Archive for April, 2013

Why I’m getting tired of my iPhone

Let’s get something straight. I love my iPhone.

Really, I do. But it’s getting a little moldy.

I don’t mean mine in particular. It’s fine and I keep it pretty clean.

I mean the iPhone in general.

It’s been years since the iPhone really had any major changes or “new stuff” added to it, and to be honest, it’s getting moldy.

This begs the question a lot of people are asking these days.

“WTF has happened to Apple?”

I don’t mean this in a snarky way. I mean it in a troubled and somewhat surprised way.

For a company that prides itself on innovation, it seems they are falling behind the curve.

Other platforms and hardware vendors have done amazing things in the past few year. Android has finally figured out they need to address their “fragmentation” problem…er…excuse me…the fragmentation “situation”. Things are improving and the industry is seeing lots of new stuff that runs across the board on different Android devices.

Apple has rested on their laurels, the loyalty of their fan base, and their market inertia to keep them where they are.

But let’s consider a few symptoms of the underlying problem.

Stock prices are dropping. Used to be Apple stock was the hottest thing on the planet. In the past couple quarters they have lost billions in overall valuation. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Sales of iPhones have slumped. iPads still sell like crazy. They should. They are fantastic. But the iPhone….not so much.

I’ve got two main complaints here. They are hardware stagnation and IOS stagnation. So, pretty much the whole thing.

You see, the hardware of the iPhone, while it’s gotten updated and upgraded over the past few years, hasn’t really changed. It’s fundamentally the same device. OK..new stuff here and there, and how much can you really change a device that has one button (three if you count power and volume).

But the guts aren’t really my beef. It’s the design of the hardware.

Where the hell is the cool design? Why do we still have the clunky iPhone 4 design (that sucks BTW) when we have the cooler looking iPad mini design? Where is the teardrop shape we keep hearing rumors about? Other companies have done some cool stuff with their hardware designs. They are more pleasing to look at, and to be honest, feel better in your hand.

Apple needs to seriously update it’s design of the phone.

The real concern here is IOS. It’s stale, out of date and behind the times. Honestly, it’s boring.

Let’s start with the “swipe to unlock” issue. A PIN code? Really? Let’s move into the modern era. There are so many more effective and better ways to lock/protect your device. I love the pattern code Android has. Next is the iOS home screen. Dull and not really that functional anymore. If Windows Mobile has taught us anything, is that a “tiled” home screen with things like weather data, frequently use app shortcuts and such are valuable.

The real estate on your home screen is the most valuable there is. You see it ALL the time. Make it do more than just show you a list of app icons. Make it “work”.

How about a fingerprint reader? That covers hardware AND IOS. See any uses there for this? I sure do.

You now what? Even a better calculator would be nice. There are a myriad of other issues.

I’m not alone in wanting these things. I read stuff like this all the time. Apple has lost it’s creative mojo. It needs desperately to get it back.

When I read that Apple plans no product announcements planned through the next two quarters of this year, two things come to my mind.

First, I hope they are using this time to work on something big. A new iPhone, from the ground up is not only what I’m hoping for, it’s what Apple NEEDS.

Second, if they aren’t, and come out with a new version of AppleTV and an iPhone in blue, they are going to be in real trouble.

I question Tim Cook’s leadership at this point. I realize he appears to be a hell of a business leader. But where is the creative leadership? Jony Ive needs to step in a big way. I’m willing to give him time to work since he’s been given more responsibility. Probably more than Wall Street is willing to give him.

But I’m not waiting forever.

It’s like the Jimmy Buffet song says, “Can’t you see them circling….can’t you see them schooling around. You’ve got fins to the left, fins to the right…”

Apple isn’t the only girl in town these days, and the sharks are circling.

If they don’t do something soon, Android is going to be looking mighty good.

So. Very. True

Love. This. Image.

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A map of my brain

My brain is a scary place.

I fully recognize that. And you know what, I’m ok with that fact.

In fact it’s pretty cool.

For example. For some reason, my brain retains advertising jingles that I hear in TV. Want to know the jingle for Ball Park Franks from the mid 1980’s? I’m your guy.

It’s a sickness, I know. In college, my freshman year, I took a senior-level course in the History of Journalism. Great class! I loved it.

At one point we were talking about the rise of advertising and the professor started tossing out the first lines of jingles or ad slogans and asked the class to come up with the product.

Let’s just say, I got a LOT of weird looks that day. I think I got them all, even if I didn’t raise my hand for all of them. I wanted to fit in with all the seniors after all.

Movie quotes? Oh hell yes.

I used to watch movies all the time, and yes, they stick with me.

“If you guys know so much about women, what are you doing here at the Gas ’n Sip, all alone on a Friday night?”

“Choice man. Conscious Choice.”

Movie anyone?

So what I’m getting it is this. I ran across a near perfect representation of my brain today. It’s great.

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I think this pretty much applies to a lot of guys (maybe women also) but I think it hits me dead one.

Useless Trivia…check.

Comic Books…oh hell yes! Loved them as a kid.

Obscure Science Fiction References…please!!!

Monty Python quotes? Required in my circle of friends. Although how I married a woman who doesn’t “get” Monty Python is beyond me. (Sorry Mrs. Technocrat)

The interesting thing about this diagram is the Social Skills part. For me, that should be “Socialization Interest”.

You see, for me, I have the skills. I can socialize with the best of them. I can be (so I’ve been told) polite, charming, witty, funny, well-mannered and quite the gentleman.

I just don’t like it a lot. You see, I’m fundamentally anti-social at heart.

Not in a Grumpy Old Man sort of way. Just more of a “I’d rather be alone” sort of way.

I like my space and privacy. A lot.

But the key ere, why it’s so applicable to me, is the cartoon theme songs.

Oh My God! They are like little individual people in my head and they pop out at random times.

Sitting in a budget meeting, hey…lets think about the theme song to the Jetsons.

Trying to go to sleep… Johnny Quest.

Talking to my boss…Scooby Doo.

The list goes on and on and on.

See, I great up on Saturday cartoons. It was a central point in my life for years.

Saturday morning was NOT for sleeping in. It was for getting up by 7 or 8 and watching cartoons. Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner show. Scooby Doo (the original ones…NOT with that moron Scrappy). Tom and Jerry. Grape Ape. All the classic.

It was heaven.

And my brain retained all of the theme songs. It’s a curse. If I ever find myself on a game show and am asked to hum the intro to Woody Woodpecker, I’m golden.

Until then, it’s just another region in my brain.

This map is missing only one thing. Where’s the region devoted to power tools. For me, I think it would replace the math region.

Power tools are far more fun than math.

Kids and technology

I remember growing up and being fascinated with technology. Anything “electronic” was cool, fascinating and worth of worship in my adolescent mind.

I’ve said it before here that I was introduced to technology at a young age. We got our first computer in the late 1970s and it mushroomed from there.

Fortunately, my father was cut from the same cloth (or maybe the other way around) so I never had to worry about my parents being “technophobes”.

I loved it.

Timex Sinclair, Atari, Commodore 64, Radio Shack, and Coleco Vision were all icons of my youth.

Today, the fascination is still there, but not for the “electronic” part of things, but it’s more utilitarian. Simple, plain and easy to understand. Kids today view electronics as tool. Cool they might be, they are tools to them. Tools to socialize. Tools to communicate. Tools for work.

My kids are perfect examples.

They have had my old iPhone castoffs for years now, and over the holiday we bought both kids an iPad mini.

They use them for games, email, Skyping their friends, YouTube and generally isolating themselves from the “natural” world at large.

The oldest has been going to virtual school for years now, so he is intimately familiar with technology.

But some time ago, he asked for his own laptop.

It didn’t start out that, way. Initially he wanted his own full-sized iPad.

So Mrs. Technocrat and I made a deal with him. He could earn it.

If he read 50 books (and real books, not “kiddy” books) we would contribute $500 to an iPad. He had to save the rest.

This was quite a while back. He moved in fits and starts and didn’t really seem committed to it.

About a year ago, he changed his tune. He wanted his own laptop.

Not just for games, but to start learning programming languages, more email….and maybe even creative writing.

Mrs. Technocrat and I determined he was mature enough for this, so we let him change the terms of the agreement to a laptop.

At this point, the kid dug in like like a tick on a bloodhound. It was fun to watch.

He blew through the 50 books in no time. Wasn’t hard for a kid who loves to read when he has books he likes.

The rest of the money was a different story. That took some real effort on his part.

For the one he wanted (a refurbished Apple MacBook Air) he needed an extra $350 to $400. Not a small task for a 13 year old.

So it was extra chores, jobs for the grandparents, asking for cash for birthday and etc.

Well, the kid finished it up this past week. He did it.

He and I sat down together yesterday and ordered HIS very first computer. Not a shared family computer. His.

I couldn’t be more proud of him.

We’ve set ground rules, and Dad is going to help him understand how to take care of it. From virus software to backups, to “appropriate” places on the internet. He lives in a techno-centric world these days, and it’s time he learns how to survive in it. I see far too many adults without the basic computer skills that today demands.

So, here’s to you C. Good job! I hope you enjoy the laptop and take care of it.

You’ve earned it!

Pure Joy

Sometimes I run across images that are just so beautiful, they need to be shared.

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Skills we’ve lost

Got to thinking the other day that, while the Internet and the rapid advance of technology are nifty and all, we’ve lost some fundamental skills as a result.

I know, I know…you are thinking, “Duh! That’s amazing Captain Obvious!!”.

Yeah, I know. I’m a master of that sort of thing.

This is on a societal level as well as an individual level. I really hate to sound like one of “those old guys” that sits around and pines for the “good old days”. Because, and let’s be honest, how good were the good old days? Seriously, for anyone that remembers the hair styles of the 70’s and the clothing of the 80’s….yikes!!

However, I think there is something to be said for the lack of “connectedness” that we had even in the late 90’s and early 00’s.

Now, granted, we’ve gained some skills as well, and I have to say that Amazon.com and Amazon Prime are pretty F’ing cool. But, we’ve lost some things that I’m not sure are a good thing.

So, I present my list of things we’ve lost the ability to do as a result of the internet and technology.

/pontification = on

The ability to sit quietly and do nothing.

Have you noticed that these days, just about no one can just sit and be quiet? We all have to grab our phones, or iPods or tablets and “fill in” that time. What happened to sitting on the bus and looking out the window? What happened to time spent mentally decompressing from the day? It’s gone and honestly, I think this contributes to the overall heightened stress level people have today. This is a huge pet peeve of mine and it drives my kids crazy. They have to have their iPads with them just about every moment they are not eating or sleeping.

Heck, they even have them with them when they are watching TV. And it’s not just for the commercials. They are watching TV AND watching something on YouTube at the same time. So, unless they have figured out how to watch one screen with a single eyeball and the other screen with the other…what the hell is the point?

In short, the idea of “quiet time” from Kindergarden is really appealing these days.

The ability to be patient.

People want things instantly today. Waiting for anything is unacceptable. In the world of high-speed internet services and Jimmy John’s instant delivery (not really instant but pretty darn quick), people don’t know how to wait for things.

I see this in my kids and I see this in my work. It’s all got to be right now.

Internet running slow? Oh…I’m sorry, did that Google search take 10.3 seconds instead of 1.7? Yup, you are totally justified in screaming at the IT staff about how the network sucks. Did you have to wait a bit for that 679Mb video to load before you could watch it? I know, your life is terrible.

Is “next day delivery” not fast enough for you…oh, I’m sorry. Wait, no I’m not!

Slow down and be quiet (see above) for a few minute and wait.

There are things in life you have to wait for. Patience is and important life skill and we are collectively losing ours.

The ability to research something (A.K.A how to think for yourself).

OK…so how many of you out there remember having to do a report in school that required you to go to the library (usually after school) to be able to research information in something called an Encyclopedia? You know what I’m talking about (maybe not), those massive sets of books that only libraries had because they collectively weighed like 800 pounds, cost as much as the Space Shuttle and needed an acre of shelf space to store? World Book? Encyclopedia Britannica? Anyone?

Yeah, not today.

Today if you can’t find it on Google or Wikipedia, the attitude is that it doesn’t exist.

Those skills you learned using those tomes of knowledge were life skills that translated to all sorts of things. Information gathering, data sorting, prioritization, outlining, decision making, scheduling, time management. The list goes on.

In the corporate world it translates into people that can’t think for themselves and can’t use basic research tools to do any work. Case in point…Build a large group of people a custom tool to allow them to search your corporate information and run reports on said data. Make it simple to use. Offer to train them on the tool. Train them on the tool. There will always be a significant group of people that will still ask others to do their work for them because they can’t figure out how to find the data. Why, because they don’t know how to think and figure things out.

Learn the tools! It’s not that hard people. Seriously, this is “Thinking 101”. Take the time (see both above) and put in the effort

One of the students in one of the classes I teach asked me about a process a few weeks ago. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “The idea here is to teach you how to think about this process and how to use the tools available to solve the problem. It’s really about teaching you how to think.”

Student: “So is there a step-by-step instruction sheet for this? Can you send me that?”

Me: “No…there isn’t one. Part of this is to have you figure out this on your own. There are several ways to accomplish this and it’s up to you to pick the best one.”

Student: “But how am I supposed to learning anything if you don’t tell me how to do this and how to do the assignment?”

Me: /facepalm

The ability to have basic social interactions beyond 140 characters.

People don’t have conversations anymore. The ability to have and participate in a significant conversation is becoming a lost art. With it, I suspect goes the ability for meaningful sociopolitical discourse.

Dinner tables have been invaded by phones, and family time has been replaced by tablets and MMO games (look it up if you don’t know what an MMO is..you know..research).

I read an article a few days ago trying to teach parents how to communicate with their kids on sensitive issues such as sex, drugs, the violence in the world. All via TEXT messaging. You know since, as the article said, kids relate to this and don’t communicate well in situations where they have to, “communicate face to face with people”.

Hello job interviews? Hello dating? Hello interpersonal conflict resolution? WTF are we allowing our kids to become?

It’s because, again as the article says, “kids today don’t have the ability or desire to have long conversations (see above) nor do they possess the desire to have to focus for a long period of time on a single train of thought”. (Also see above).

Now, I don’t agree with this entirely, but it has some valid (and scary) points.

So here’s my point in all this…yes, I do have a point.

I think we’d all benefit from taking some “time off” from technology, instant gratification, email, and the “always on” culture we seem to be developing.

Sit quietly, watch the sunset when you aren’t on vacation. Learn something by researching it and forming your OWN opinion on it. Talk to your family at dinner.

There is a National Day of Unplugging each year. You can learn more about it here: http://nationaldayofunplugging.com/

It’s past for this year, but for next year, I’m definitely going to sign up and participate.

And so is my family.

They just don’t know it yet.

/pontification = off

Not in Kansas anymore…

I grew up in Kansas and lived most of my life there. It’s an “interesting” place, but that’s another story.

While I still miss a few things about it (not that many really) one of the things I don’t miss is the crazy weather.

While most places like to joke “if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes,” they don’t really “get” that whole phrase the way Kansans get it. In Kansas, it’s not a joke. It’s not said with a chuckle and a wink. It’s reality and said with that sort of quite resignation that comes from living in a place where you can see, snow, rain, hail, tornadoes, and scorching heat…all in the same day.

I’m not joking here.

Growing up in Kansas, you learn really quickly that there is “winter”…which is fondly referred to as the “sucky ice and cold” season and then you have “crazy weather” season.

The later tends to run form around early March to November.

To give you an example from my own life, there was a “spring” day not so long ago when we woke up to a cold overcast day with temps of around 40 degrees. By noon we had sunshine and a 88-degree day. That changed in about two hours as the temp dropped to around 55 degrees and a heck of a hail storm rolled in. That lasted for about an hour…temp shot back up to the high 70s…stated sunny, for about two hours…temp dropped back to the low 50s and a thunder cell rolled in…bringing with it, high winds, a massive lightening storm (the kind you hide from), and yes, tornadoes. Several to be exact. This departed around 6pm that evening, and at that point, the temp started to climb a bit, and stayed sunny.

Until the evening…when we got an inch of snow.

/facepalm

You see, Kansas is sort of right on a meteorological “boundary line” between different zones and weather patters. Cold dry cells from the north tend to roll down from Canada and smash into warm, wet cells from the gulf of Mexico in some sort of climate gang warfare. And it takes place over Kansas and Oklahoma.

Now you know how the area got the name “Tornado Alley”.

So what I’m getting at is, I’m used to weird weather.

I just thought I left it in Kansas when I move to Wisconsin. I expected cold. I expected snow. But I didn’t expect it to mirror Kansas so much in the weather insanity.

Today proved me wrong.

Sunshine, wind, rain, snow, more sunshine, blue skies, more snow, ice pellets. It’s a veritable cornucopia of icy cold SUCK!

Have I mentioned I’m sick of winter?

Really, I know Mother Nature is pretty pissed at human kind in general, but this is just crazy.

How about a little consistency? And preferably warm?

Pretty please?

It’s starting to feel like I’m in Kansas again.