Comment

Rise of the SLUHs...not!

Ok this is a small or medium rant because I have had several conversations this last week about technology destroying the human condition.  In fact,  so much so that it has led me to coin the term “Stupid, Low Energy, Under-employed Humans" or SLUH.  One would use it in a sentence like “Hey Sluh, what you doin’?”

Ok, seriously though, I mean thats basically the argument I hear over and over…so let me define the acronym and then get on to explain in detail why we do not have to fear the SLUH Apocalypse! 

  • Stupid - Technology is making us/humans stupid, calculators, the internet…omg!
  • Low Energy - Technology is making us lazy…just get up and change the channel you lazy human!
  • Under-employed - Technology like drones, driverless cars, robots are taking our well paying jobs!
  • Human - Technology is antithetical to humans…so take off that damn prothesis and deal with life, you whiner!

Stupid - Technology is not making humans stupid.  Yeah, I know the calculator has probably ruin a few multiplication memorization tricks but that's just not a big deal. So what if I can't remember 11x12 by rote...I can always compute it.  Compare this lack of multiplication memorization with the data visualization that is now available with math packages on the computer (or calculator/smartphone) like - the visualization of a the area under a under, as well as, the derivative of a point on the curve.  Having visual images of these concepts is phenomenal force multiply when it comes to learning and understanding complex or abstract concepts.  Humans with these kinds of computer-aid learning tools are smarter...not doubt about it.

Low Energy - Well it is kind of hard to argue with life being easier, sheesh! Ok...I'll engage  

 

Comment

Comment

A Little Bit of Quality Time...with the Apple Watch

I received my apple watch in mid-may and since I don't get to wear it everyday because of work (and no I am not a StarBucks Barista)...I was pretty excited to try it out on my trip down to Florida.  Four glorious days with my latest apple toy...sweet! Ok...so here are just a few of my experiences along the way.

Day 1 - Departure From Baltimore

Airport Arrival - On the way out, once we arrived at the airport I received a location notification containing my flight information - basically it was the boarding pass and a QR code.  I have to admit was not expecting it and it was a nice surprise.  During a moment of reflection I had a few thoughts on what I liked best and how to improve the experience.

  • Pros - It was great not having to dig into my pocket or pull out my phone to get my flight details. Additionally, the boarding information with the QR code was readily available on the watch...very nice!
  • Cons - Ok...so we arrived at the airport almost too late for our flight. We went to the terminal and moments later, due to the line, we decided to go checkin with the SkyCap.  Funny thing, as we checked our bags with the Skycap he said "One minute later and we would have been booked for the next flight".  Hmm,  it would if have nice if the Apple Watch had suggested that we check our bags with SkyCap due to our late arrival at the Airport. A bit of location arrival information correlated with airport policy would have been nice.

A morning cafe from Starbucks - I always need to start my flight with a bit of caffeine.  So I dropped by the Airport Sbux and I stepped up to the barista scrolled to the passport app on my apple watch...brought up the scan code and paid for my fancy latte :^]

Walgreens -  Once I arrived in Fort Lauderdale, I needed to pick up a few knik knacks and toiletries.  We stopped by the local Walgreens and I bought a few items and paid with Apple Pay on the watch; it was very convenience and I'm getting use to it.  

Days 2 & 3 - Nothing to report

Most of my time was spent with friends so there were not many moments to use the watch...except to demonstrate it to my friends.  As you might expect, most people thought it was cool but a little self indulgent...I'm ok with that :^]

Day 4 - Departure from Fort Lauderdale 

At the Airport - On my way out during the TSA pre-checkin I had all my flight details on the Apple Watch and the TSA personnel scanned the QR code and let my through after a few comments about me being "fancy and showing off"...damn straight I am...this is cool!

Several moment later (we checked in early this time)...I walked to the boarding gate and the attendant scanned my code on the watch and I was off to the flight...very convenient! 

  • Pros - Hmm...no complaints...it was very convenient, efficient and speedy.
  • Cons - It would have been nice to get an haptic notification take it was time for me to board the plane...based on my boarding pass (seat number etc).

Summary

Well I did not intend for this to be a review of the Apple Watch...its more about a day in the life experience with it.   What is there to say...I really like the Apple Watch (as any fanboy would)...it was very easy and convenient to use.

Comment

Comment

Digital Natives...are we there yet?

Digital Native?...hmm, I don't think so.

Digital Native?...hmm, I don't think so.

As a denizen of 21st century humans, I am often involved in conversations that seem a bit out of time...or should I say "ahead of their time".  Over the past year, I have had a couple of "out-of-time" conversations involving an emerging phrase/term..."Digital Natives".  Ok, before I get on the soapbox, let me just say that I honestly don't know what the term actually means.  Digital Natives is one of those newly coined terms, the kind that show up in Wikipedia or the Urban Dictionary.  I can say though,  the context of use is always the same.  Usually,  I'm talking to someone and we're talking about some "computery" thing (smartphone, computer, tablet, etc.) and the person will indicate that although they have not fully embraced the "computery" thing, their kids do because the kids nowadays are "Digital Natives".  This new generation is born/native to a "digital world" and the rest of us are...um..."digital immigrants".  This is about the point when my eyes narrow to slits and my teeth are barred...and I say "WTH are you talking about?"  Hmm, ok, it's not that bad but admittedly the term stings a bit because I'm a "computery dude" (engineer, software developer/architect, blah blah) and I like to consider myself a "digital pioneer"...a pioneer!

In any case, ego aside, I try to take the high road and rationally discuss what it means or "should mean" for one to be a Digital Native.  I proceed to point out that our current 21st century society is nowhere near a digital society or at least the digital society I would imagine.  Sure,  some people, but not most, have computers, smart-phones and tablets and some people, but not most, read electronic books.  Ok, beyond that, what other digital stuff are people using? Not a lot really!  Generally speaking, I think when people use the "Digital Natives" term, they really mean "smartphone, tablets & computer natives" and even from that perspective, we aren't there yet.  Those devices are still not the native experience for the new generation. For example, although electronic books (e-books) are a prominent alternative, books on printed paper are still the dominant form of information exchange.  What about money/currency...are we digital yet? Nope, the Mint is still printing up and stamping out dollars and cents.  Admittedly, credit cards and the like are pushing us in the digital direction but they are inherently based on paper currency (dollars) as opposed to some abstract concept like 'credits'.  What about signage, billboards, menus, etc...this is barely the tip of the iceberg.  Nope...nada...crickets! Folks, we are not even close to a "Digital Natives" generation.

Admittedly though, the term has began to pique my interest.  It does begs the question - What defines whether or not a generation is "digital"?  Is the bar as low having the knowledge and use of smart devices?  Or is it really high - a society like the one depicted in StarTrek wherein almost everything is digital; books are literally antiques.   Clearly, I believe that the bar should be raised but just how high...I'd like to find out what other folks think.

Comment

Comment

Panoramic Pix Tricks

The iPhone camera's "Panorama" view really fascinates me; it ocassionally does some really cool...albeit unintentional stuff.  Here are a few examples.

The Replicator

I was at a Washington Wizards game earlier this year and I took a panoramic picture (from the nose-bleed section)...to soak in NBA atmosphere and post it to my instagram page.  At first glance, after I took the picture I realized something was 'off' but it didn't really register because I was too busy paying attention to the game.  Once I got home and took a closer look at the picture I was baffled.  I was fairly confident I took the shot during the actually game (in fact, it was during a fastbreak) but based on all the players on the court in the picture it looked like the picture was taken at halftime or something.  Then I looked a little closer...and I encourage you to do the same (see below).  Although it looks like there are 14 LA Clippers (the team in the red) on the court, there are really only 5 LA Clippers on the court.  What you are seeing a quirky side effect of the "Panoramic-view" algorithm trying to stitch together the live action scene.  Pretty cool stuff...I'm calling this effect - The Replicator (for obvious reasons).

pix_trix_1.JPG

Ripping the Fabric of Space-Time

Just recently, I was at the beach in Daytona about to go for a run and I thought..."Man. this would be a nice panoramic shot"...followed by another thought "I wonder what'd happen if I took a panoramic shot into the sun...I bet that'd be cool".  Note how I speak to myself in contractions...c'mon...everyone does...right?  The resulting image was like something out of a sci-fi movie where someone or thing is 'Ripping the Fabric of Space-Time".  I like it!  The only thing missing is an interdimensional ship or creature coming through into our reality.  I wish I knew how to make the "Panorama" view do that.  Hmm, perhaps not...that always seems to end badly.

pix_trix_2 copy.JPG

Dimming the Lights

This final shot is my current favorite; it looks like a post card.  Believe it or not, I took this picture a few moments after the shot above which means it was about 9:00 in the morning.  Pretty unexpected and amazing, right.  Ok here are the "FX" details - I started the shot facing the sun and then slowly panned away towards shore/hotels.  I am not a photo-enthusiast/expert but I assume this effect has something to do with the Panoramic-view's light exposure algorithm...it must have been working really hard at "Dimming the Light" as it was trying to stitch together such a drastic change is the amount of light coming through the lens as I panned from direct sunlight to normal sunlight.  Hmm, actually that sounds pretty good/plausible...perhaps I am a photo-enthusiast/expert :^]

pix_trix_4.JPG

I'm sure there are plenty more "Panorama Pix Tricks" to be discovered...give it a shot and let me know what you find.

Comment

2 Comments

Scoring My 2012 Predictions

Well, its time to see how well (or not) I did on my 2012 technology predictions...let's see.  

1. 7" Apple iPad - I definitely think Apple will release a 7" version of the iPad this year and it will be priced competitively against the Amazon Kindle Fire. Why do I believe this? Basically there's just too much "money on the table" in the micro-tablet space. I have several Apple Fan friends who want "pads" for their kids but aren't quite willing to spend the extra money for an iPad. Apple has go after this market and protect their market share in this space. (Scoring: 20 points if correct) 

Ok, I nailed this one, the iPad Mini's screen weighs in at 7.9 inches and the product is targetted at the micro-tablet place.  Honestly though, I feel this was a "no-brainer" because there was no way Apple could stay out of this market...there was just too much money on the table.

Points: +20, Score: 20/20

2. Apple HDTV - Ok. I know that Apple has treated the AppleTV product as purely for hobbyists but I definitely think this is the year that Apple steps front and center and produces an AppleHDTV product. Why do I believe this? Basically, it's the timing. There are too many rumors of Apple producing an HDTV product for it not to be true. So clearly, something's cooking in the labs...it's just a question when will it be released. The market is ripe for these internet-enhanced media televisions. These products are no longer bleeding edge and I expect to see maturing 2nd generation version of these products at CES. So the time to is now. Is the AppleHDTV totally ready...hmm, I doubt it's up to their level of perfection yet. However, without Steve Jobs I don't think that they have the strength of personality to wait until the product is "just right". (Scoring: 20 points if correct)
- FMPs - If you're an Apple Fan, don't even think about purchasing a HDTV until Summer/Fall. Apple's TV plans for 2012 should be crystal clear by then. Face it, if Apple comes out with a HDTV...it'll be cool and you're gonna want one.

Ugh! No one is more disappointed than me (well, except maybe this guy) about this one.  I really wanted an AppleHDTV to round out my home entertainment environment.  I don't know what happened here! Apple seems poised to make a move in this market.  I'm guessing the content companies are a little gun-shy and weary after seeing the impact of iTunes on the music industry.  I'm still keeping the flame on for this one...maybe this year.  

Points: +0, Score: 20/40

3. Micro-Social Media Exporter - What the heck is that? Ok. I just made that one up, so let me explain it. I believe we will see a rise is micro-social media sites like - Path 2, Instagram, Google+, etc. Facebook is on the road to 1 billion users and it's safe to assume they've won the social media wars for the moment (never forget myspace.com). However, as privacy concerns continue to rise and +100 friend accounts starts to get burdensome and constricting, these micro-social media sites will began to establish a foothold and become more popular. Look for the the merger of specialized micro-social media, like Instagram and Path 2.0 to grow into healthy competition for Facebook. (Scoring - 10 points for significant growth of Path 2 and Google plus, 10 points for the merger of any two or more micro-social media sites.)

Hmm, I would really like to say that I earned a few points for Facebook buying Instagram, but I guess that would not be fair.  The 800 lbs gorilla acquiring the emerging micro-social site probably does not qualify as a "merger" :-(

Points: + 0, Score: 20/60

4. A Tricorder Health and Fitness App - Finally, my own personal tricorder. That's right StarTrek fans the early tricoder prototypes will be out this year...kinda. This is the year that your phone/media device will also allow you to keep close track of your personal health and fitness. The emergence of Health APIs like those available in Runkeeper, Nike+ and Fitbit will facilitate this trend. Developers will began to utilize these APIs to add a significant level of tricoder "goodness" to your phone. They may even go as far as allowing you to tie it in with your medical records. 10 points for significant growth, 5 points if someone really relates their product to a tricorder.
- FMPs - Look to purchase one of the health monitoring devices this year to help track and monitor your health and fitness..

Ok, next year I'll have to create more quantifiable goals.  In any case though, as this recent article from The Economist notes...this is a hot & growing area.  In fact, I bought the Wahoo BlueHR, which is a very cool heart-rate monitor with a developer API that enables other people to write applications fo the device.  This is a trend that is only going to continue and get even better this year.  I think I got both of these predictions right.

Points: +10, Score: 30/75

5. Window Phone FTW! - For the last year and a half, I have being saying "Google is the new Microsoft, Microsoft is the new "Black" and Apple is, of course, Apple". The new "Black"...what does that mean? Well basically that means, the sleeping behemoth that is Microsoft is awakening from its slumber...ravenous for the mobile market. This is the year the Microsoft will totally eat RIM's lunch or anyone else who is eyeing the number 3 spot for mobile phones. There is only enough room for 3 spots when it comes to mobile phone mind share. The current list - 1) iPhone, 2) Android and 3) Blackberry will be - 1) iPhone, 2) Android and 3) Windows Phone by the end of 2012. (My scoring/points system - (20 points for the Microsoft Phone be touted as one of the top 3 phones in growth and popularity by any of the top reputable trade rags.)

Honestly, I really expected a "little" more from Microsoft's Phone.  I still think it's on the way to the #3 position (based on my own experience) but its going to take a little bit longer.  I must say though, I really like every thing I see with respect to Microsoft's new technology - the phone, the surface tablet/pc and the XBox connect.  I'm still bullish on Microsoft tech.

Points: +0, Score: 30/95

Wow, 30 points out of a total of 95. Hmm, I should probably keep my day job but I'm still headed back to the drawing board for 2013 predictions...

2 Comments

Comment

No, No...Don't Park for Me...Re-Park it for Me.

We've all seen the commercials where a driver eyes a parking space right in front of their favorite shop/cafe, s/he slowly pulls up to the spot, sizing it up and then and takes their hands off the steering wheel and the car magically begins to park itself. Admittedly, that is a very cool feature and I think I might actually let my car park for me; it's not that I really need to have my car do it...but lets face it..its looks really cool...and thats probably the most important part of the whole experience. From a utility perspective though, how important is this feature? I mean, I'm actually already in the car...driving...about to park. So, in truth, this is really more of a small convenience and if it's really a tight fit I don't know if I actually trust my car enough to give it the reigns.

So, it really got me thinking...how could I improve the utility of this feature. Well, for me, someone who lives in the city, there are times wherein I would be eternally grateful if my car would park for me.  No...not park...re-park for me.  In my neighborhood everyone just parks along the street and there are no marked spaces. As show in the picture, it's pretty much a free-for-all and sometimes folks leave a lot of space between their car and the surrounding cars.   I can't help but shake my head when I look out the window and see the *ginormous* spaces between the cars parked on my street.  Actually, it can be *really* frustrating (especially late at night) because it obviously reduces the number of available spots for everyone else...c'mon people! This is the perfect opportunity for my fancy wheels do it's parking (or should I say re-parking) magic. I, Tony Wilson, authorize my car to "re-park" itself on my behalf when I'm not behind the wheel. No, I'm serious! I envision it would work something like this, if my car detects another car less then half a car link away it should start the engine and re-park itself approximately 2 feet from the car. Of course, the normal safety precautions would be engaged, precautions like keeping the re-parking speed under 2 mph and stopping when an object is detected obstructing the path.  

A situation like this is really the perfect time for me to say "C'mon car...do your re-parking magic". Technology making life more convenient, that's what I want.

 

Comment

Comment

The E-Book I Really Want!

Ok, I'm a huge fan of ebooks and digital comic books and luckily for me over the past year there has been a tremendous surge of interest in the medium, no doubt this is brought about by the emergence of tablet computers like the ipad and such. I've definitely enjoyed the advances in the technology but after reading few ebooks and a *ton* of digital comic books I am beginning to get a since of what I really want in an ebook/digital comic book. So as I was crystal ballin' about the technology and it's future I began to envision really exciting prospects for something I call the "media book" . So what's a media book, well it's kinda like an ebook and kinda not! Let me explain. Lets look at the current/emerging ebooks, they are filled with rich graphics, interactive questionnaires and polls and a smattering of audio and video. If you don't know what I'm talking about just tryout one of the textbooks in the iBookstore to see an example of the current state of the art. Believe it or not, as rich and interactive as the current crop of ebooks are...I still feel like I'm missing something...I want more. I don't want a story that's augmented with audio/video as a means of providing more information like footnotes, etc. I want a mixed media experience, a story that's told using an interlaced collection of the written word, the spoken word, reader interaction and video. The total experience should take me well beyond the imagination and capabilities of the written/spoken word alone. In my crystal balled future, reading an ebook would be a fully immersive experience wherein the story is told across a range of media types. I'm a big fan of science fiction and science fantasy books so I'll attempt illustrate with an example from that genre.

Let's say that I'm reading an ebook and as I finish reading the current page, a space battle is looming on the horizon for our hero. As I slowly turn the page, the book begins to play sounds of a space battle in the background...drawing me deeper into the moment. I read on, now I distinctly here dialog between the captain and his crew. I'm fully engrossed as I turn another page and a video snippet of the space sortie plays across the top of the page, automatically without any actions (button presses, etc.) by me. At this point, reading the book is engaging all of my senses (or as many of my senses as possible), allowing the scenes and characters to come to life through a rich collection of mixed-media. *That* is the ebook I want!

And it gets even better, not only is this experience great for the book readers, it's also great for actors, graphic artists, animators, voice-over actors, etc. The current model for entertainment is constrained and controlled by television/movie industry and its associated distribution channel - a very limited landscape. Mixed-media enter/infotainment ebooks provide another frontier for performers and artists to offer up their collective skills & talents. A frontier with limitless opportunities - there are millions of books (written and unwritten) just waiting to be turned into a mixed-media ebook experience.

Comment

Comment

Is it Safe?

The other day a friend of mine asked me whether or not his connection to the internet was safe. In his particular scenario, he was at a hotel with his laptop which was connected via an encrypted WiFi link to his Airport Express which in turn was connected to the hotel's internet service via a wired ethernet connection. Now clearly, anyone who travels with an Airport Express is pretty security conscious and this particular guy has probably forgotten more stuff about network security than I will ever know. However, in this particular instance he stumbled across a topic which I've come to know fairly well lately. Mainly because I've be planning to secure my internet connection when I'm out blogging at Starbucks using their public WiFi. No! I'm not paranoid! Bad guys seriously try to steal your credentials (accounts, passwords, etc) for real. If programs like FireSheep don't keep you up at night then...something is wrong with you! Ok, back to his question. "If I'm using an Airport Express to create a secure wireless connection to the hotel's internet service and then I browse to a secure website (e.g., any site using "https:") are my communications secured?" The simple answer is yes. In fact he is doubly secure and here's why. Whenever you browse to a site the using the "https:" protocol (typically your browser will show the 'lock' symbol when this protocol is being used) all communications between the browser on your computer and the computer at the other end of the connection are encrypted. So, in his case, the encrypted WIFI connection via the Airport Express was unnecessary since the communication was already being encrypted by the browser's "https:" protocol. Plus when he's browsing to sites that aren't using "https:" his Airport Express is protecting his communications from the FireSheep-ish WiFi bandits.

So what about us regular folks who share the public WiFi at Starbucks - using an Airport Express solution is not a viable option in this scenario. We are out there in the wild, wide open with all our information flowing over an unsecured public WiFi link. Well there is *some* good news especially when it comes to the big social sites like Facebook, GooglePlus (including gmail) and Twitter; these sites switch you over to the https protocol automagically when you browse to them. Good stuff, try it! Type in http://facebook.com (twitter.com or plus.google.com) in your browser's URL you will get redirected through the https protocol...check the link/url. Very nice. Of course, banks have been doing this for years but it's nice to see that it's becoming pervasive. What about all the other sites you browse...well unfortunately, its really a grab bag ...some do and some don't. In many cases, it doesn't really matter because you're just browsing around. However, if you ever have to login at a particular site, to be safe you should definitely make sure it URL begins with "https:".

Comment

Comment

My iPad Apps

Now that the new iPad is out, I'm confident that at least one of my friends is going to purchase one and within the first couple of hours after purchasing it they will ask..."Hey, Tech Guy of the People, what apps should I get?" Well, ok they will probably just say "Hey Tony,..." but you get the idea. They want to know what are some of the must have apps for their shiny new iPad. Having lived through this on multiple occasions I figured it would be best if i just posted my thoughts here. So here we go, here are my favorite iPad apps, as of...now. I've separated them into categories for convenience.

iPad Apps 

  • USAToday - My hands-down winner for my news app. Their design and development staff really understand how to make a news paper look and feel good on a multimedia device like the iPad. 
  • Notability - This is a great tool for creativity. Sometimes you need to write a little bit, draw a little bit, type a little bit...just collect some thoughts and brainstorm.
  • Digits - Surprisingly, finding a good calculator app on the iPad is not quite as easy as one would think. Digits is a nice, simple yet powerful calculator...it my not be chocked full of scientific or business functions but it great for tabulating/totaling a list of items.
  • Flipboard - Just get it...nuff said! This app turns all of your feeds - Facebook, Twitter, Google News, etc. into a beautiful magazine.
  • Comixology - If you're a comic books fan (and let's face it who isn't) this is one amazingly innovative comic book reader. In my opinion, this is one example where reading on the iPad *far* surpasses the actual book (comic book). This is just the beginning of something really great!
  • iBooks - You pretty much have to have this quintessential book reader on your iPad...just to because it's cool. Now with the addition of text books, etc. The experience will only get better.
  • Zinio - Yes. I know apple has Newstand, but frankly I find newstand abit clunky and confusing. If you want full copies of your favorite magazine on you iPad for me this is the best option.
  • iPhoto - This app is chocked full of features. If you're anything less than I professional image artist than look no further than iPhoto. This app contains a smorgasborg of image editing features and effects.
  • SketchBookPro - Just as iPhotos is for pictures, SketchBookPro is for drawings and illustrations. Personally, I find that I need both of these apps to fulfill my creative needs.
  • PhotoShop Touch (pstouch) - Hmm, I know what you're thinking. Why do I need 3 image-related apps. Well "It's complicated"! Nah, not really...this is the app you need for all those fancy tricks you see in online photos (instagram et al). Whenever I want to cutout shapes, colorize and add other effects, this is my "goto" application.
  • Netflix - Honestly, I never imagined that I would what so much video on the iPad, but the Netflix app makes watching old tv shows and movies addictive. For those rainy, lazy morning where you're feeling a bit under the weather this app is impossible to beat.
  • Xfinity - For the Comcast folks out there, this is a must-have app for watching back episodes of you favorite TV show/series; it's also very handy for remote programming of your DVR.
  • FruitNinjaHD - Yeah, I know everyone has "AngryBirds on the Brain" but FruitNinjaHD for the iPad is crazy fun, plus you can go head-to-head with a friend...Sweet!

iPhone Apps

  • USAToday - What more is there to say...it's just as good on the iphone as it is on the iPad.
  • Stitcher - This is probably my most used iPhone application.  I listen to a lot of podcasts during my daily commute and Stitcher has a convenience User-Interface that allows me to find, subscribe and listen to all by my favorite podcast with little or no fuss.
  • Spotify - Ok. If you're a music lover...it's kinda hard to pass up this deal.  Spotify mobile is not free, it's cost $9.99 / month but for that price you get unlimited access to *millions* of songs.  All the lastest hits, the newest albums...you get the picture.  Even better, you can build playlist with your friends! I really can't say enough about this app/service.  IMHO, it's definitely worth $10/month.
  • Flixster - For the movie lover, you always need an app that lets you know what's playing at the theatres near you.  Flixster is a good/solid app for movie goers that also lets them buy tickets online.
  • The Weather Channel (TWC) - Lets face it, you must have at least one weather app on your smartphone.  The TWC app is from the venerable weather channel.  Get it. 'nuff said.
  • Instagram - There's something about this app that "makes the world a smaller place"...viewing random pictures of other people around the world is strangely capitivating;  plus having other people view and like your pictures is gratifying and fun. Try it...you'll see.
  • Snapseed - A quick no-nonsense, easy to use photo-editing tool.
  • Starbucks - If you are a starbucks fan and a smartphone owner...you probably already have this app.  If you don't...get it...it will save you money and you get "free drink" rewards.
  • Flipboard - Same as above, it's a little better on the iPad but it's still a great/must-have app
  • ESPN Sports Center - The quintesential sport channel has an app...you can't pass that up!
  • Path - Path is a micro-social media app/site that lets you share pictures, status, music and more with a small group of friends. Hmm, this is basically Facebook for your *real* friends.  Although I have a Facebook account, I'm not comfortable sharing all of my significant life moments with all those Facebook friends...and I don't feel like curating my friend lists.  So Path is just the right app for me, allowing me to share particular events with my family (and only my closest friends).
  • SoundHound - Ocassionally you hear a song and can't quite remember the name or the artist.  SoundHound to the rescue; just press a button and SoundHound will analyze the song and give you all the details - the name, the artist, the year, the album...even links to the iTunes store to purchase the song.
  • Audible - Hmm, I'm kinda convinced that audiobooks aren't for every one; personally I love them...they help make commutes and long drives fun.  If you're in the group of people that *love* audiobooks...be good to yourself and subscribe to Audible.com.  They have over 100,000 audiobooks so you're bound to find you favorite book, series and/or author.

Comment

Comment

Help Us, Oprah Wan Kenobi...Beyond Consumption Junction.

I woke up the other morning thinking about how all the new innovative internet companies make money. I'm sure that sounds strange but its true. I think it was brought about by FaceBook's recent IPO, wherein we got a peak into how the social media behemoth (with valuation rumors upwards of $70B) actually makes all it's money. I just could not shake the thought that at the end of the day, FaceBook is just like that other 800-pound gorilla, Google...it's all about advertising and human consumption. We all hear about how these new companies are disrupting the status quo, killing off TV, radio and reshaping our reality but in the end when all is said and done it pretty much the same ol' trick...advertise stuff for human consumption.

Honestly, it kinda makes me whisper under my breath (because I'd hate to be caught saying this out loud)..."Where's Oprah?". I'm serious! Why? Well, during the heyday of talk shows, the Oprah Winfrey Show was just one of many talk shows that sensationalized the base/bad behavior of humans. You remember, each week there was a new story of some human doing some wacky unbelievable thing to another human or a group of humans. This went on for some time until *it* happened, Oprah flipped the script; she said she would only talk about the goodness of people and how we can really help each other...Angel networks, et al. Although I didn't recognize it at the time, Oprah had taken an evolutionary (Noble-esque) leap beyond her peers and done something truly innovative...leaping past the old talk show model based on human vices to a model based on the uplifting elements of the human spirit. This new paradigm proved wildly successful and now we see these kinds of shows everywhere.

We need that same kind of innovative thought today in the internet arena. Amidst this global sea of information, knowledge and connectivity...we're still stuck at the junction of advertising and human consumption; the model of the past. We need someone to help us go beyond that model. Dare I say it, "Help Us, Oprah Wan Kenobi"...help us go beyond this Consumption Junction!

Consumption Junction
(Sung to the tune of Conjunction Function)

Consumption Junction what's your function
Hooking up people and Ad-ver-tisers

Consumption Junction how's that function
I got 2 big hooks that get most of my job done
Consumption junction what's their function
I got likes and +1s to pimp out your data
Tweets that's for twitter tweet this and tweet that
"Likes" that's for Facebook I like this and that.
And then theres +1 when I googled this or that

Consumption Junction lets see "Likes" function
When I "like" stuff then facebook pimps it
Advertiser pay and before you know it
You see ads just for you

Consumption Junction how does +1 function
When peeps +1 stuff then google pimps it
By tailoring your search with ads made from it
And you search results have ads made for you.

Consumption Junction what's your function
Hooking up peeps and Ad-ver-tisers.

Comment

Comment

Howl!! (at Night)

With furrowed brows and a feral smile
A breathy pant and a throaty growl!
All haunched on fours as if to prowl
his head tilts back in a piercing howl!

Hey hey you say! That is not quite
the kind of peep that Locks is...right?!
He does not have the 'New Moon' blight!
He growls and barks but not for fright.

Imagine now..if you were he
And saw all things as he doth see

With Locks With Curls, a smile, a growl
With bad bad car, a pant, sigh, scowl.

Out the door to start the day
U'd greet all peeps in a canine way

Pant! Snarl, Bark! Could you not find
A lane to merge, that is not mine!

Pant! Pant! Yelp! I'm sorry bro!...
I copped your lane & slowed your flow!

Arf!! Woof! Woof!! Oh morning crew
Let's take a break & grab some brew!

Snarl!! Growl!! Bark!! Oh crazy boss
Yours plans in Dec, I'm gonna toss

Woof! woof! woof! Oh Pack that pants!
To crazy tunes and workout rants!!

Arf! Woof! Arf! To those who find
The time to share their 'wags' online!

That's how the day would go for you
You'd bark and woof at peeps you knew!
Perhaps a snarl or growl or two!
For those who do what they should not do!

The peeps will go, as the sun sets low
You'll miss their energy and all that flo'!
Throw back your head in a primal croon!
And like a wolf...Howl at the Moon!

  ~ Facebook Timeline - 2009:11:24 

 

Ok, so whats the tech angle here?  Well, I'm a big Dr. Suess fan, so in 2009 I wrote a Suess-ish poem every Tuesday on my Facebook status for the entire year.  When I heard about Facebook Timelines I thought it was a pretty clever idea and it would be a cool way to highlight a few of my entries.  As it turns out,  when I looked back through my statuses many of the poems were gone...eaten by Facebook's dog, i guess.  At this point, I'm really glad I pulled them out of Facebook and published them in a kindle book for fun in early 2010.  Today, I figured I'd have a little crossover instagram #febphotoaday fun and republish one of my favorites 'at my thoughts'...with some graphics.

Comment

Comment

My Xmas 2012 List...or My 2012 Predictions.

As the first month of the new year draws to a close, like every other tech pundit, I have the burning need to project whats coming for 2012. Considering how much I love christmas, what better way to make my predictions than making my 2010 Xmas list.

1. 7" Apple iPad - I definitely think Apple will release a 7" version of the iPad this year and it will be priced competitively against the Amazon Kindle Fire. Why do I believe this? Basically there's just too much "money on the table" in the micro-tablet space. I have several Apple Fan friends who want "pads" for their kids but aren't quite willing to spend the extra money for an iPad. Apple has go after this market and protect their market share in this space. (Scoring: 20 points if correct)
- For My Peeps/People (FMPs) - Anyone considering the purchasing of the Kindle Fire...wait till mid year to see what Apple has in this space. Why not. You'll get a more mature device (iOS is 5th generation) and a full ecosystems of books, games et al.

2. Apple HDTV - Ok. I know that Apple has treated the AppleTV product as purely for hobbyists but I definitely think this is the year that Apple steps front and center and produces an AppleHDTV product. Why do I believe this? Basically, it's the timing. There are too many rumors of Apple producing an HDTV product for it not to be true. So clearly, something's cooking in the labs...it's just a question when will it be released. The market is ripe for these internet-enhanced media televisions. These products are no longer bleeding edge and I expect to see maturing 2nd generation version of these products at CES. So the time to is now. Is the AppleHDTV totally ready...hmm, I doubt it's up to their level of perfection yet. However, without Steve Jobs I don't think that they have the strength of personality to wait until the product is "just right". (Scoring: 20 points if correct)
- FMPs - If you're an Apple Fan, don't even think about purchasing a HDTV until Summer/Fall. Apple's TV plans for 2012 should be crystal clear by then. Face it, if Apple comes out with a HDTV...it'll be cool and you're gonna want one.

3. Micro-Social Media Exporter - What the heck is that? Ok. I just made that one up, so let me explain it. I believe we will see a rise is micro-social media sites like - Path 2, Instagram, Google+, etc. Facebook is on the road to 1 billion users and it's safe to assume they've won the social media wars for the moment (never forget myspace.com). However, as privacy concerns continue to rise and +100 friend accounts starts to get burdensome and constricting, these micro-social media sites will began to establish a foothold and become more popular. Look for the the merger of specialized micro-social media, like Instagram and Path 2.0 to grow into healthy competition for Facebook. (Scoring - 10 points for significant growth of Path 2 and Google plus, 10 points for the merger of any two or more micro-social media sites.)
- FMPs - If too many friends is constraining and making you share less or not at all. The micro-social media sites like Path are here to stay and just what you need for more personal interaction with your close friends.

4. A Tricorder Health and Fitness App - Finally, my own personal tricorder. That's right StarTrek fans the early tricoder prototypes will be out this year...kinda. This is the year that your phone/media device will also allow you to keep close track of your personal health and fitness. The emergence of Health APIs like those available in Runkeeper, Nike+ and Fitbit will facilitate this trend. Developers will began to utilize these APIs to add a significant level of tricoder "goodness" to your phone. They may even go as far as allowing you to tie it in with your medical records. 10 points for significant growth, 5 points if someone really relates their product to a tricorder.
- FMPs - Look to purchase one of the health monitoring devices this year to help track and monitor your health and fitness..

5. Window Phone FTW! - For the last year and a half, I have being saying "Google is the new Microsoft, Microsoft is the new "Black" and Apple is, of course, Apple". The new "Black"...what does that mean? Well basically that means, the sleeping behemoth that is Microsoft is awakening from its slumber...ravenous for the mobile market. This is the year the Microsoft will totally eat RIM's lunch or anyone else who is eyeing the number 3 spot for mobile phones. There is only enough room for 3 spots when it comes to mobile phone mind share. The current list - 1) iPhone, 2) Android and 3) Blackberry will be - 1) iPhone, 2) Android and 3) Windows Phone by the end of 2012. (My scoring/points system - (20 points for the Microsoft Phone be touted as one of the top 3 phones in growth and popularity by any of the top reputable trade rags.)
- FMPs - For the die-hard windows fans. There is a great alternative phone thats has a full ecosystem (like the iphone) to integrate with.

Ok. Thats it for me. You've seen my predictions and my scoring/point system. Any more of the "AtMyThoughts"-ers (@mhbjr and @Sybil_B) willing to make predictions...or anyone else for that matter. But don't forget to add your scoring/point system.

Comment

Comment

The Xmas Swag Bag (aka Digital Stocking Stuffers)

Ok it's definitely the 11th hour for the hardcore Xmas shoppers. You should be sweating right now if haven't finished up all your gift purchases. Hmm, there are always some loose ends to tie up though...you know, stocking stuffer kind of stuff. I'm officially calling it the Xmas Swag Bag. Here are some 11th hour can't miss ideas for your techie friend(s).  Thoughts for this year's Xmas Swag Bag is chocked full of Apps & Subscriptions that are sure to please.

 

Subscriptions

Spotify Subscription (www.spotify.com) - This music service wins my product of the year award. Imagine having an unlimited supply of music mixed with your social networks. That's Spotify in a nutshell; the service is awesome. I would recommend gifting a (1) month premium subscription which cost basically $9.99/mo. The premium subscription allows you to use the service on your desktop, laptop or mobile phone (supports iOS, Android and RIM) Unfortunately, you can't purchase a Spotify gift card in the US and a Facebook account is required to use the service. Ugh! But don't let that be a deterrent. In the past, I have solved this by creating a temporary account and paying for the first few months. I'm not sure how easy that is with the new Facebook wrinkle, but Spotify has suggestions of what to do on there site. In any case, the service is definitely worth jumping a few small login hurdles.

Audible Subscription (www.audible.com) - For most book lovers, there is generally a sizable stack of books they want read but just don't have the time to get to them. For me, I often find it difficult to dedicate a chunk of time each day or week to sit down and read a book. I do, however have time during my commute or when I'm running errands or even working on projects/chores to listen to a book. Audible to the rescue. Audible has a collection of over 100000 titles, including most of the top sellers available in audio format. They offer several gifts subscription options that allow you to download up to 2 titles per month (any book in their catalog). Most of the narrators are excellent and some books are dramatized (multiple narrators reading different roles) which helps bring the story to life. Yeah I know that listening to books is not for everyone but if you don't know whether or not it's the thing for tech friend why not give it a try. I'm betting they will like it.

 

Apps

Apps make great digital stocking stuffers. Undoubtedly games are always good but I would rather take a step off that beaten path and go with something a little more unexpected and innovative: 

Notability (iPad) - Admittedly, the first wave of iPad use is mainly about consumption. I definitely expect the second wave will go beyond consumption and begin to expand into the area creation. Notability takes steps in this direction, this app excels at capturing plans, notes, ideas, etc. Remember all those great ideas captured on the back of a paper napkin...this is the new napkin.

ComiXology (iPhone and iPad) - 2011 is definitely the year that delivered by the promise of digital comic books. For that tech friend with an iPad. Take a trip off the beaten path and send him/her the free ComiXology App with a few digital comics ($3.99 per comic). Of course, all the superhero titles are available but there are a LOT of other graphic novels available too. I recommended gifting a complete story arc like - (1) The Phonix Saga, (2) The Secret Wars or the (3) Infinity Gauntlet. Classic stories that any comic book fan will enjoy.

Hipstamic Disposable (iPhone) - A social camera app. You share 24 frames with a set of frien5mn'ds. A very unique and innovative idea that I'm confident will *really* catch on. So share a roll of pictures with your tech friend on the holidays. This is good stuff!

Ok there isn't much time left...go get it done!

Comment

Comment

Having Apple holiday gift thoughts. Here's what to buy and when to buy it?

iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S - Now that the iPhone is available from other carriers beyond AT&T a lot of people are considering purchasing/owning an iPhone for the first time. I have a few friends in this category. One of the first questions that pops up is which version should I buy the iPhone 4 or the 4S? If you you're in this category and you're debating which iPhone to put on your christmas list, here is my take on the matter.

 

What to buy - Buy the iPhone 4S (16 GB or 32 GB), hands-down. Let's face it, if you are "debating" whether you should spend the extra money for the iPhone 4S over the iPhone 4 then that probably means that cash is not a "limiting" factor.   So in that case, then the 4S is definitely worth the extra 100 bucks. And here's why...

 

Why buy it - The features, plain and simple. The following features alone are worth the extra money - 1) the Siri Voice Assistant, 2) the Dual-core A5 processor and 3) the 8 megapixel (8MP) camera. First off, Siri is really cool technology that is not going away. This kind of semantic voice recognition technology is the future of computing. I'm sure you've seen the commercials, but trust me the convenience of telling Siri to setup your appointments, reminders, etc. cannot be overstated. Once you use it you'll be hooked on the ease at which you can do these tasks. Just to be clear, Siri is definitely not perfect but it's a worthy first entry of semantic voice recognition technology for masses. Next up, we're going to dive a little bit into the technology - the dual-core A5 processor. The dual-core A5 processor is twice as powerful as fast as the A4 processor contained in the iPhone 4 and it has faster (up to 7x) graphics.  Of course, more power + faster = better! More importantly though, the A5 is same processor used in the iPad 2.  So this means that iPhone 4S and iPad 2 share the same multi-core processor and more likely than not the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 will also have a multi-core processor. That's a powerful lineup and eventually more and more apps will begin to use the power of these multicore processors.  I think that's *pretty* important.  Finally, there's the 8MP camera.  Personally, I think there is a practical limit to the number of megapixels needed in a "point & shoot" camera but having owned an iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S the difference in picture quality is surprisingly significant. By the time you add in the 1080p video-recording features of the iPhone 4S...it's a pretty good deal!

 

When to buy - There are always rumors about the next iPhone coming in 4-6 months and they're generally true because the market is so competitive.  I definitely expect the iPhone 5 to be available between April - July 2012 and the rumors indicate that it will have faster network communication speeds (LTE) and perhaps a slightly bigger screen.  Honestly though, neither of those features would be enough to deter me from purchasing a 4S right now...I mean, the 4S has Siri, it has the dual-core A5 and it has 8MP camera with 1080p HD recording capability.  So if my carrier contract was up and I was looking to get myself a christmas gift I'd jump on the 4S.  However, in my case, my contract expires in March 2012 and that puts me 1-2 months away from the rumored iPhone 5 release.  Hmm, if you're like me and find yourself that situation...the prudent thing would be to wait.

 

   
iPad 2 or MacBook Air - Ok. this is a tough one because these  two products are actually quite different. A direct comparison may seem like comparing apples and oranges but surprisingly a lot of people find themselves debating whether to purchase of an iPad 2 or a Mac Air.  Hmm, I think I know the reason for that. My hunch is that anyone debating between these two devices is probably a casual computer user who is looking for mobility.  I classify a casual computer user as someone who has a light to moderate need for a computer.  The casual computer user is mainly looking for the following features in a computing device - 1) mobility, 2) web browsing, 3) moderate correspondence and 4) media consumption (reading books, watching videos snippets or movies).  So given these usage patterns I would recommend...

 

What to buy - I would go with the iPad 2 (16 GB, 3G model). The iPad 2 is an ultra-mobile device that is as good or better than the MacBook Air for web browsing and lightweight correspondence (an email exchange or short document) and it is superior to the MacBook Air with respect to media consumption.  I consider the 16 GB 3G model is the best choice since everyone (e.g., Apple, Amazon, Google)  is doing the "cloud" thing these day.  Given that most of your media can be made available/accessible from the "cloud", I really don't see a need to go beyond 16 GB storage on the iPad.  I'd recommend that any money that you would have put towards the extra storage be put towards getting the 3G model. Remember, you don't have to have the 3G service activated all the time with your carrier, you can activate it on an as needed basis.  I've had a WiFi-only iPad and I found it inconvenient trying to find secure WiFi whenever I was away from home;  it's nice to have 3G for trips and such when no wifi is available.  

 

Why buy it - The iPad 2 excels in the causal computer user department.  I classify it as "ultra-mobile" because you can literally "take and use it" anywhere.  Admittedly, the MacBook Air is small sleek you can "take" it anywhere but you can't really "use" it anywhere.  That's the thing with laptops, they generally need some desk (or "lap") space and two free hands to use them.  That's not the case with the iPad 2, you can actually "use" it anywhere -sitting, standing, walking around...whatever.  This kind of mobility is boon for a wide range of people and small businesses.  There are a lot of small businesses can benefit from using an iPad 2 as a on-the-go data reference, data entry and point-of-sales device.  Ok, let's talk about the small elephant in the room.  What about writing emails and/or short documents?  Although the virtual keyboard of the iPad is sufficient for a writing a few paragraphs I think anything beyond that is best done with using a bluetooth keyboard paired with the iPad.  There are a lot of good iPad keyboard options out there.  Last but not least, there is media consumption - web browsing, reading books, watching videos and movies.  Actually, there is not much to say here, all of those activities are far better and more convenient on the iPad 2 versus the MacBook Air (or any laptop).  I think everyone gets that now.  That's why were seeing all the iPad-like devices like the Kindle Fire, Nook, etc.  I know it may not sound like it but I love the MacBook Air.  I think it's an incredibly cool laptop no question about it!  But in my opinion, you should only purchase a laptop like the MacBook Air when you're looking to make your *desktop* mobile.  For example, if you have specific desktop applications (beyond the usual email, word processing or web browsing apps) that you *need* when you're on-the-go away from your desk...that's when a MacBook Air perfectly fills the bill of mobilizing your desktop.  I can definitely see a business user or computer professional fitting in this category. However, if you're like most people you really don't need your desktop on the go.

 

When to buy - There are definitely rumors of the iPad 3 becoming available in 6 months. I don't have a crystal ball (I wish) but my hunch is that the only significant difference between the iPad 2 and iPad 3 will be the screen resolution and size (thickness and weight).  I definitely don't foresee anything here that would make a iPad 2 user say "Ugh! I wish I had waited for the iPad 3". 

Comment

Comment

Losing the Visionary Does Not Mean Losing the Vision

Creative Commons - NC Licensed by Charis TsevisWe knew it had to happen some day but now its official -- “Steve Jobs has left the building.”  So now what? What does it mean for us (consumers) now that Apple, the innovation leader in consumer electronics, has lost their visionary and leader? Well, as you might guess, the responses to Job’s departure have run the gamut from -- "It will be business as usual at Apple" to "Apple is in trouble".  Regardless of what you hear from tech pundits, it's pretty simple to "do the math" on Apple's future if you think about it for a few minutes...

Lets face it, good leaders with a clear strong vision and business savvy are hard to find.  The loss of a visionary like Steve Jobs is huge for any company and is even more difficult  when the company’s corporate identify is so closely tied to the CEO. Think about it, its hard to think of Apple Computers without seeing a picture of Steve Jobs in your head (try it). There aren’t many companies like that and for those that are, it tends to be a *very* good thing...right up to the moment when the CEO departs.  After which, all hell breaks loose...stock prices plummet, tech pundits foretelling doom and gloom, people running in the streets! 

Well, its not exactly like that but you get the picture.  Why is this?  Perhaps it is because people fail to remember one important thing -- losing the Visionary does not mean losing the vision.

In all likelihood, for a company steeped in culture like Apple, Job’s near-term vision has probably already been firmly entrenched at Apple and the company now on a fixed/scripted golden path for the next two years, at least! 

So in terms of plans, products and services, I think we (consumers) are in good shape for at least the next couple of years...but the phrase that pays is "Execute, Execute, Execute." Having the roadmap is not the same thing as taking the journey, so it is vitally important for the remaining corporate leaders to embrace and execute the vision. If that happens, we’re in for several more years of Apple goodness!

So what happens after the first couple of years? Who knows? No one has a crystal ball but lets go back and do the math:

  1. Apple has *really* deep pockets (billion$)...seriously
  2. Apple has a balanced ecosystem (a desktop platform, a mobile platform and a set-top platform)
  3. Apple has a closed environment. They control the hardware/software supply and distribution channels.
  4. Apple has an extremely loyal customer base. 

Just doing the simple math 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.  Apple is a 10!  Hmm, Ok I couldn’t resist that.  Seriously, even though the departure of a charismatic leader like Steve Jobs levels the playing field to some degree, it is important to remember that at the end of the day -- Apple is still at least as smart and capable as its competitors and is well positioned to continue their successful run on the industry.

 

Follow me also at: Google+

Comment