Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I've done a 180 and I'm back to the iPhone

For those of you that are smacking your foreheads in disgust after reading why I switched to the Bold, please give me a second to explain:

I was recently on an unplanned-for trip that was booked at the last minute and various things throughout the course of the trip made me realize that the Bold is not a suitable substitute for the functionality of the iPhone; I do still have some of the same gripes with the iPhone (battery, keyboard, reception, etc.), but I was unaware of how much it affected my day until I didn't have it.

Here's what brought me back:
  • Applications. I use them. A lot more than I thought. BlackBerry doesn't have them and the mobile versions of the sites for which I have iPhone applications don't measure up. Even something as simple as the weather application on the iPhone blows away the same push-based functionality on the Bold. Hey, I'm also pretty excited about the Kindle application too as that makes my whole investment in that series of products and distribution model more useful.
  • Browser. I never had a good idea of how much I used the browser until I had one that didn't work as well or as easily. iPhone = real web browsing; Bold with Opera doesn't.
  • Gmail. The Gmail app for the BlackBerry sucks in comparison to the e-mail experience via Safari on the iPhone -- not RIM's fault, but I use it an awful lot and the experience is much better on the Bold. And, for those of you that may point out that I could have my Gmail come to my Inbox on the Bold, I separate my work and personal e-mail by using separate applications.
  • Google Tasks. Works on the iPhone and not on the Bold, and I'm addicted to using it, it's part of my daily work-flow, etc.
  • Camera and pictures. Never really noticed how much I use the camera on the iPhone and picture manipulation until I couldn't do it in the same way -- interacting with pictures on the iPhone leaves the Bold in the dust.
  • Cords. One cable to charge my music device and phone. I don't know about you, but reducing cables and chargers and other device-specific crap is important to me when traveling.
To address some of the outstanding problems, I've made the following moves:
  • Reception. Can't do much about it, so I'm going to live with it and hope that Apple releases software updates to address it and that AT&T continues to improve their backbone. Note that I saw very similar signal coverage in San Antonio (home of AT&T), but still experience issues in Denver.
  • Keyboard. I'm getting very fast at inputting via Shapewriter; my biggest problem is wrapping my brain around the process of invoking Shapewriter before I initiate or respond to an e-mail. I know people that hate Shapewriter, but it totally makes sense to my brain and has drastically increased my input speed for lengthier e-mails.
  • Battery. I've invested in the Richard Solo battery, which I can't imagine having attached to my phone when using it for a voice conversation, but everyone that I've talked to has said that it's been an amazing device for them while traveling.
I'm done switching for now unless one of the new Nokias really catches my eye and/or the new iPhone this summer is super-cool (I'm sure it will be). And, yes, I'm eagerly awaiting a lot of the functionality from the iPhone 3.0 software suite.

The definition of "rocket science"

This video is way too funny:

How many rocket scientists do you deal with on a daily basis? I think I'm going to get the quote framed on my wall.

Thanks to John Sparks for the tip.

Link (if the embed isn't working for you)

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I've said all kinds of things about satellite radio over the years, so I won't rehash them now. Here's what I think:
ClearChannel went back private a few years ago and traditional radio is not necessarily doing very well. Although none of us are able to look at ClearChannel's cash position any longer with them having gone private, I would be willing to be that they have a warchest. I'm guessing that they're looking hard at purchasing the combined XM/Sirius entity, especially at a discount price -- I almost wonder if the bankruptcy was a takeover protection effort.
Just my $0.02, but it seems like radio has a strong history of simple consolidating stations and channels to maintain advertising revenue instead of directly addressing the problem -- XM/Sirius, at its core, is just another set of stations and channels; it's just delivered via a different medium.

Tom Peters shares his strategies for the recession

Read carefully.


Verizon Math

I don't remember the source of this, but I originally came across this audio recording of a guy's frustrating conversation with a Verizon customer service rep regarding the difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents (there's a hundredfold difference for those of you without calculators as there are 100 cents in 1 dollar). You can listen to the audio recording here, though it may want to make you drop Verizon if you're a current customer. After a little Googling (a very little, by the way), I found the blog dedicated to this silly stuff -- you can read it here at Verizon Math.

Aside from the actual content, which, by the way is appalling (yet funny), think about this: 10 years ago none of this could have happened. It would have been expensive to get the gear to record the call at a high quality level, it would have been very expensive and slow to digitize the audio, it would have been insanely slow to upload the recording, most people would have been unable to even find the recording because of a lack of broadband penetration and inefficiency of the webscape, and even if they had found it, it would have taken forever to download and could not have been easily shared.

Dell has a team of people that now respond to things like this and it's not hard to respond -- search engines and blog-specific searches make the job infinitely easier. The problem for big companies is that if they do not address items like this early, then they wind up with exactly what Verizon Math is: a perpetual bad experience story with high Google rankings that will always show up in search results because people find it and bloggers like me continue to link to it.

Are you watching after your online reputation?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Now you can get Taser'd from more than 80 feet away

Sure looks non-lethal to me.



You can download an exclusive EP from Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction in support of their summer tour: just give them your e-mail address and they'll send you a download link. There are lots of formats available, including FLAC and Apple Lossless, and all of the links are torrents, so you'll need a torrent program to process the download.


Friday, March 13, 2009

What if you actually let your customers decide what to pay you?

Matt Homann from LexThink has what he terms a "You Decide Invoice" that he uses for all of this consulting work. Here's the relevant language:
YOU DECIDE: Your absolute satisfaction with LexThink isn’t just our goal, it’s the measure of our worth -- and the determination of our fee. The rules are simple: you pay us what you feel we were worth to you. You decide, no questions asked. The only rule? We want to know why you paid what you did, and how we could have done better.
For those of you that rightly worry about payment, here's how he deals with that:
WHEN TO PAY: While we leave our fee in your hands, we can’t leave it there forever. Please send us your payment and feedback within 21 days after you get this invoice. Please send a copy of this along with your feedback and your payment. Thank you for your business.
Check out Matt's post for an image of his invoice template along with other useful information about his process, including the solicitation of feedback from his clients.


The granson of Ansle Adams is helping us enjoy Ansel Adams print reproductions

Scoble has a video about the grandson of Ansel Adams, Matthew Adams, making nearly indistinguishable copies of Ansel Adams prints from the original prints, not from the negatives. I'm a big fan of Ansel Adams, so this is pretty exciting news to me considering the fact that there are a finite number of original prints and they are very much outside my price range.

Check out the video and listen to how they do it: Link

This guy build a 747 flight simulator in his warehouse for under $200K

The real ones cost $40mil and apparently his is pretty close.

Now this simulator took 10 years to build and a lot of the parts were donated to the builder in exchange for work, but it's still pretty impressive.

Certainly makes you think about what is possible given the time and effort.


After the standard 15-20 month wait, GrandCentral is becoming Google Voice

After a 20+ month wait since the acquisition of GrandCentral by Google, the "phone number for life" service is relaunching as Google Voice. As an early user of GrandCentral, I am very glad to see that Google Voice is adding in many of the features that have been missing from the GrandCentral service, namely:
  • Text message forwarding. The Google Voice number will now forward text messages to your mobile device and it appears that you can respond to the messages via the Google Voice number or direct from your mobile phone.
  • Phone calls via the web or your mobile/landline. Some of these features have been a part of GrandCentral for a while, so it will be interesting to see if there is an additional feature set.
  • Free transcriptions using the GOOG-411 engine. Due to the fact that I currently pay for PhoneTag, I will be very interested in the accuracy of this service. You can read a reaction to this announcement made by James Simnoff of PhoneTage this morning -- in short he says that he looks forward to being able to say that his product is better than Google's; I wonder if Google's will simply be good enough to cause people like me to stop paying for transcription through third parties.
  • Easy conference calling. Simply have the people you want to conference with call your GrandCentral number, and add up to 5 of them to the call using the keypad interface.
  • Free calls to the US and aggressive international rates. I don't have the international rate chart, but assuming that you can easily make web-based calls using the service, this could be useful.
Current GrandCentral users have to wait for the upgrade notice to show up in their Inbox (mine currently tells me that I am ineligible for an upgrade). There are some things that I'm hoping for that have not yet been confirmed:
  • Google Voice shares my Contacts from Gmail to resolve callerID and provide a single contact database.
  • Google Voice messages automatically show up in my Gmail account. Lifehacker reports that the "voicemail" label is now reserved by the system in Gmail, so it seems there's a pretty good chance that this will happen.
  • Ability to initiate web-based calls directly from the Gmail interface.
Google Voice is currently only available to existing Grand Central users and to people upon whom Google bestows invitations -- if I get some invites, I will certainly let you know.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Obama watches are in

Shameless plug because I'm the one selling them:


AT&T nastygram: no iPhone for you on a non-iPhone data plan

Posted yesterday about moving my SIM into my iPhone and having no problem with with data service, right?

Here's the nastygram I got via e-mail from AT&T today:

Oh well, worth a try I suppose.

I guess I'm more apt to want to sell my iPhone now, so anyone want an unbricked iPhone?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The switch from iPhone to Bold

I've really tried to like the iPhone and for the most part, it's lived up to many of my expectations. However, there are a few things that make it hard to use for business:
  • Battery life. On a normal-use day for me (probably a heavy-use day for most people), I wind up recharging the battery at least once during the day and have to charge it overnight.
  • Signal. There still seem to be some signal issues with 3G service; I can stand right next to a co-worker using an original model Samsung BlackJack and he has full bars on 3G while I'm on a couple of bars with EDGE.
  • Keyboard. I've gotten pretty good at using the iPhone keyboard, but it still is limiting when compared to a real QWERTY keyboard (yes, I've tried the Storm with the haptic and although it's marginally faster, it's not really as good either).
I picked up a Bold last week and immediately took it with me on a business trip. Things that I like:
  • Contacts & calendars. I simply set up Google Sync and all of the information from my contacts and calendars downloaded to the phone and everything syncs in real-time. While I had configured this on the iPhone, Google Sync on the Bold automagically happens by simply downloading the app and entering in your account information.
  • QWERTY keyboard. I can fire off e-mails about 3 times faster than I could with the iPhone.
  • River of messages. Having everything -- e-mails, MMS, and SMS -- come into a unified inbox greatly improves my workflow. I've gone from being a minimal texter to a heavy texter as I use texting as a filter for importance.
  • Battery life. I'm only recharging it every other day under my normal use conditions.
  • Signal. Unbelievably good in areas where the iPhone wouldn't even have coverage. There's no option to shut off 3G, but the only reason I ever considered doing that on the iPhone was to conserve battery, which doesn't seem to be an issue with the Bold.
  • Call quality. People on the receiving end have commented on the voice quality, so it must be noticeably different (I didn't call myself from my iPhone and I haven't called myself from the Bold, so I really would know).
What I don't like about the Bold:
  • User interface. Apple and the iPhone blow everyone out of the water with this on every Apple device that I've used; nobody even comes close.
  • Applications. The BlackBerry's handling of applications is kludgy at best and there just aren't that many real applications yet. I miss a lot of the applications that I use to use on a daily basis, including applications as simple as the iPhone Weather application. I'll see what happens when the BlackBerry app store opens.
  • Media handling. Totally sucks compared to the iPhone -- I'm not sure anything handles music, pictures, and videos as well as the iPhone (except a Mac, of course). It does such a poor job that I travel with an iPod Touch to take care of these items.
  • Screen size. This is a total opportunity cost -- in return for getting a real QWERTY keyboard, I lose half the screen real estate that I had on the iPhone.
  • Rich e-mail handling. For the most part, the iPhone rendered e-mails on its screen the same way a desktop e-mail application does; the new BlackBerry OS does an ok job, but not great. Further, since I access my personal Gmail from the Gmail BlackBerry app (I accessed it via a Safari shortcut on the iPhone), there is not support for rich/HTML e-mails, which sucks.
Overall I think I'm happier with the Bold from a getting things done perspective, but there are definitely times when I miss the iPhone. Interestingly, the AT&T folks told me I couldn't move back and forth with my SIM, but I popped it into my iPhone today just to check and had no problems whatsoever (note that I don't use VisualVoicemail, but I'm guessing that would not have worked) -- I was able to make and receive calls, send and receive SMS messages, and access the internet. I'm guessing that my iPhone is completely unbricked, which means that I could probably sell it for a fortune, I'm just not sure that I want to at this point with the knowledge that I can bounce back and forth. I suppose if any of you wanted to make me an offer for it, I would consider it, but I'm not necessarily in active sales mode right now.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Anybody notice how the Amazon Kindle app for the iPhone doesn't include newspapers and magazine subscriptions?

I did.

Interesting stuff considering that Sprint charges Amazon to use their network for "WhisperNet".

Chinese real estate speculation in the US

Lots of news stories about how tours are being organized for cash-flush Chinese citizens to tour America and buy properties that are distressed, in foreclosure, etc. Many of the news stories, especially those on television focus on Americans being interviewed, expressing outrage and concern over the potential of the Chinese owning tracts of property in the United States (I have yet to see any reporter remind anyone being interviewed how much of the US debt is already owned by the Chinese).

Reminds me of the 80's and the concerns about the Japanese being large tracts of US property, which, in turn, reminds me of this quote from Akio Morita, founder of the Sony Corporation:
"If you don't want Japan to buy it, don't sell it."
There you go -- feel free to update accordingly with the country of your choice.

Picture from b2tse