Category: Articles

Galactic Bioware soft launches

The website has now gone live and the most of the 2021 Casual Collection has been announced – there are 3 more products to be added in the coming weeks.

Galactic Bioware “Ranger Hood” Hoodie

Galactic Bioware was founded to address three problems:

1. Gun-control and routine violence in the US and many places around the world is not improving, and recent politics hasn’t helped. Responsible gun laws seem so far away that many other initiatives need to work together to reduce the injuries and deaths resulting from city violence. New schools (and some retrofits) are designed to be school shooter resilient and modern school designs avoid large open spaces as well as providing safety zones amongst other safety features. Digging further into this, there is no mass-market low-cost and casual looking/subtle protective outerwear for children and families. We’re addressing this with our 2021 Casual Collection for adults and children – our children and young adult ballistic and stab resistant gear launches in a matter of weeks. It’s not military grade gear but you’re going to be much better off in our gear than in regular clothing. Check out some of the products here. All made in Australia and shipped to the world.

2. Technology and innovation absorption into the safety industry’s products is extremely poor. There is more tech in an consumer iPhone than in any professional-grade first responder safety equipment. There is a culture of rusted-on government & corporate suppliers selling the same fire fighting gear, radiation gear, PPE, CBRN, life vests, etc that haven’t had an incentive to innovate in any material way since World War II. Galactic Bioware has designed an advanced fire fighting power suit – the Fire Knight – which is many multiples safer, more comfortable, better communications, voice controlled, has a full audit trail for training and investigations, armoured in key areas, etc. read more about it and our plane & helicopter crash survival suit – the Velociraptor – on the Power Suits page.

3. The research and development as well as production capabilities we are refining in armour, insulation, fire, radiation, energy systems, defense systems, etc will ultimately lead to major advances in power suits for space / interplanetary settlement and long duration space exploration as well as highly sophisticated Earth suits (think Iron Man). We’re building this capability in real time, all in Australia. I want Australia to develop new and future-proof manufacturing based industries that use our natural resources advantage for ourselves, rather than giving away all of the value to foreign countries and companies.

Galactic Bioware “Main Shield” Cap

Stay tuned. If you’re interested, we’re hiring a range of technical roles in electrical, chemical, mechatronic, software and materials/textiles engineering to join our 10 person team. I’ll post again when the jobs page is up.

Shopify Github Musings

Shopify is extremely powerful, and I use it across many projects, but some of the themes and apps have strange limitations. I’ve started publishing small fixes & modules where I could not find a solution online in the form of a tutorial, accurate Stack Overflow post or a free app. Many of the paid apps in the Shopify App Store do not add enough value to justify their large monthly fees, often they are just a few lines of code that are not updated, and victims are paying US$5/month for this code in perpetuity thinking that it is difficult.

Shopify :: Trigger Product-Variant-Change

Trigger a product variant change outside of the default select input in Shopify e.g. via a color swatch or thumbnail image. Here we’re trying to trigger the select change event as though the user actually changed the variant by clicking on the select and picking a new variant. We want to maintain the integrity of the change event so that all downstream triggers are also activated e.g. updating inventory levels, availability, and ensuring that the Add to Cart button adds the active variant selection originating from the swatch or thumbnail.

A few simple lines of code to trigger a change in a product variant on product pages in Shopify from two colour swatches. Many projects in the Shopify App Store are a) expensive or b) do not work with the default Shopify Theme in 2021 (Debut) or c) do not work at all. I found it difficult to find a single article on Stack Overflow or other developer community websites that explained how to do this with maximal cross-browser support.

This is very simple to implement:

  1. Login to Shopify, Go to Themes -> Actions -> Edit Code
  2. Put the JS into the theme.js file in the Assets folder, make any changes you want.
  3. Put the CSS into the theme.css file in the Assets folder, make any changes you want.
  4. Adjust your triggering objects in the product-template.liquid file in the Snippets folder from the example provided. These are the color swatches or thumbnail images that you want the user to be able to click on to change the active product variant.

Observations:

Many of the guides on Stack Overflow, etc do not work because they’re trying to hook into very busy DOM elements that have a lot of javascript from Shopify or they simply do not understand the interaction of jQuery events and browser events.

Code: https://github.com/phillipkingston/Shopify—Trigger-Product-Variant-Change

Shopify :: Change Product-Image On-Hover

A few simple lines of code to swap product images on hover across collection pages and feature product sections on homepage and product pages in Shopify. Many projects in the Shopify App Store are a) expensive or b) do not work with the default Shopify Theme in 2020 (Debut) or c) do not work at all. This method doesn’t use any JavaScript.

This is very simple to implement:

  1. Login to Shopify, Go to Themes -> Actions -> Edit Code
  2. Put the CSS into the theme.scss.liquid file in the Assets folder, make any changes you want.
  3. Make a few lines of insertions into the product-card-grid.liquid file in the Snippets folder and adjust product.images[1] with whatever array index you want as the swap image on hover. Note this counts from 0 as it is an array of images linked to the product in Shopify. If you want the last image in the image array, you can use product.images.last

TODOs:

  • Error handling if there are not more than 1 images per product
  • Dynamic sizing of the swap image to match the image sizing setup in the theme, currently its hardcoded e.g. 450×450 but you can change to what you want in the meantime
  • Use more obscure class names so as to not conflict with other Shopify plugins.

Observations:

  • Why are people charging $4.99 per month for a plugin that does this? 6 lines of code.
  • Many of the guides on Stack Overflow, etc do not work because they’re trying to hook into very busy DOM elements that have a lot of javascript from Shopify and are getting confused finding two clean hover events to harness for the image swap.

Code: https://github.com/phillipkingston/Shopify—Change-Image-On-Hover

Consumer-grade Mesh Home Wifi Experiment

I think it is safe to say that the home / retail end of the mesh wifi market is still pretty nascent. I thought I’d try something new at home, so I ventured into the Mercku ecosystem. I picked Mercku because it had a good blend of the following criteria:

  1. Minimal and discreet aesthetic
  2. Reasonable reviews for reliability and uptime
  3. A demonstrated commitment to maintaining firmware
  4. Nice origin story on Indigogo

I have 3 Queens and 6 Bees for a total of 9 nodes in the mesh. Each Queen is hardlined to the NBN router with Cat 6 ethernet cable and each Bee acts as a booster in the wifi network (i.e. is not cabled). There is a lot of bluestone in the house, so the design principle was to never have wifi needing to penetrate a bluestone wall. The ethernet cables handle the bluestone walls and the wifi (boosted by Bees) only has to handle plaster.

Mercku M@ Queen
Mercku M2 Bee

Thoughts so far:

  • Setup and configuration was incredibly simple, it literally couldn’t be any easier.
  • The admin interface is really good and would be harder to make simpler for non-technical users.
  • Firmware updates are frequent enough, although the changelog detail is probably a bit light on e.g. v 1.8.0.
  • Speed is fine, definitely could be faster but is not a problem for regular home use (streaming, gaming, etc.), it would be a problem in an office application, but it isn’t an office system so moot.
  • Bandwidth is a question mark – multiple devices (3-6) seems to drag down speed faster than they would in a non-mesh “off the shelf / cheap” wifi router bundled with an ISP connection. The bandwidth problems are probably not fatal but I’m designing a test to compare it more directly to non-mesh to try to firm up this hypothesis.
  • Reliability is a bigger question mark, every few hours the network seems to grind to a halt and then come alive after 20-30 seconds. I’m not sure if this is heat related or memory management / some other software problem. When the mesh comes back online, the Queens do not report any internet downtime (i.e. it doesn’t affect the continuous uptime diagnostics in the admin software) which indicates to me that the issue is Mercku / Mesh side, not NBN / ISP side. I’m trying to see if I can replicate the crashing to find an underlying cause and report it to Marcku with a potential solution. To Marcku’s credit, it does bring itself back online without human intervention, so for novice users this is not a fatal problem and will just present itself as a temporary internet slow down.

Overall, happy with price, aesthetic, setup, speed and the jury is out on bandwidth and reliability for now.

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Oligopolies are great for entrepreneurs

An oligopoly has various academic definitions that describe the same kind of market structure: an inefficient market with market power concentrated in a small number of firms where consumers are overpaying for the particular good or service at a given level of quality. Overpaying takes various forms including an inferior product being overcharged for, or an OK product commanding a significant price premium due to the market structure (e.g. artificially restricted supply).

Sometimes oligopolies are disguised as competitive markets, sometimes this is by accident but most of the time, this is by design of the key market actors.

In Australia, superannuation is an example of a large oligopolistic market. It spends millions of other people’s money to maintain the illusion of competition, but does not have the reality of it.

How to work out if a market is an oligopoly

  • Market share is consolidated in a small number of large firms.
  • The large firms have been in the market for a long time i.e. none of the large incumbent players are new firms (new being post-internet era).
  • Limited technology absorption and adoption by the large market participants i.e. products are not evolving with the times.
  • Market share not correlated to product or service quality or price i.e. better products don’t gain market share over time.
  • Good entrepreneurial businesses acquired quickly and shelved or drowned by regulators in uneven scrutiny.

Why is it preferred to enter oligopolies over competitive markets as a start-up?

  • Compared with competitive markets, in oligopolies incumbents have forgotten how to compete and are easier to outmanoeuvre at market-entry and going forward.
  • The people who made the oligopolist firm what it is today are generally no longer involved in the business and have been replaced with salaried bureaucratic executives, not founder executives.
  • The oligopolist will have lost its talent edge and will likely have no “zero to one” credentials to respond to you if you can hit the market with genuine innovation.
  • The market size & revenue opportunity is easy to model as you just need to sum up the current market impact of a few incumbent firms to get an accurate picture.

What are some of the challenges in fighting oligopolists?

  • The oligopolist gravy train runs deep and much deeper than you think. Do not underestimate the supply chain, distribution chain, media and regulator alignment to the status quo and mean-reversion impact that they will have against your entry. To survive, you will often have to show the ecosystem around the incumbents that there will be more gravy with you or you need a thick enough skin / capital moat to blast through them and not require their support.
  • You can accidentally invigorate the opponents & create excitement in the market which has the impact of money & talent flowing to one or more of the incumbents when they see the potential of what you’re doing, making them worthier competitors. You need to remain discreet for as long as possible, and when you do launch, strike hard and fast and manage leaks / defection risk carefully until launch.