointed with the aspect ratio and even wanted to forego the device altogether because of that.

Without going into a full scale virtual war here, then I honestly think that’s just being a little bit too much of a purist imho – would you also prefer a CPU from 1999 and a CD drive, running Windows ME?

I personally think the Retro will have a lot more to offer as well as bring it into the 21st century without us going down the road of being too purist about things. Lets also be practical, those types of screens are hardly manufactured these days.

That being said, reading the comments on David’s blog shows just how strong the fan base are around this device and that’s also a good thing.



2nd Survey up for the Retro ThinkPad

As I mentioned in the blog entry from last week, Lenovo is working on feedback for the Retro ThinkPad and this week we see the 2nd survey launched.

The focus of the 2nd survey is display size, aspect ratio, resolution and system status indicators (Last week was keyboards and lighting). With more than 4,000+ people responding to the 1st survey and the response was overwhelming to say the least – the 1st survey is still up if you haven’t participated yet.


Results from 1st survey

In David Hill’s 2nd blog post, announcing the details of the 1st survey and also what to expect from the 2nd survey the results was quite interesting.

For instance, a 7-row keyboard was without a doubt the preference (one of my choices too), with the results from the survey coming in as follows.


Would you prefer a 7 or 6-row keyboard:

  • 7-row keyboard: 80.3%
  • 6-row keyboard: 19.7%

With regards to the keyboard lighting then the results wasn’t decisive and David has added the question to the 2nd survey again to see if it could be narrowed down some more.


My preference unfortunately didn’t make it to the 2nd survey – i’d like to see both the ThinkLights and a backlit keyboard, but with the option to turn both on and off individually.

Why do I think these surveys are important?

Well, it’s actually very simple. When you normally pick a laptop (or device) there’s a focus on both brand and budget. Mostly you see a lot of fairly “generic” laptops on the market, even from the big makers, with nothing really standing out so the choice comes down to what you prefer and branding here usually have a big impact.

I view laptops as a tool – yes, i have clear preferences as to which brands I wont touch (Apple being one of them) but within the other brands on the market the offerings are usually fairly standard – so price plays the second role. Where can I get the most bang for my buck.

Having an opportunity to give feedback, which addresses all of my preferences within a device, is almost like building a high-end custom laptop – which when I’m honest I really can’t afford. I’m not naïve enough to think that all of my choices will be addressed, but if I can weigh in on those that most concern me then I’ll definitely be doing so and when it only takes a few minutes of my time, what more can you ask for?