Secrets of a childhood Strider Balance Bike. A great reminder for us all Why Less is More.

When I was a toddler, my parents bought me a traditional bicycle with training wheels. A balance bike at the time was not invented yet. The training wheels were there so I would not tip over and hurt myself. The traditional childhood is like this when it comes to learning to ride a bike. We all remember that 1st bike. How it felt, the freedom to move faster and further. But to move you had to pedal while relying on the training wheels to keep us upright. It was tough at first.

Rynek in Sandomierz, Poland - birth town
Rynek in Sandomierz, Poland – my block on the right

The pedals kind of got in the way. Brakes were activated through the lever on the handlebars and sometimes moving the pedals backwards would also activate the brakes. Oh boy, that was a lot to take in. But we did right. I remember the early wobbles as I tried to learn to balance. Knowing the training wheels were there helped, but it still made the hair raise up on my back. Then once I got enough courage I would ram straight into a wall of the building where we lived, many times. Arms and knees were bleeding. What an experience.

Enter the Balance Bike

Fast forward to today; when I became a father, and my kid (Josh) was ready at a ripe age of 2 we did something different. We got him a balance bike. Have you heard of Balance Bikes? Yeah neither did I until Urszula kids occupational therapist from SensoryLifestyle.com mentioned it. Few Googles later I was up to speed.

“A balance bicycle, or run bike is a training bicycle that helps children learn balance and steering. It has no pedals and no drivetrain.”.

The bike has NO pedals. NO drivetrain i.e. chains or gears. And NO brakes! It’s as simple as it gets. A frame with wheels, a seat and handlebars. Even the wheels are basic. Heck, the WHOLE bike is basic. It’s like they started with a standard bicycle and said… let’s strip it down till we cannot anymore. Down to the core essentials.

Less is truly More!

Strider Balance Bike Standard Bike
Balance Bike Normal Bike

Unlike a traditional bicycle where you might have to push the child or support them, with a balance bike there is minimal supervision. Josh started sitting on the seat and walking the bike. Like the Flintstones. Then he progressed to pushing his feet off from the ground and balancing. Soon he was coasting around turns and speeding along pathways. All in about a month. A child learns to balance faster when they don’t have to pedal. Pedals also get in the way. I saw Josh fall over few times trying a normal bike with pedals, before ending up on the seat and looking at me to push him.

Check out this video I made of Josh riding a Strider Balance Bike in Shoreline Park, Mountain View

The Power of Simplification in Software Development

As a software engineer and a maker of many things, I am always intrigued by simplification. In software we often “refactor” code to make it smaller, better and faster. When working on technology products, we often say to blow away features to make a large application light. Less is More. Products users love often simple. Not complicated. And usually serve a single purpose.

When we discuss product design, we also talk about building habits (ref Hooked book). What is the simplest behavior which can lead to a reward. It’s hard building sticky products feature heavy. People get overwhelmed and lose interest fast. Many books, many blogs and many words are exchanged by makers in Silicon Valley about the power of simplification. Most products suck because this simple approach to simplifying the product is often ignored by the ego. If you want to learn more about features vs. benefits, please read my prior blog post on SPIN Selling.

Less is More

And right here in front of me stands the BEST reminder of the power of simplification. It may not be a technology product, but it sure carries the same weight. Less is More.

Necessity > Novelty. For a 2-year-old learning to balance is a fundamental motor skill development milestone. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend you read SensoryLifestyle.com or google this topic.

1. knowing the rules of the game and 2. using the right tools; is how we get results.

Technology Products

When we think of the two best technology companies in the world, no doubt Apple and Google fall into that spot.

  • Remember the beauty of Apple’s iPod? It was its simplicity.
  • When you visit Google.com, the page is simple. The only thing you can do is Search. Simple right?

Let’s also look at Cars. Who is the most innovative car manufacturer? I believe it is Tesla Motors. They haven’t done anything revolutionary. No, really they haven’t. They just simplified the car. If you know a bit about engines, you will know that a piston motor is complicated. It has many moving parts. And many things that can and do go wrong. Now, the electric motor is winning. It’s simple. A magnet, coil and apply electricity.

Benefits > Features

I’m going to finish on a final note. When we simplify, we remove features. Features do not sell. So don’t worry about stripping down your product. Instead, focus on the benefits. And sell on those. The stripped down bare bone balance bike Josh rides cost ~$130 while a regular bike with gears, pedals, balance wheels et al, cost ~$80. The price difference is nearly 50%, yet guess which one wins hearts?

~ Ernest

Migrating from PC to a Mac

This post is inspired by my wife, Urszula. Urszula’s Windows PC I nearly threw out the window.. if it wasnt for the data on it. But I did replace it with a MacBook Air! Win!

The new Mac
The new Mac

Urszula’s Windows PC (pictured above) was super loud humming and buzzing even when idle. It was also slow (time has shown its face), felt cheap (plastic build) & looked ugly (the case had line cracks) and has been blue screening every 2nd day. What a mess lol… This is what Urszula is now sporting! A sexy fast compact MacBook Air.

Slick and sexy MacBook Air
Slick and sexy MacBook Air
It just flys! SSD drive, 8gig RAM and an i7 core CPU
It just flys! SSD drive, 8gig RAM and an i7 core CPU

I take full responsibility for the PC. People form habits and it takes a lot of work to change. But it is possible. I made my change to a MacBook Pro 1 year ago after getting fed up with my “fast” Windows PC. Before the Mac I even switched to a Kubuntu OS on the PC which to be frank ended up a failure. Too unstable for a development machine. Then I took a deep dive and got a Mac. It was well worth the initial pain of learning new way of doing things. Now m

Without further ado.. here are the reasons you should switch to a mac and some tips & tricks once you do. Enjoy!

The reasons

Reasons TO switch to a Mac – the pros

  • Mac’s crash less than a PC – no more blue screen of death. So you get more done and are less frustrated. This is especially a common signal for power users. The Unix Kernel of the Mac boots up faster and runs more smoothly overall. Especially when running several tasks at once. 1 crashed app won’t take down the whole OS. It’s a pleasure to be working on a Mac while being more productive.
  • You spend hours a day staring at a street. A Mac is not only pleasing to the eye in its design (shell) but all the applications are smooth, consistent and clean. The MacOS is the world’s most powerful and attractive operating system (eye candy) dictating how using the computer “feels”. Ref Kubuntu. Yes I tried Ubuntu, Kubuntu and all flavors of Windows. Mac wins hands down.
  • Stops new users from getting into a bad habit using the worst internet browser out there – Internet Explorer. Your choices are everything but Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. I prefer to use the fast and light Chrome from Google.
  • Always on. Mac’s are fast to go to sleep and especially to wake up. Just close the lid when done using it and open when you need it.
  • Easy installation of software. On my PC I had to find the .exe install file and run it with a million other levers to pull to make it work. On my Mac I double-click I package file, pop opens a window with the app icon which it asks me to drag to the right into the apps folder. Done.
  • No need to mess around the internet looking for free apps and hoping they are not virus or trojan infected. Apple’s iTunes / Mac Store is my 1 place shop for finding, researching, installing & upgrading apps.
  • Speaking of security. The Mac comes with an inbuilt firewall and a number of safeguard. Similar to security of Linux being based on a Unix Kernel. The list of viruses designed to wreak havoc on the PC dramatically outnumber the Mac. So no need to mess around with security antivirus antitrojan antistupidy applications which hog processing power slowing down the machine. None of that PC nonsense is necessary.
  • Windows don’t do Macs—but Macs do Windows. You can read NTFS (Windows) drives using NTFS for Mac OS X and even run Windows in a virtual environment on your mac without rebooting via VMWare Fusion.
  • No more messy wireless internet connectivity settings to get a PC working. On a Mac select an available wireless network and enter your password (if any) and your online. Simple.
  • The OS mirrors that of the iPad and iPhone so user experience is consistent. Furthermore iCloud allows you to share content between all your Apple devices including SMS messaging. And AirDrop makes sharing files between Macs super easy without a network.

Reasons to NOT switch to a Mac – the cons

  • Learning curve. Oh no you have to learn how to do things differently. Ok it’s a bit of a pain in the bum at first especially that Command button but after you get familiar you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Mac Book Air vs Pro vs PC – The Pro is to the right and PC to the left. Notice the thickness diffs?

Tips

So you got your Mac and want to get setup. Here’s a few tips to make this process fast and pain-free.

Recommended software

General

  • NTFS for Mac OS X (paid) to read Windows formatted drives (think portal drives).
  • VMWare Fusion (paid) to run Windows programs on you Mac without rebooting. It even integrated into your Mac OS X should you want a smoother transition or miss that old OS.
  • Chrome Internet Browser (free) – the best browser out there, hands down
    https://www.google.com/chrome?platform=mac
  • Microsoft Office (paid)
    http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/?CTT=97
  • Dropbox (freemium) – store your stuff in the cloud. You start off with few free gigs of free space. The client runs quietly syncing your files. It is the most reliable cloud storage sync app on the market. It’s how software should be.
  • Evernote (freemium) – your notes in the cloud. Evernote is a freemium app designed for note taking, organizing, and archiving across all devices.
  • f.lux (free) – it makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. This helps ease eye strain and sleepless nights from the blue back light of a LCD.
  • CleanMyMac (paid) – Clean, optimize, and maintain your Mac with the all-new CleanMyMac 3. It scans every inch of your system, removes gigabytes of junk in just two clicks, and monitors the health of your Mac.
  • Little Snitch (freemium) – a firewall protects your computer against unwanted guests from the Internet. But who protects your private data from being sent out? Little Snitch does. It protects your privacy.
  • Slack – a messaging app for 1+. Most people use this in teams but you can just as easily use it at home especially if you have IoT connected sending messaging directly to Slack. It’s brilliant.

Development

  • Home-brew (free) – package manager for OS X. Homebrew installs the stuff you need that Apple didn’t. Think of apt-get for your Mac.
  • Sublime Text (freemium) – your Notepad for Mac. Its also a sophisticated text editor for code, markup and prose. You’ll love the slick user interface, extraordinary features and amazing performance.
  • Balsamic (paid) – a wireframing and mock up tool with a high focus on usability. Quickly come up with mock ups and easily share them with your clients.
  • PyCharm (paid) – the Most Intelligent Python IDE hands down. Got something better? Let me know.

Also check this out; a curated list of awesome applications, softwares, tools and shiny things for OS X: https://github.com/iCHAIT/awesome-osx

Most apps which you enjoyed on your PC will have equivalent Mac versions. If not just use VMWare Fusion to run Windows on your Mac and the PC apps inside that. Contact me if you need help getting this up and running.

Performance tuning

If you do not want your Mac’s performance to drop over time I recommend turning off non-essential Spotlight search results. Spotlight is the standard search on the mac located top right hand corner. It indexes EVERYTHING you do & surf on the mac. Over time this index grows too big and adding / searching it slows the Mac down.

Under System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results
disable the non-essential categories like “Messages & Chats”, “Webpages” & “Developer”.

Useful knowledge for exPats of Windows

GUI Shortcuts

The following are nowhere to be found on the Mac laptop. Only full keyboards. Use these commands to achieve the same effect:

Page Up/Down fn + up/down arrow
Backspace fn + delete
Lock your mac shift + ctrl + eject
Force app to close command, option + esc
Get out of full view command, control + option +f

Terminal commands

The mac has a terminal like Linus flavors. This is great for running some powerful functions vs the GUI that can sometimes be slower.

Find in trash find /Users/ernest/.Trash -name *.jpg
Force Safari to always open new tabs vs new window defaults write com.apple.Safari TargetedClicksCreateTabs -bool true

That should be enough to get your rolling in full swing. As always feel free to contact me if you need help or further information. If you found this post useful please share it around on Twitter or Hacker News.

~ Ernest