TagGoogle

Choosing a Platform

Choosing a platform

Tonight I read Gnorb’s article on how he views the smartphone landscape. The problem with choosing a smartphone is no longer as simple as choosing the phone and what the phone can do for you.

With the major players producing tablets, integration into that ecosystem is something to consider. In addition, there is the possibly integration with the computer of choice sitting on your desk or on your lap.

Google Android

Android as a platform has unlimited options, choices and freedom. Android is shopping mall. It offers a variety of wares at prices all across the board and you can get exactly what you want at the price you want to pay.

Android also struggles with fragmentation and being forgotten a year after its release. When I had an Android phone my problem was there was always a bigger, better, more amazing Android phone being released the next week.

Every. Single. Week.

Apple iOS

Apple’s platform is the opposite of Android. Apple is the high-end boutique. It offers a couple of variations on a theme but overall, the quality is high and the choice is small.

Where Apple shines is control. It controls the vertical, it controls the horizontal. To use Apple products is to not just use a single product but to play in Apple’s playground and live in their world. Apple has built an experience.

Because of this totalitarian control, Apple is able to offer longer support and a consistent experience across all the devices in their playground. Apple’s control wrinkles the noses of those who feel there is not enough freedom across the platform.

Apple’s control also assures nearly no malicious applications are released to the platform and they have safe guards in place to resolve any issues that may arise.

Microsoft Windows Phone

The last Windows Phone I used was a disaster running Windows Phone 6.5 which was basically Windows XP crammed into a smartphone body. It came with a stylus and extreme frustration.

Since then, they’re built a respectable platform and have embraced Apple’s control to make the hardware and software which should help the platform. I haven’t used or had experience with any of the new phones so that’s as much as I’ll say for the platform as I don’t feel it fair to talk about a platform I’ve not used.

Decisions

So what is a consumer to do? Buy into the Apple iLifestyle? You’ll pay a hefty price but will be rewarded with multi-year support and a consistent ecosystem. You’ll also be subject to the whims of the big red fruit and their seemingly arbitrary removal of support for features in older hardware. The tight integration between the mobile and computer platform can be real benefit to those living in both. However, if you only use one or the other, there is a lot of missing value.

What about the Open Android platform? There are phone sizes, speeds and carriers for everyone. There are a vast array of tablets. There isn’t a desktop companion but they play decently with the big players. The initial price is low but quality is all over the place from excellent to appalling. The overall lack of support could mean your shiny new toy get abandoned a year later and never see another update.

Then there is Windows phone which has some real potential. Microsoft is putting together a cloud-based ecosystem and is betting big on Windows 8 which features a lot of integration and visual similarity with their Windows Phones.

My experiences

I owned an original Motorola Droid. I was very happy with it though the lack of support from Motorola was disappointing. I had to root the phone to install an Android Operating System update after Verizon claimed the phone could not support it. There was also a large gap in the availability of applications in the earlier days of Android.

Many things were iOS only and Android support was more promised than delivered on. This was before the Amazon Android store and Google’s integrated Play store. This was before Android was a household name and more the domain of nerds and Blackberry refugees.

After the Droid, I got an iPhone 4 which is the phone I still use today. The instant upgrade in camera and software quality was welcomed. At the time I had a Mac laptop so the integration between phone and computer was a welcomed change, since there was no good way to sync media to Android and DoubleTwist was just being released. Though I used the Droid as my phone and primary device, I had an iPod Touch for all my music because Android was so frustrating to use.

I had an Android in the dark days of the platform and it has come a long way since then. However, it still has many of the same issues as it did when I had the Droid. Specifically, the lack of support from carriers after purchase, lack of OS updates to hardware that can handle it, the fragmentation meaning not every phone can run every app, or run it well and the constant New Big Thing means support quickly gets forgotten for the phone you choose in weeks instead of years.

What works for you

What is comes down to is what works for you. What is the best choice for what you wan to do. Are you a writer? Are you a photographer? Are you a technologist?

What phone best fits your lifestyle and what are you going to enjoy using for the next few years since most of us can’t afford to get a new device every year.

What I have

I have the iPhone 4. My contact is up in December, though I am eligible for an upgrade now. I am looking at the iPhone 5 because while it doesn’t overwhelm me, I do get all the features that came with the iPhone 4s as well. I still like the iPhone over the Android choices because of the ecosystem I bought into starting with an iPod Touch. I feel like I know what I am going to get with Apple. Like it or not, they’re consistent and I know I will see a new operating system in a year and possibly another one after that. With Android, I don’t know if I’ll ever see an upgrade, and when the carrier loses interest, so too goes the support.

I have a Lenovo Y570 laptops running Windows 7. My plastic MacBook died years ago and I wanted to get a laptop I could play PC games on, had enough power to last me a few years and have some room for upgrades. The biggest selling point was price since I had a small amount of money to spend on a computer and a new Mac or even used Mac was out of the budget. I work in IT Support so I live in Windows and Mac OS all day so I don’t have any allegiances to one or the other. Operating Systems are tools.

I also have a 1st Generation iPad which I did not buy. It was a Christmas present a few years ago. It is also easily my most-used device and my go to reading and chill out device and the device I am itching to upgrade the most.

I have a Google CR-48 Chromebook I was lucky enough to receive for free when Google first announced the new project. I use it from time to time and while I love Chrome on all my devices, the Chrome OS is not enough to be an everyday use platform. At least not for me. The CR-48 is a decent machine albeit under-powered and with a terrible track pad. I like the keyboard and the lightness. I wrote this post tonight on it because it was sitting next to my bed and within reach.

This is what I use and what I like. It’s not going to be perfect for everyone but it works for me. And that’s all that is really important.

Empty Shells

I feel like the move to google+ is like when you get tired of your broken, fucked up installation of Windows, and instead of fixing it, you’d rather burn the mother fucker to the ground and install Linux. In the end, it’s no better, just different, new, and clean.
Steve Mothershead

Reading this comment from a friend tonight not only made me laugh, but it made me think about social networks and put my thoughts I’ve had into words.

I replied,

All social networks are empty shells. They are what we make of them and who we follow to build them.

For starters, I missed the boat on Facebook. I had graduated college when Facebook launched. However, I was still working for the University so I had that all-important .edu address. So I signed up for Facebook because I’m a serial signer-upper.

I joined. I used it. I still use it… somewhat. Most of Facebook is not very interesting because just like every other social network, we, the people, are the product. The same goes for Twitter, Friendster, Myspace and Google+.

Without us, all of these places are the blank pages in a notebook. They are blank text files. We are the product being sold to advertisers. In all cases, we are not the audience, we are the product and are treated as such.

This made me think about how I interact with the three social networks I use. ((To various degrees.))

Google+

I am a member of Google+ mostly out of curiosity. I like the clean design and the lack of clutter and eye-bleeding customization options.

However, no one is really there. I follow a mix of friends, co-workers and smart people I really admire. There still isn’t much going on. Google+ just opened up to the public negating the need for an invitation starting yesterday so we’ll see if there’s a gold rush on the platform or not.

Facebook

Facebook I feel like I missed the boat on. I was there in the early days and it felt small((It was also TheFacebook.com back then.)) and I used it to keep up with friends. My brother, who was starting college as Facebook launched and was totally addicted and practically how he scheduled his life.

Facebook to me still feels like an overt way to sell ads to us and push products and sell our data to advertisers who can push more product upon us. That is also why their constant rearranging of layouts and privacy settings. Anything to make a buck and to make it more enticing for us to give them the what little information they don’t already have.

Facebook is a giant data mine. They need your data, all your data. Just now, in the last F8 Facebook revealed it wanted to “tell the story of your life.” They want all your data. They want to make money on your data. And they aren’t going to be sly or embarrassed about it.

I treat Facebook like a flea market. I follow mostly people I know in real life, ignoring some and reading others. I follow my family. I follow some brands who offer me value or because I signed up for a drawing and never bothered to delete them. ((Isn’t this every marketer’s dream?))

Day in and day out, I don’t get a lot of value out of Facebook. There’s very few links I get everyday, save for a small group of people who are only on Facebook, that are of interest to me.

Twitter

Twitter is my bread and butter. I am very careful and skeptical of who I follow. I tweak and tend to my list of people I follow almost daily. I am always looking for a better mix of people who share things most interesting to me but without a lot of noise.

I follow a couple of lists on Twitter of people I don’t want to have to see all the time but I check in with a couple of times a day just to catch up on what interesting things have been said.

I even created a DC Metro News list because while I no longer commute by subway daily, I want to keep track of those contacts for when I need them.

Twitter is where I follow the thinkers and writers I find interesting and like-minded. I follow them on Twitter because for most of them, that’s where they are outside their blogs and newspaper columns.

Falling in love with Google’s CR-48 (again)

I’ve recently fallen back in love with my CR-48 Chromebook. I received it last February and have used it intermittently since then. It’s free Verizon 3G connection has saved me a time or two. Clocking in at just 3.8 pounds and with a better pushing 8 hours it becomes an incredible travel companion.

I’ve been using it to write most of all as I love the feel of the keyboard. It has the short, flat keyboard the first Apple MacBooks made popular and I love the feel of it. It is the first laptop keyboard I’ve ever fallen in love with. The trackpad still leaves much to be desired but it gets better with each new stable release of the Chrome OS.

I do not even use a vast collection of apps for it. It is my sleek, little black book where I share my thoughts and best of all, it stays cool to the touch even after hours of use. Something no other laptop I’ve ever used can boast.

I love the Chromebook but it is not without its shortcomings. I’ve been asked if I would purchase one now that they’re for sale. The answer is still no, but it’s not due to the lack of quality of the Chrome OS. ((Chrome browser with a rudimentary file system attached.)) My reluctance is based on the price they’ve set for the devices.

Now, I am sure the finished machines will have a higher build quality than the small machine sitting neatly in my lap, hopping under the pressure of my key presses. I have not seen any of the Chromebooks in person so I cannot judge them for what they are.

I would love the CR-48 if it were not for a few nagging issues.

Back-lit keyboard. Perhaps this is asking too much but I tend to use the machine in bed or in the evenings when I’m not under a bright light and while I’m practically a touch typist, I am not perfect and seeing the keyboard would be nice. Again, nothing a well-placed lamp wouldn’t solve.

The trackpad. It’s luxurious size betrays its flawed function. If it were as solid as the Apple equivalents this machine would shoot to near perfect status.

Random slowdowns. I don’t know exactly what causes them. I am not viewing flash content at the time. It may be that the two dozen or so tabs overwhelms the machine. I have only had to reboot the machine twice when it became unresponsive but it does tend to slowdown at random.

Power port on the right side. This bothers me. Perhaps it’s because I have the left side of the bed, or the couch is not setup for power on the right, or it could just be MacBook ownership for 4 years prior has conditioned me to expect a left-side power port. It bothers me. Totally personal preference but I don’t care for it.

I have never used the VGA port, SD Card slot and rarely use the USB port. I have used the webcam to take a goofy picture of myself for the login screen and for nothing more. I do not video chat so I have no need for it.

I am very curious to see where Google takes this project and this browser/Operating System. I a devout Chrome user since it has stepped into the place Firefox used to hold. ((The sleek, speedy new kid on the block browser.))

I love my CR-48 and hope to get many more years out of it. There is no reason it should not support the newer versions of Chrome OS since it’s nothing more than software. In the age of most things being web-based it is not far-fetched to live solely inside a browser and even though I still miss running multiple applications, there is very little I find lacking. Sure, you’re not going to edit video or perform high-end graphics work on the Chromebook but that is outside their intended use. For the grandparent, parent, teen or employee with modest web-based needs, the Chromebook can serve their needs very easily.

I have fallen back in love with my Chromebook and see a bright future for the fledgling operating system.

How to sync multiple Google Calendars to an iPhone or iPad

My wife and I use Google Calendars to sync and share events and information. Ever since we setup a Bills calendar, it’s annoyed my that it won’t sync to our iPhones. Today, I decided to sit down and figure out how to make it happen for my iPhone and iPad. ((Just replace “iPhone” with “iPad” below.))

By default, only the main Google Calendar is synced to the iPhone. To select secondary calendars, open Safari on your iPhone and go to Google’s iPhone Select page.

Select calendars to sync.

Second, still on Safari on the iPhone go to Calendar Sync page and select the additional calendars to sync.

Manage the devices syncing to Google Calendar.

Force quit the calendar app and reopen it or reboot the iPhone. Once that is complete, you should see the additional Google calendars available to sync. Check the ones you want on your iOS device and you’re all set.

Calendar selection in Calendar app on iPhone.

Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook First Impressions

This was originally written in February, when I receive my CR-48 in the mail from Google and excitedly tore into the unknown-but-laptop-sized box on my door step.

The moment Google’s announcement about Chrome OS and the Chrome Notebooks was over I raced to the site and signed up in hopes of receiving one of the elusive beasts. I figured the coveted CR-48 laptops were going to tech bloggers and tech journalists. I assumed from the start that lowly me, a nobody in Internet Land would have no chance at landing one of the units.

Much to my shock and delight, Google proved me wrong.

I came home last night to a strange box from a man named Brian in St. Louis on my doorstep. I picked it up, at first assuming it was just another in the line of Christmas presents my wife and I had purchased from one of many retailers but upon checking the label and feeling the weight, I was optimistic. I wanted to believe it was a Chrome OS test machine but I didn’t think I’d be that lucky.

Enough with the shock and awe, it was a Chrome OS Notebook. I had the CR-48 unit unwrapped and sitting on my desk in no time. I took some pictures of it because I am a nerd like that. Being an avid Chrome user, I was really excited to crack it open and start syncing and using the Browser as Operating System.

So far I really like it. The keyboard is just like the original MacBook which I was skeptical of at first, until I tried it and instantly fell in love with its wide, fat clicky keys. They feel nice under my fingers and I can fly across them with greater speed than the current Lenovo machine I’ve been primarily using at home.

The track-pad is another story. While it is a generous size, again taking a cue from Apple, it feels like my original First Generation MacBook track-pad after three solid years of use. It is not very clicky and the two finger scrolling and two finger tap for right-click has some accuracy and stuttering issues. The tracking itself works like a charm as you would expect. However, the track-pad/button just isn’t as clicky as I’d like. The tap to click option is a must, though it ships disabled.

The screen is plenty bright with and crisp. While there is no brightness level indicator when using the brightness button in the keyboard, it goes plenty dark for that late night surfing and brightens up nicely for the daytime. The killer addition to this machine would have been a back-lit keyboard, though being as this is a demo unit, I can see why it is not included.

I love the new window handling in Chrome OS. If you are familiar with Spaces on the Mac or Virtual Desktops of any kind you should feel right at home. Each Ctrl+N gives you new window to the right of your current window. You can Alt+Tab between them though in sequence which is confusing if you have multiple open windows (or as I just found out, two identical sets of tabs open from when I rebooted last night).

The MacBook Air is the crowned king of light computers across the Internet but not having one of those, I can’t get over the lightness of this machine. The whole machine is very slim and light. I want to tuck it under my shoulder like a newspaper and take it everywhere with me.

I also really like the smooth rubbery feel of the case. It feels soft. Unlike how most laptops feel cold and hard in your hand. The rubber gives it a warm feeling when you hold it, or as your wrists rest upon it, like they are doing as I type this.

The lack of Caps Lock is receiving a lot of coverage all over the place. Across the top of the keyboard, where the Function keys would be on any other laptop, the CR-48 features the following from left to right: Esc, Back, Forward, Refresh, Full Screen, Switch Window, Lower Brightness, Raise Brightness, Mute, Lower Volume, Raise Volume and finally Power, which I have yet to hit.

When I first took the laptop out of the box and inserted the battery it powered on immediately, no need to press the power button. The OS has seen an update once since I had the unit, it happens identically to how the browser updates. You get the dot on the wrench and you click Upgrade. Seconds later, you’re back up and running right where you left off. The Chrome browser also updated today so I imagine they’re both in sync or close to it.

The volume is plenty loud out of the speakers for casual use and the headphone jack is nothing special. I have not used the SD Card slot or USB port yet. I’m sort of at a loss for what you’d need either for. The Eye-Fi card in my camera eliminates the need to use the SD card and I’m not even sure what I could use the USB port for, plugging my thumb drive into it last night yielded nothing.

I have seen some random slowdown in the OS as I’ve been scrolling down pages or waiting for things to load. A 1.66GHz processor and 2GB of RAM power the machine. I have no idea what the hard drive is on the machine and I’ve seen no mention or need for it. Perhaps that’s where the USB and SD Card slots come into play.

I’ve also had problems getting certain wireless networks to work with the machine. I tried tethering from my rooted Droid earlier and while the iPod Touch picked it up just fine Chrome OS reported there was an error trying to connect to it. Similarly, on initial setup, I had to remove the MAC Address filtering on my home network to allow it to connect so I could login and get the MAC Address.

I have not yet signed up for the free 100MB of cellular data from Verizon yet because I haven’t had the need and it requires entering a credit card number which I am reluctant to give. I am going to work on the Droid tethering option some more and see if I can figure out what the issue is there.

I watched a lip of the Daily Show from YouTube last night full screen and had minimal issues of minor slowdown with it. It was still plenty watchable though since it does not support Silverlight I cannot use Netflix. My test of Hulu worked fine at the default resolution on the page However, when I tried to make it full screen it ran a bit slow. In this case, I was watching American Dad and the mouths were slightly behind the voices. It was still perfectly watchable but if you were watching something with a lot of fast action, it would be more noticeable.

I’ve not had it long enough to give the battery a proper test. However, I am at 55% and Chrome OS claims to have 3 hours and 27 minutes of life left. I have the cellular disabled, the WiFi on and the brightness maxed out. I have not used the VGA port for anything yet.

All in all I really like the unit and the typing feels as good as typing on my original MacBook. The trackpad, despite its deficiencies is usable. Seeing as how I got this computer shipped to me free of charge with no mention of return, I am very pleased with it and I hope the hardware that will ship with Chrome OS when it gets a commercial release will be even better. This is a very good start to the Chrome OS and I am optimistic to see where it goes and what the first wave of hardware looks and runs like.