Mindfulness Meditation

Like other millennials I spent a lot of time on the internet when I was growing up. I firmly placed my attention on the exciting world of operating systems and software applications. I learned how to write my own software and build my own networks of computers.

But there’s more to life than just one aspect, and so a decade ago I started to broaden my horizons from the scope of technology to find other subjects that interested me.

I quickly found that I had just as much interest in behavioural science, psychology, and self improvement.

A little bit of reading about meditation will give you the impression that it’s something worth doing – anyone who’s interested in self-improvement has probably come across a book about it and have been amazed by the seemingly incredible benefits in lists like this:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • More energy and improved sleep
  • Better cognitive and emotional functions
  • Health benefits and more…

I had to find out more.

I’ve tried a number of forms of meditation over the years, but the one that has stuck with me the most is mindfulness mediation.

There isn’t much you need in order to get started:

  • About 15 to 20 minutes of free time
  • A quiet place without too many distractions
  • A timer or stopwatch
  • No expectations

Sit down in your quiet place in a comfortable position, set your timer for 15 minutes, and close your eyes.

All you need to do is be aware of the breath as it comes in and out of your nose. Breath slowly and concentrate on how the air feels as it hits your nostrils. Breathe deeply, but don’t try to control your breath – just experience it as it happens.

As you sit there you’ll notice that many thoughts arise to try and take your attention away from your breath.

The mind wanders, and this is what minds do, it’s not a problem or a mistake. The awareness of this fact is what the practice is all about. Over time you’ll learn the patterns of thoughts which try to take your attention away. Don’t fight it, but let it pass – and guide your attention back to your breath.

Your mind will wander like this many times, and that’s okay – just keep guide your attention back to your breath as many times as is necessary.

When your timer goes off, slowly open your eyes and you’ll be ready to go about your day.

This is the practice of mindfulness meditation in its most simplest form. Sounds easy? Not really…

Many people (myself included) are frustrated and uncomfortable at first. It’s a very strange sensation to realise that your mind jumps around like it does.

Equally, people often have expectations that all those benefits listed earlier must happen right away. This is simply not how it works. It takes time.

Mindfulness isn’t something that just happens – it’s something you need to work on. That’s why it’s called a practice.

After a while you’ll find that it does make a difference, and you’ll be mindful of this mind wandering in other aspects of your life.

I have found this to be especially noticeable when reading, writing, and working on many of the tasks required in software development. The pull is real, and can be very distracting if you let it. My generation has been accused many times of having a short attention span.

I suggest Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (2011) as a really good foundation for bringing mindfulness into your every day life.

Will the “Surface Phone” be a foldable cellular PC?

Remember the introduction of the Lumia 950 XL, 950 and 550?

Panos was pretty clear that he had only just taken over the Lumia efforts and the design of those phones (along with the Band) were things that he had inherited.

The Surface team must be working on a phone using this platform, and you can guarantee that it is going to create a new genre of devices in the same way the original Surface did for the 2 in 1.

The goal is to bring Windows 10 to life in your pocket, and the recent announcements of full Windows 10 running on ARM will allow for that. This means you can have small and always connected cellular devices which can instantly switch from being a phone to being a PC.

But what would something like that look like?

This week MSPoweruser published a new patent for a foldable phone-to-tablet mobile device:

In this patent, Microsoft is describing a device that is flexible supported by a flexible hinge structure that secures the plurality of housings to each other, permits the plurality of housings to rotate about an axis in relation to each other, and supports a continuous viewing area of the display device that extends across the plurality of housings and the flexible hinge structure.

I suggest you go to MSPoweruser and have a look for yourself – it’s very interesting.

One of the images that struck me was a view of the bottom of the device. I immediately connected it to the legendary Microsoft Courier device, which was famously abandoned late in the development process.

But the Courier isn’t the only foldable device we’ve seen Microsoft work on.

Microsoft’s Future Vision video from 2009 also featured a small foldable device. This one could also disconnect into two separate devices. (See this patent for more)

And one of my favourites, the flexible notebook device from 2015.

While I don’t think we’re at the stage of truly flexible computers that act like paper, I do think it’s likely that the technology is ready for a foldable device which would be able to transform between a phone and a tablet. Let’s see if Microsoft do it this year.

What is Mixed Reality?

I’ve not created a new category for my website for years – but there’s something that I have spending a lot of time working and I need to start writing about: mixed reality.

Mixed reality is a broad umbrella of technologies which enable a real and virtual worlds to be blended together to create a single environment where physical and digital objects interact with each other.

I remember when I was in school I would imagine what it would be like to have a “heads up display” all the time. I’d imagine information that I’d see about people and surroundings, interactive maps giving me directions, reminders about errands I need to run, all sorts of things.

Thanks to science fiction there was no doubt in my mind that it was an inevitability, and it would happen in my life time – but I didn’t really know how or when it would happen.

Fortaleza Leak

Back in 2012 a very interesting image appeared on the internet. It was from an Xbox presentation which mentioned something called Fortaleza Glasses. Rumours of Project Fortaleza had been going for a while, and I followed the subject with great interest.

Linked to Alex Kipman, the creator of the Kinect, it was thought that these glasses would be Microsoft’s move to leap ahead of virtual reality and into some new world of augmented reality. I hope so much that it was true…

HoloLens

..and I remember how amazed I was when I found out it was true.

HoloLens at Home

Well, over the last six months I have not only tried the HoloLens, but spend many hours using it in both professionally and in my home. I’ve been learning how it works, how to develop software for it, and most importantly; I’ve been learning about what it means for the future of software.

This is a whole new kind of user experience, and I believe that mixed reality is the future of how humans will interact with software.

Actiongram

But mixed reality is about experience, not technology. When I say that I believe it is the future of how humans will interact with software – I am not saying that everyone will wear headsets. It won’t be long until there are other ways to project digital items into the physical world.

It breaks down the walls between physical and virtual reality – today this means vision and sound, but the concept of mixed reality goes beyond those senses. As a software architect it excites me to think about the user experiences which everyone in the augmented/virtual/mixed reality community is going to help shape, and I’m to write about what I learn as I go.

Now that I have experienced mixed reality, there’s no going back.

It’s real, it’s getting better all the time, and it’s here to stay.