Sines and Cosines

My friends, thank you for joining me here. Geeks that we are, we all know, that as surely as the derivative of sine is cosine, the point of maximum darkness is the point at which it starts getting brighter. (If it keeps getting darker, then that wasn’t the point of maximum darkness, now was it?) We’ve hit that bottom, and started our climb back into the light. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. Here’s what I’m working up for this coming year:

I want to get the Assisted Computing movement really clicking. I stumbled on its principles last year, trying to help my parents with their tech after their assisted living unit locked down for Covid. Assisted Computing means designing not just for seniors’ physical needs, but for their cognitive needs as well. I spun up a website for it, www.assistedcomputing.org . I expanded on it in my Advanced UX Class at Harvard Summer Session. (Which I’ll be teaching this summer as well, website coming up later this month. I hope you’ll join me there as well.) Now I’m looking to really spread it.

What I need now is more working apps. My Zoom launcher test is going extremely well, as I wrote in my December issue here.  And I’m on the track of a simplified Spotify experience. What else would help you take care of your senior loved ones? When I get some more, I’ll start a publicity campaign to bring them to the attention of the big players, and start an avalanche.

I’ve found from my first tests that installing and supporting code on multiple platforms is more than a little tricky. My Zoom launcher app became far easier to handle when I switched from native apps for each platform to a cloud-based, browser-hosted architecture. I encountered far fewer compatibility problems, although I still ran into some. (Apple’s Safari browser doesn’t support large buttons on the MacBook, though it does on iPhone and iPad. Who knew? And hey, Apple, that’s a really funny place to draw a line.)  

In other action, we just keep on keeping on. My father, in his New Hampshire assisted living unit, is scheduled to get his first Covid vaccine in a week.  That state leads the nation in percentage of Covid fatalities occurring in senior  residential care facilities, at  80%.  I sure hope this works, so I can visit him in person once in a while. Zoom calls only go so far.

Still, the virus was first sequenced last February. To go from, “Hey, here’s a virus,” to “roll up your sleeve for the vaccine” in 10 months blows my mind completely. My hat is off to the people who did it. Now the far-less-sexy task of getting it into people’s arms is proving tricky.  That figures. Think about your software designs. When was the last time you were actually CPU-bound, that you were thinking as fast as you could and it just took too long? Probably never. Performance problems are almost always due to bottlenecks. And so it is here. I hope we can quickly find an architecture that dynamites the logjam.

We’ve still got a ways to go before we’re done with Covid. And now the virus is striking back by mutating for greater transmission. But we’ll get it. We’re at the turning point, just now starting to climb out. As Churchill said after the Battle of El Alamein: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Amen. And that’s all I’m going to say about this damned virus in this post.

My daughters put some packets of seeds in my stocking this year – muskmelons for sweet summer eating, beautiful pink and blue delphiniums to attract butterflies. There is no more hopeful gift in the world than a packet of seeds. I now offer that hope to you, my friends. Let me know how you’re keeping on keeping on.

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