June 14th, 2013 — Everything else, Tech
Father’s Day is a great time to give dad techie gadgets he wouldn’t necessarily buy for himself. Here are some ideas.
1. Last minute gift: an Apple App Store or Android gift card. Who doesn’t need more apps for their mobile device? You can buy prepaid Apple gift cards at most any Target and many supermarkets; if they don’t have the App Store card an iTunes card would work just as well. For Android, Amazon Gift Card – E-mail – Amazon Appstore will work just as well and you can order it for immediate delivery via email. (Unfortunately, Amazon does not seem to have a gift card with a picture of the Android robot on it.)
2. Home Depot gift: a cordless lithium drill/driver set. Every dad has an old cordless drill in a drawer, but the new-generation lithium battery technology is a dramatic step forward. They’re lighter, more powerful and the battery lasts far longer. I have one by Bosch but whatever is on sale will do; take a look and see if you can find a combo set with flashlight, radio and other add-ons that run off the same batteries. This is definitely something dad would never buy for himself but, take it from me, would like to have.
3. Grilling dad gift: temperature monitor for the Weber. The point where dad gets serious about barbecue is when he starts to think about temperature control. Fortunately, there are sturdy aftermarket thermometers like this one which he add in to his existing kettle cooker in a few minutes by drilling a hole, then securing the thermometer with a nut and a washer. If you want to go high tech, my friend Steve would send you to the Thermoworks site where they have all manner of remote doneness sensors, instant read laser thermometers and such.
I am fortunate enough to have all the above (well, except for the Thermowerks tchotchkes) and am hoping for Why Knot?: How to Tie More Than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving, and Secure Knots! by Philippe Petit, a high wire artist to whom well tied knots are obviously important. And when you think about it, back in the day, knots were the original high technology.
July 1st, 2012 — Copywriting 101, Marketing
Last week brought yet another dose of terrible news from Research in Motion Limited, the company that makes BlackBerry, and I kicked myself for not going short on RIMM a few weeks back when the stock was more than twice as high as it is now. The handwriting is on the wall for BlackBerry just as for Betamax and HD-TV before them, and the shovels are busy in the boneyard of failed technologies.
BlackBerry, however, has something most other zombie technologies lack: an established user base that is, or was, enthusiastic about the platform. So here’s my plan to save the company: turn BlackBerry into a prepaid phone. This solves the problem of users abandoning BlackBerry for iPhone or Android because they don’t have to; they can continue using their BlackBerries as a backup. Many BB users already have multiple phones (remember Obama on the 2008 campaign trail?) so this concept will be an easy one for them to accept. And a package of text messaging can be sold at an attractive yet profitable price that will allow those thumb virtuosos to continue their real-time updates even while in the air. (I never was able to figure out why this is OK.)
The prepaid texting will be offered at a discount for in-network messages, encouraging current users to continue their text relationships with one another. And RIMM can keep its rock-solid network but, since far less bandwidth will be required with a reduced user footprint and no expectation of rich media, sell or rent off the capacity it doesn’t need.
I’ve never had a BlackBerry myself but have had plenty of prepaid phones. They are useful little gadgets with lots of applications. They’re great for kids who tend to leave them in their pockets when doing laundry, for example. And I am about to buy a TracPhone for a guest house where we’re required to have a phone for some weekend guests; it fits the contract and offers a number for them to give out, yet it’s miles cheaper than installing a landline or VoIP modem. Make the prepaid BlackBerry attractive with an initial offer and I would probably try one. Give me or my kids or guests a taste of that thumb power and we just might get hooked and go for an expanded package. There’s a reason they used to call it “CrackBerry” after all.
May 28th, 2012 — Everything else, Tech
After an 18 month dalliance with Android, I’m back to the iPhone, now on Verizon. Left the Droid X outside during a Texas thunderstorm, and the Verizon folks were kind enough to upgrade me without a penalty.
I’m happy. All my old apps were waiting for me in iTunes. The GPS problems have gone away. And I’m comfortable back in Steve’s sandbox where rogue apps don’t cause the system to crash.
Just one thing… what the f* is this Siri? Does anybody except new users and my 10 year old actually find it an enjoyable and productive feature? Or to expand the question, if there had never been a Star Trek would the idea of instructing a computer with voice commands, rather than just punching a button, have ever seemed like a good idea?
One thing I did struggle with was the lack of security for my Apple account. By default, a user (such as the above mentioned 10 year old) can enter a wrong password 4 times and then be asked if they want to reset it. The reset link is sent to my primary email account, which of course is accessible on the phone.
The solution is to go to Settings>General>Restrictions>Accounts and then check “Don’t Allow Changes”. I can now enter the wrong password as many times as I like and will never be prompted to reset it.
October 25th, 2010 — Everything else, Tech
After my frustration using my iPhone in San Francisco during the DMA earlier this month, I’ve decided to pull the plug. When my contract is up at the end of December I’ll move to Android, most likely the Droid X unless something better comes along. And will do this on the Verizon network, which I know as a former customer has far more towers in the two areas where I spend most of my time, San Francisco and Upstate New York.
My top 5 reasons for making the change:
1. Better coverage on Verizon. Yes, I could wait till the Verizon iPhone is released, but why? The other reasons are enough to switch.
2. Better GPS by all accounts. Even in good coverage areas, GPS in iPhone is near useless if you need to find something in a hurry. By the time the little dial has stopped spinning you are at/past your destination.
3. Ability to use the phone as a modem and tether my computer to the web. The iPhone offered this briefly, then took it away with a system update about a year ago. Having tasted freedom, I want it back.
4. Video camera. Like the idea of one fewer device to lug around when I need to shoot a quick video of something.
5. As a marketer, I’m looking forward to the experience of buying apps in a free market environment, both to experience the buying process and to see what’s available. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other Apple users in my family so I can stay up with what Brother Steve is doing.
6. Flash movies. This would be much higher on the list if I had confirmation it is working, but seems like it is. You need Android 2.1 or later which the Droid X has and you’re good to go.
7. I’m not sure I really like the idea of listening to music on my phone, as opposed to… an iPod! My two favorite headsets don’t have microphones, and I don’t feel like paying a lot to get a new headset that has both high quality audio and a decent mic. Seems like I am in a minority that feels talking on the phone and listening to music, even though both involve the ears, are two different activities.