Real Tech 95 - The Ultra Edition

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Google gets more focused.

Solid State Drives - Worth it! 

Excel: Have multiple sheets and Windows Open.  http://www.howtogeek.com/forum/topic/open-spreadsheets-in-completely-separate-windows

PICKS:

Tony: Aperture 3 Slide Shows 

Steve: WinDirStat (http://windirstat.info/) WinDirStat is a disk usage statistics viewer and cleanup tool for Microsoft Windows

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Steve’s info: [blog] http://theprofessornotes.com[twitter] @scmprofessor

Tony’s info: [blog] http://getthenext.com [twitter] @tonypittman

 

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World Cup 2010 - The US Roster

The roster: Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England).

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes, France), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Jay DeMerit (Watford, England), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan, Italy), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England).

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus, Denmark), Stuart Holden (Bolton, England), Jose Torres (Pachuca, Mexico).

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Hull, England), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla, Mexico).

This Week in - THE ISSUE

By Tony Pittman - @tonypittman - http://twitter.com/tonypittman On April 17, 2010, This Week in Tech chief, Leo Laporte expressed  concerns about colleague, and friend, Jason Calacanis' push to rapidly develop and grow his own podcast network site, titled "This Week In".   Leo runs a very successful podcasting network, based on the flagship show entitled "This Week in Tech".  The address for the network's website is http://TWIT.TV .  Jason has been a guest on Leo's network many times.  In fact, I hadn't even heard of Jason Calacanis until he started appearing on TWiT.

Not many would argue that "This Week in..." prompts those in the technology media space to think of Leo's flagship show and his network.  Still, Leo did acknowledge that he does not own the "This Week In" trademark.  In fact, he has made reference to "borrowing" it from a show about baseball.

So, when Jason, a friend and colleague of Leo, came and asked about doing some shows that carried the title "This Week In..." in front of them, Leo allegedly said "yes".  I believe Jason started out doing "This Week in Startups", a show about how to start up new tech ventures - a topic not too similar to what is normally covered on Leo's TWiT network. So, things were going swimmingly, it seems, until Jason took things too far and started launching This Week In shows that got more and more similar top topics covered by Leo, including "This Week In Android", "This Week In iPad", and "This Week In Gadgets".

To me, the analogy  is like a good friend or relative asking if they can borrow your car.  In most cases, the answer would be "yes".  But, if a friend was to ask me to borrow the car, and then take my "yes" as clearance for them to drive it on a 3,000 mile cross-country excursion (taking advantage of my openness and trust), then I would have a major issue.

So, I feel for Leo in this situation.  Does Jason have the legal right to do what he did?  It appears so.  Should he have done it? I don't think so.  Personally, I don't think he should have even asked Leo about the use of "This Week In", putting Leo in the position of having to tell a friend and colleague "no, don't do that".

Disclaimer: I don't know Leo or Jason personally.  This position is based entirely on outside observation. Jason defends his position here.

iPad Cometh

iPad with iPhone and Bluetooth Keyboard

By: Tony Pittman [ tony@getthenext.com ]

Apple's iPad arrived, as planned, on April 3, 2010. Some analysts estimate that as many as 700,000 iPads were delivered to customers on launch day, making iPad one of the most successfully launched consumer products of all time. Prior to launch, some pundits panned the iPad, calling it nothing more than an overgrown iPhone, without the phone.  Well, in some respects they turned out to be correct.  iPad is larger than iPhone.  iPad can't make phone calls.  But, wow...it can sure do a lot of things well.

First, the most unexpected surprise: iPad's speaker.  I wasn't expecting much in this department.  I figured that Apple would include the obligatory speaker - a plain, unimpressive component that would just be enough to get by with.  Wow, was I wrong.  iPad's speaker is very robust for its size.  I was honestly astounded by the loud, clear, and dynamic sound.

Next, you'll be amazed by iPad's battery life.  By making the device so much bigger than iPhone, Apple was able to do wonders with battery life.  So far, I have no reason to doubt Apple's claim of 10+ hours of continuous use on one charge.  After a day of hard use, I've hardly been able to make a dent.  The battery life is impressive, to say the least.

The on-screen keyboard exceeded my expectations. I was mentally prepared for a new experience, remembering what is was like the first time I used an iPhone keyboard.  iPad's keyboard does not disappoint, especially in landscape mode.  Granted, I wouldn't want to use it to write a novel, so I did pick up one of Apple's $69 bluetooth keyboards.  But, for short bursts of text, the on-screen keyboard is more than adequate.

Finally, the muli-touch IPS display is nothing short of mind-blowing. Prior to iPad's launch, I was thinking more and more about how great it would be to be able to use my Kindle DX as a truly connected, dynamic device.  I found myself wanting to touch the Kindle's display and try to manipulate the connected internet world.  But, everything was just beyond my, and the Kindle's, grasp.  Well, no more.  iPad's multi-touch display not only produced brilliant images, but it's responsiveness is off the charts.  It responds to your touches instantly, allowing you to truly escape into a world that I thought to still be years and years away.  Many had said that you can't appreciate iPad until you have a chance to hold it in your hands and feel how it works.  They were right.

iPad vs. Kindle: The debate Apple should have started.

(Image courtesy of www.redmondpie.com)

No matter what you think of the recently announced Apple iPad, it's clear that no other company gets the attention Apple gets when announcing a new product.  For Apple, this is generally a good thing.  But, they need to make sure they get everything right: the product itself as well as the product positioning.

When it comes to the iPad, they got the product right, but they botched the positioning a bit.

The iPad is a Kindle killer, no doubt about it.  In June, 2009, I paid $489 for my Kindle Dx.  The Kindle Dx is roughly the same formfactor as the iPad, which starts at $499 .  However, the Kindle Dx can't hold a candle to the iPad.  The Kindle can't play video, doesn't have a color screen, can't run apps, and can barely (and I mean BARELY) browse the web. No bones about it, Apple did just as Steve jobs said in his presentation. They stood on Amazon's shoulders and took the Kindle Dx form factor to much higher heights.  Had Apple stuck with this positioning, is there any way the iPad could lose? Now, the Kindle does come with always-on 3G and no monthly fee.  But, for $629 and $14.99/month, most prospective iPad users would still say there is no competition; the iPad is the better play.

The mistake Apple made: asserting that geeks will be able to replace their netbooks with iPads.  This is clearly not going to happen. This assertion reminded me of when Steve said he replaced his high-end audio system with the failed Apple Hi-Fi.  No way.  Netbooks are cheaper, they run Windows, Linux, and some even run Max OSX illegally.  Users can choose what apps run on them, and they can multi-task, though usually to their detriment.  Why fight this battle?  Let the netbooks run their course.

So, the bottom line is pretty clear.  Apple should have positioned the iPad as a revolutionary device that builds in the initial success of the base eReader.  It adds rich multi-media capabilities, gaming, app-store access, and it can even help you get work done in a pinch.  For some, with the added keyboard dock, it can even serve as their complete mobile computing solution.

Strangely, I have not heard anyone complain about the fact that the Kindle Dx can not multi-task, has a worthless browser, and can only run apps that Amazon allows it to run.  Apple is re-discovering that it's tough to be on top.  Shouldn't they have learned this from their 1980's experience?

Is it the end of the decade?

Is it the end of the decade, or not? Seems to be a big debate.  I THINK the decade ends after 2010, not 2009. What gives?

iPhone 3G and 3GS Scosche Charging Adapters

iPhone 3G and 3GS Scosche Charging Adapters

Originally posted by Steve Brady On December - 13 - 2009 at http://theprofessornotes.com/archives/770

Finally I have found adapters that will let me charge my iPhone 3G (and the occasional 3GS that comes to visit) with my devices designed to work and charge earlier iPhone and iPods. I wrote a year and a half ago about the lack of adapters that would let me charge my iPhone 3G in players I had previously purchased.  I was disappointed that the (rather significant) investment was all but worthless.  Thanks to my brother, Chris (and @targuman on Twitter) my eyes have been opened to a product that promises to do just that–allow a pass through to charge with older devices.  Actually there are two units that interest me.

The first is the Scosche PassPORT USB Home Charging Adapter . This device is for those players you have around the house where you would set your iPod or iPhone in and play your music while it charges. This adapter sits in the “well” where you would place your 1st Gen iPhone or iPod, and it essentially re-routes the power to the correct connectors, allowing a charge. A great idea, and it appears to only add a few centimeters of height. You can get this through Amazon for $25.47

The second device is the Scosche passPORT Charging Adapter for iPod touch 2G, 3G; iPod nano 4G; iPhone 3G . This answers the other challenging problem of having a car charger that will not charge the newer iPhones. This is a small (1 x 0.5 x 0.5 inches) device that plugs into your charger, extending it by 1/2″ but then plugs in to your iphone. Now you can charge your phone with older chargers. This device is only 9.99 from Amazon.

I hope to get my hands on these units and provide a review soon.

Warning - DIRECTV Customer Service FAIL

The recent financial crisis gave rise to the phrase "too big to fail", which is now used to describe the status of many large, but struggling companies. GM, AIG, and others come to mind. These companies go so big that we could not have easily recovered as a nation had they failed. The question is: why did we allow them to survive and grow to be so big in the first place, given that their business practices were so poor? So, here is a new phrase: "too big and too poor to ignore". I use it to describe big companies that are on their way toward joining the "too big to fail" club if something isn't done. Basically, we can't continue to avoid companies that are this bad, or else we will pay a much bigger price down the road. As consumers, we have a responsibility to stand up. One of those companies is: DIRECTV.

directv-fail

Certainly you have heard of DIRECTV.  It's a big company.  You can look up the facts.  Their main competitors are DISH Network and your local cable company (Comcast or Time Warner, most likely).  With 2008 revenues approaching $20B, DIRECTV is nearly twice the size of DISH, it's other competitor in the satellite entertainment space. Clearly, DIRECTV is big.  But, what makes them too poor to ignore?  The answer, customer service.  Quite frankly, their customer service is just plain horrible.  Bad.  Really bad.

I have been a DIRECTV customer for the last 7+ years.  I subscribe to all of their big pay packages, including the premium movie channels and their flagship product, NFL Sunday Ticket.  When I call in for help, they review my file and always thank me for being a loyal, long-time customer.  That is, after I spend about 10 minutes ducking and dodging the many voice prompts, verifications, and "did you know about directv.com" messages designed to keep me from getting to talk to an actual human.

So, what happens when one of my DIRECTV High Definition Digital Video Recorders goes bad over the weekend?  Well, I call them on Monday, of course. I expect them to either give me a technical solution over the phone or have a replacement receiver in my hands ASAP (24-48 hours seems reasonable, right?).  Well, after I give the technical service rep the error code produced by the receiver (code 15-369), I am told that I should have a replacement receiver by Friday.  Yes, FRIDAY!

Are you kidding me?

An entire business week to get me a receiver?  My goodness! I recently had a washing machine go bad and Sears got me a replacement within 2 days.  Now, DIRECTV is telling me it will take them until the end of the week to get me a @#! @!@# satellite receiver?  How can this be?

Well, here's how that can be.  DIRECTV is so big that they just no longer care about customers.  Heck, maybe they never did.  But, I've had DVRs go bad before - happens all of the time.  But, it's never been so difficult to get service.  But, consider the fact that DIRECTV does none of the following:

  • Make arrangements with their shipper, FedEx, to allow for immediate, priority delivery of replacement receivers for top tier customers for a fee.
  • Make arrangements with local chain retailers to allow customers to pick up a retail replacement without signing a new service contract or incurring a fee.
  • Stock their large, contracted installer base with a small number of replacement units that can be hand-delivered in case of device failure.

These are all reasonable things to expect from a $20B company.  So, why don't they change their ways?  The answer is simple.  They don't change because consumers let them get away with such poor practices.  Well, not me...not this time.  That's why I am writing this post. Yeah, they did offer me a $15 credit for the days I would be expected to go without service.  When I escalated the issue, the next rep gave me a $10/month discount for the next 6 months.  Ok, thanks.  But, this isn't about the $75.  It's about poor service and a business model that someone in a DIRECTV boardroom somehow deemed "good enough".

How can this be acceptable to DIRECTV management?  How can you justify keeping my family without service for a week, while at the same time DIRECTV installers are all over our area installing services for new customers, and likely returning to home base each day with several working receivers in their trucks that we could be making use of?  Why would nobody enable either the installers or the local retailers to become part of the needed solution?  The answer - they just plain DO NOT CARE, and if we don't demand that they change their ways, they never will.  Then, in 20-25 years, our kids will be called on to bail them out.  Difficult to believe?  Well, consider how American car companies and legacy air carriers have failed to respond to fundamental customer complaints in the past. It's worked out well for them, hasn't it?    No way.

So, please pass this message on.  If you share these views about DIRECTV, go here and submit a question asking DIRECTV why they don't do more to provide customers with reasonable service.  Or, call 1-800-531-5000 if you want to speak to someone directly. Or, write DIRECTV at:

DIRECTV Inc.

PO Box 6550

Greenwood Village, CO 80155-6550

LATEST UPDATE: When I got my DVR replacement order confirmation, I discovered that my account was being charged a $19.95 "handling fee" as part of the replacement process. Seriously?  I was never told about that fee during my support calls with three different representatives, including the supervisor. Very broken service model.

Thanks for reading.

Feedback: email: tony@getthenext.com or twitter: @tonypittman  (twitter.com/tonypittman).

Stop the madness, DIRECTV!!!

Windows FAIL

It's 2009 and we still have to suffer through this type of thing on our Windows machines.  Seriously? Also, what would you think the odds of my Windows machine actually shutting down are when I select "SHU TDOWN"?  It actually shuts down maybe 1 out of every 10 times.

FAIL

Leo Laporte Explains The Future of Mass Media

Leo Laporte is a pioneer in the new media space.  He is the founder of the very popluar TWiT (This Week in Tech) online network. In a talk he recently gave to the Online News Association, he explains the future of new media.

Get The Next _ Ultra Notebook

The HP ENVY 15.  Quad Core.  Astounding performance.  Are users ready? Are our applications ready.  Wow...what amazing portable performance.

High Tech - Cowboys Stadium

The most high tech stadium on the planet is the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  I had a chance to watch the Cowboys play their inaugural regular season game there against the Giants, and it was an amazing scene.  Check out the huge screen TV hanging over the field.  Amazing.

What has happened to local TV news?

Have you watched your local TV newscast lately? If so, did you feel as if they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to tell you in an attempt to at least keep you entertained? With so many ways to get news these days, it seems that many of the traditional news channels are attaching the term "news" to just about anything they can use to capture your attention. In my area there are often stories about one neighbor cutting another neighbor's tree down and cat owners getting angry about dog attacks in a certain part of town. News flash! Dogs chase cats! I'm glad I have a local news team primed and ready to report this.

My conclusion is that with 24-hour news channels and the internet, local news reports are desperately trying to remain relevant. In my opinion, they are failing miserably. When I see the local news on in my house, I find myself almost immediately reaching for my remote so that I can change the channel. If they are not using inane teases to keep me watching commercials, they are reporting on the most trivial "news" items one can imagine. It is actually very sad.

For example, consider what happens with the weather reports. The weather anchor spends five minutes covering information that I can get almost instantly on my PC or phone. Then he says "stay tuned for your extended local forecast" and I am supposed to sit patiently and listen to a local used-car salesman yell at me about how my trade-in is worth more than ever. "Get in here now!", he says. Then finally I get to hear my local forecast. Of course, all of this is information that I've already gotten to in seconds using the phone in my pocket. Why would I watch this?

Can Microsoft Continue to Thrive?

Lately, this has become a popular question.  What is going on with Microsoft?  One could argue that it's been all down hill for Microsoft since Windows 95.  Windows 95 was truly a landmark product.  It vaulted Microsoft to the top of the heap, and the Wintel (Windows/Intel) PC platform still remains dominant.  However, Microsoft may now be in its weakest position since its infancy, with Google and Apple pressing them hard.

The Windows platform has stagnated.  Very few non-Microsoftees would debate this.  More and more, the difficult-to-manage platform relationships (between Microsoft, software developers, and hardware developers) are making PCs too difficult for average users to deal with.  Apple has certainly taken advantage of this dynamic, as they entice users to switch over to their more integrated platform - Apple controls the hardware, operating system, and many other key components of their landscape.

With Bill Gates now gone, Microsoft appears to be somewhat rudderless. They're inway too many areas, in my opinion - XBOX, Windows, Office, BING, Zune, browsers, etc...  They appear to lack focus, and many are confused with what their strategy really is.  What are they trying to be?

No doubt, Microsoft will not disappear from the landscape any time soon.  They are here to stay.  But, in what form?  Only time will tell.

Perhaps the most troubling issue is that Microsoft may not even know what's coming.  For example, consider the commentary from noted Windows-ologist Paul Thurrott during this week's episode of Windows Weekly. During the podcast, host Leo Laporte suggest that Microsoft is headed down the same road as IBM - the once dominant technology leader that still exists as a large company with a known brand, but no longer as a tech platform leader.

Paul's response - "...but Microsoft is not the same as IBM...IBM didn't even try."

This is plainly inaccurate.  IBM certainly did try to stay on top once they had realized they missed the PC boat.  Have we forgotten about the colossal failure of the micro-channel architecture, the PC Junior, and OS2?  IBM certainly did try.  I was there in the mid-1990's as well as the early 2000's, and for sure, IBM did try.  But, after a near-death experience, IBM bailed out and morphed itself in to the #1 technology services player on the planet.  So, they still exist, but in not nearly the same form and function that brought them to dominance.  If you ask me, I see Microsoft destined to follow a similar path...which, by the way, isn't all bad.

What some may fail to realize is that even if Microsoft suddenly wakes up and "gets it", much of the damage is already done.  They probably can't recover.  The Microsoft brand is so heavily connected to client-heavy Windows and Office, that it will be difficult for them to overtake Google in the cloud or Apple in creative media integration, just to name a couple of areas.

While Microsoft may emerge as a large player in the business world, their days as the Microsoft we remember may be numbered.