Will you make it for Android?

The short answer is “No!”, but let me explain why. Let’s start with the basics. What is Android and why are those devices so much cheaper than Apple? The heart of any computer-based device is software called the operating system. It’s a manager that controls the device from powering on through switching between the various programs. The single greatest cost item for any electronic device is software, because it cannot, at least so far, be generated automatically by machines like hardware can.

The Android operating system was created by Google to use in the phone they built to compete with the Apple iPhone. It was made open source. What that means in sewing terms is that they created a designer dress, but made the complete pattern available to anyone, for free. They also released the full set of tools used to create Android software. That allowed companies like Samsung to create phones and tablets where the greatest cost item, software, was free. Soon there were dozens of companies making their own smart phones and tablets, with each of them creating their own customized version of Android. Competition quickly heated up and it became a race to have the absolute lowest priced devices on the market.

For the average non-technical person, all smart phones and tablets seem pretty much the same. That means the only criterion that is used to evaluate them comes down to price, and this has allowed Android to become the dominant operating system used on the devices with the largest market share. On the surface that would seem to be an obvious reason for software developers to develop for Android first and maybe exclusively. Why do they almost all develop for Apple iOS first, or like us, exclusively?

Software development is labor intensive, even though the labor is mental rather than physical. Almost all software is written for money, either from the sale of the software or advertising embedded in it. Only a few weeks after our first app was released we were at Janome Institute. When informed about our app, one dealer asked if we could “bump” phones. Bump? At the time it was possible with Android to transfer software, paid or unpaid, to someone else’s phone just by bumping them together. The prospect of selling your software once, then having hundreds of copies distributed for free, is not very appealing to any developer. By contrast, Apple has a very strong system in place to ensure that apps on iOS are close to impossible to copy. Developers surrender 30% of the sale price of their app for this, but it does ensure that you will get paid for each one sold.

Because of the open source aspect of Android, it’s easy for anyone with malicious intent to see exactly how it works, and how to bypass security. This allows for virus and other malware to be injected into devices that use it, in some cases just by being nearby the source of infection. It’s also easy for shady developers to create apps that are very similar to other apps, with confusing naming. This allows them to have cheaper versions of popular apps that contain embedded software to extract customer information and send it to them for nefarious use. By contrast Apple is vigilant about user privacy and vets every app for such practices before allowing it in the store. The process is not infallible, and there have been exceptions, but they are quickly removed when discovered. No serious developer wants to risk his or her reputation by putting dodgy software in the App Store. Google has only recently started paying attention to this, as documented in this story.

For independent developers like us, the equipment budget is not very big. To develop for iOS you need a Mac computer. Period. Android also has a low equipment overhead, so they are equal in terms of cost. The problem comes with which version of Android you are developing for. For example, Amazon’s Fire devices all use their own custom version of Android, so you need to own the device you are developing for. Every Android phone and tablet manufacturer also has their own customized version of Android, and they don’t always keep it updated to the latest Google version. Difference in screen sizes and device capabilities mean that a developer has to have even more devices for testing. There may be some inherent risk in just buying Android devices for testing, as discussed here. By contrast, when developing for iOS I need to only decide which version I want to support and write for it. It’s very easy to make sure my apps work correctly on all the different devices.

Finally there is the learning curve. I have been building iOS apps for 7 years, and have spent hundreds of hours, as well as numerous conferences, building my skill set. Going to Android would mean starting over from scratch. Given my age and probable lifespan, it’s something I suppose I could do, but there is no motivation to do so. Supporting only Apple devices does limit our market, but Janome seems to be in agreement with our decision, since they also are Apple only.

Here’s to Your Health

After retiring my mother became an avid quilter. She made quilts for my sister and I, and then for our children. She had already begun to have symptoms of Alzheimer’s when she started the quilt for our second granddaughter. It was extremely difficult for her, and took much longer than usual to finish. The final result was heart-breaking. Mom had always been very precise, quilting by hand. This quilt combined many different types of fabric, including drapery and upholstery fabric along with the quilting cottons. Some of the seams were open, and coming apart. It was clear how much she’d lost. Our daughter-in-law still treasures the quilt, of course, but it’s too fragile to ever use.

We all know someone with Alzheimer’s, be it family or friends. It’s a terrible disease, one by which the patient actually dies twice: first by losing recognition of those they’ve known forever, and finally succumbing to the inevitable end. With my mother having had it, the odds of me getting it as well are 85% higher. Recently health care professionals have started calling Alzheimer’s “Type 3 Diabetes”, due to the fact that Type 2 Diabetes often leads to it. It’s become an epidemic and the costs are astounding.

From 18 months to six years old I was always sick, due to chronic spring and fall allergies. With a persistent sore throat I ate very little, and was consequently skinny. At the age of six my tonsils were removed and I began eating and putting on weight. The bad part about that is that I never stopped putting on weight. By the time our first son was born I was in the range of morbidly obese. I never “grew out” of the allergies, they just got worse. Trying to keep my weight to the point that I could buy clothes off the rack was a constant battle.

Mom’s decline motivated me to do something, and retirement gave me the time. We started walking, every day, rain or shine. Soon I was fit – and fat. Regardless of what the TV shows would suggest, you don’t lose weight through exercise. We tried various diets, losing on some. Becoming vegetarian didn’t really help. Fasting one day a week also did not accomplish much. Allergies were still a problem, and my overall health was poor.

It probably is no surprise that I spend a lot of time on the Internet. That’s how I happened to stumble across Mark’s Daily Apple, a website maintained by Mark Sisson. He advocates the “Primal” approach to eating, which is centered around eliminating grains and most sugar. This is not a diet, per se, as much as a lifestyle. It’s a modified form of what is popularly known as “Paleo” eating. Within a few weeks I started losing weight, eventually getting back to my weight at age 21. My health got better, but was not perfect. Allergies were easier to manage, but I still had the usual “old people” problems.

While I stopped eating sugar, either directly or in packaged food, I continued to indulge in fruit – heavily. The weight loss stopped. Some of my old health issues returned. At that point my doctor still classified me as “one of her healthy ones”, but I didn’t feel like I was where I should be. About that time Mark and his associate Brad Kearns released The Keto Reset Diet, building on the original Primal lifestyle. It’s based on the way that our ancestors ate, long before they started farming. I decided to give it a shot.

After six months on Keto I have lost 30 pounds and have a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is officially normal, for the first time in my adult life. But that’s not the real bonus. One by one my health problems have disappeared. After suffering with allergy for 68 years, I am no longer bothered by the spring pollen. Fall symptoms would normally be starting now, but this year they are not. Virtually every aspect of my life is better. Worldwide there is a growing community of people who have adopted the Keto lifestyle and they are having the same dramatic results. A documentary called The Magic Pill, currently showing on Netflix, illustrates the huge difference Keto has made for an autistic child and a senior diabetic.

So why I am I blogging about this here? At virtually every quilt show I have ever attended, the aisles are often blocked by scooters, used by people whose health problems are so bad that they are unable to walk very far without assistance. The majority of those who can walk are clearly overweight. I’m sure most of you have seen this at the shows you have attended. More than a few of these folks are going to wind up like my Mom, no longer able to do the quilting that they love. It doesn’t have to be this way. Our health care system is built on treating symptoms of disease, rather than preventing it. Selling prescriptions is profitable, teaching people how to avoid getting sick not nearly so much.

If you have stayed with me to this point, I hope that this information will help you or someone you love. I don’t know whether my experience will result in my having a longer life, but it will definitely be a better one. That’s why I’m sharing it with you.

Dealer Relationship Survey

To get a better idea about the state of dealer-customer relations I have created a short survey. Note that this survey does use cookies (small files stored on your computer), not for tracking, but to keep your place in class you leave the survey and come back to it later. No information is being collected from you, other than what is related to this survey, and results do not include any personal information about you or your dealer.

I will publish the results by the end of the month. This will help me focus on topics that will be of interest to the sewing community in general.

Are you part of a hacker network?

These days it seems like everything is connected to the Internet. Door bells, cameras, and even coffee pots are part of the “Internet of Things”, a vast array of devices that have WiFi capability. Unfortunately, like most things on the Internet, there is a dark side. The majority of these devices are made in China, and other parts of Asia, to keep them cheap. In many cases no thought is given to security and often the same password is used on all the products from a given company.

We all hate passwords. To be secure they need to be nearly impossible to remember, and it’s almost required to have a different password for each location. When you unpack a product that has the password printed in the instructions, it’s very tempting to plug it in and go, leaving that password in place. Hackers love that. If your network is not fully secured, and most are not, they can search for cameras, baby monitors, and other connected devices. Using the default password they can connect to these devices and change the software inside that makes them work. This gives them full control without you knowing a thing about it.

Sometimes they use this control to capture data. There has been at least one camera manufacture that was found to be uploading every image their cameras captured to a central server, all without asking for permission. Baby monitors are very popular for capturing conversations in the home where they are installed. That camera installed in your computer may be watching you! Some people keep a Post-it stuck over the camera lens when they are not actively using it. Even so-called “smart” TVs are getting into the act. Some track the programs watched and sell the information, and some can actually be hacked to spy on you.

Invasion of privacy is only one problem, though. A far more widespread use of hacked devices is to make them part of a huge network of robots. These “bot” networks are huge, comprised of hundreds of thousands of devices. The hackers that control them can use them to attack websites, crack passwords, or even “mine” cryptocurrency like BitCoin. The owners are unaware that they are unwittingly aiding criminal acts. Has your network been getting slower since you installed those security cameras? Does it take a long time to connect to websites? Your bandwidth may be going to the botnet.

The obvious solution is to simply unplug the devices, reset them to factory state, and start over. If you don’t immediately change the password, though, they will be reinfected quickly. One of the main jobs assigned to bots is to actively search for other devices to infect, so in just a few minutes a device will be compromised again. Changing the password to something different from the default is one way to avoid that. A firewall is also helpful. Most computers have a firewall installed by default, but all of the connected devices are outside the firewall, which makes them vulnerable. Installing a firewall at the router is well beyond the scope of this post. Consult the family or neighborhood I.T. professional for help with that. Before buying a new connected device, do a search of the brand and model to see if it has a history of being hacked. If you don’t need a device to be connected to your network, don’t give it access by entering the WiFi information.

The Internet has given us many benefits, but we should heed Sgt. Phil Esterhaus’ words:

Updated Video

The Stitch Composer video in the My 15000 app has been updated to reflect the changes made in the Quilt Maker upgrade. These changes are all cosmetic. Basic functionality of the program is unchanged. Here is a summary of what was changed:

  • The simulated stitch function has been moved from the View tab to a new tab labeled SimulationAll the buttons still work the same way.
  • A new button labeled Highlight has been added to the right of the Point/Move button. When stitches are selected in the Stitch List, tapping this button will show the selected stitches as red circles. Tapping it a second time turns it off.
  • The Finish button has been relabeled as Lock Stitch. It works exactly the same, just with a new name. Note that even though a lock stitch is required to end a composed stitch, it not be done when the custom stitch is used in combination with other decorative stitches. Only the last stitch in the combination will be locked.

Perspectives: Dealers

My wife, Diane, was a Janome sewing machine dealer for 25 years. For 20 of those years I worked with her in various capacities. That’s given me a view of both sides of the dealer-customer relationship. This post is the first of a series examining that relationship with insights from my point of view.

In the beginning the dealer and prospective customer have different goals. The customer wants the best possible value for her money, while the dealer wants to make a sale with enough profit to sustain the business. Obviously the best outcome is when both parties feel that they have achieved their goal. Unfortunately it doesn’t always end that way.

Some buyers have no local dealer, having to travel a great distance just to find any dealer. Most commonly this is due to the buyer’s city being too small to support a dealer of a specialized product like a sewing machine. In the US many small towns have lost all small retail businesses once Walmart moves in. That’s one of the hidden costs of those “always low” prices.

A buyer that has to travel a long way is at a great disadvantage, because the dealer knows they are unlikely to get any repeat business from the sale. There is no incentive to offer any discount or other consideration. After sale support will also be problematic, so the best a buyer can usually hope for is a great price. There are exceptions to this, and some dealers go the extra mile for service for remote customers. However training is often unavailable.

The dealer situation in or near large cities is much different. Competition is intense and there are different ways of dealing with it. For the buyer it often comes down to simply looking for the lowest price. This is a mistake, as the lowest price is rarely the least expensive. To counter this, dealers will agree to either not quote prices over the phone, or to quote only manufacturer suggested prices, thus putting them all on a level playing field. The intent is to force customers to go to each local dealer to get their “best” price, with the goal of making that process too time-consuming and onerous, so the customer will just settle for whichever dealer is closest.

From the dealer’s standpoint, this is risky. They are engaging in a “race to the bottom”. As Seth Godin tells us, the problem with being in a race to the bottom is that you might win. Or worse, come in second. At the time of the purchase the customer is happy with the low price. Disillusionment soon follows. One remorseful lady who came to our store had bought her machine from an “always lowest price” dealer. When she wanted to know how a particular machine function worked, she was told “It comes with a book. Read it!”

Selling only on price is at once easy and very difficult. The easy part is that the dealer is essentially engaged in a reverse auction, bidding less and less until the deal is sealed. But expenses like rent and salaries are fixed and must be paid in a timely fashion. The only way to pay them is from the profit gained between the difference in selling price and machine cost. Some dealers counter this by putting no prices at all on machines in the store. A potential customer is sized up, and a price is offered that may be even higher than the manufacturer’s suggested price. If resistance is met, then the negotiation begins to find the price the customer is willing to pay, but lacking that, the customer may unwittingly subsidize the low prices that others have paid.

After the sale comes the reckoning. Dealers who sell solely on price will almost never have any sort of training or help after the sale. The machines of today are much more complex than those of a few decades ago. Staying abreast of them requires dealers to invest time and money to attend training from manufacturers. That can’t be done if the goal is to always get the sale by lowering the price.

When shopping for a new machine price will always be a consideration, but that should not be the highest priority. Evaluate the dealership first. Look at their class schedule. If there is no class schedule that’s a red flag. Ask friends in your sewing club for their recommendations and experiences. Look around the store. What is on offer besides machines? Lack of accessories or sewing supplies usually indicates that the focus is on machines alone. A dealer who is not looking for repeat business likely won’t be interested in after-sale support.

If you have no local dealer the process is different. Rather than looking for the lowest price, you may be seeking the closest dealer, or even an online dealer. Either way, a little research online can be very helpful. If you are looking at a dealer that is 100 miles away and can find nothing positive online, look further. Driving an additional 50 miles might be worth it to get a substantially better dealer.

Whether shopping locally or online, the Internet can be helpful. These days almost every dealer has a website. Are there pictures from the store on the website, either of merchandise on display or classes? If the only photos are “stock” pictures of machines that might indicate a lack of interest, and inventory, in accessories and supplies. Do a web search on the store. If the only results are links to the store website and auxiliary websites such as online Yellow Pages, that might be another indication of where the dealer’s priorities lie.

There are many online sewing groups, including ours. These can be helpful in getting first hand information on dealers, either local or remote. Most people are reluctant to take the time to leave reviews or ratings, but are far more willing to help people asking about for recommendations. If you have a great dealer, you can reward her by giving an honest opinion in response to requests like this.

Buying a sewing machine is very different from buying a toaster or a television. You will be in an ongoing relationship with the dealer. Choose carefully and it will be rewarding for both of you.