About Once a Month

That is the schedule that seems to be working out for me to actually blog. I still have the itch to produce content, but that back scratch-er seems to be out of reach. I have been wanting to share this podcast with you for a while, but their topics have always been kind of specific and I did not want you to get lost in the topic but rather get to know the guys doing a wonderful podcast. The current one talks about something that we all should care about in some level. The NSA getting all up in our digital business. Go listen to the Super Number One, I’ll wait.

Ok, even if you did not listen the discussion is what really makes me like these two guys. They have a conversation about it. Explore the subject with their own opinion and devil’s advocacy skills as well. I don’t always agree with what they say but they are always on point when it comes to diving a little deeper and having a true discussion. This topic of the NSA listening is an interesting one because it comes to us when a lot of people think of the digital divide as something that separates those from access to the internet vs those that don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, that does exist just as much as the divide between those people that have a bank account and those that just cash their paycheck every week. There are tons of lines that divide us and in cases dissecting our society can be quite complex. This NSA leak business though makes things a lot more complicated.

When was the last time that you saw that both political parties are dancing to the same song?

Why did this dude run to China? I know most of you guys are probably not interested but in the security community there have been a lot of noise about hacking and China lately. It is not new for the people that follow security, the new thing has been that it has been all over the financial news, and even the government wanted to start working on gathering information about attacks.

I work indirectly with security. I do however know analysts both professionally and personally. In fact about a couple of months back I had a conversation with one about this subject of social engineering and China just really hammering the US lately. Then this guy goes running to China with the whole Metadata scandal. If you did not listen to the podcast one of the things said that resonates with me the most (because it was my first comment after the news came out…) it is that this is not new information and basically the patriot act and carnivore were just earlier versions. Prism is really a 1.0 type of thing. My fictional mind says that maybe we are in version 5.0 somewhere underground.

Data without context means nothing and it can be dangerous. I wish I had an opinion on this but in reality we have really no data. We don’t know enough to be pissed about it, scared or feel safe. Can we really ever feel safe? When was the last time that a TSA check made you feel safer while flying?

The government listening to us makes me no more afraid than a corporation like facebook having so much demographic information on us. Or twitter, or this blog, or playing candy crush. Everything we do now has the potential to leave a trail. Whether that trail is used to sell us something or put us in jail when it becomes illegal to drink too much coffee, who knows.

The Revenge of the Nerdz, I got your face!

Recently I have noticed something very strange. I am not as paranoid as I thought I was. Maybe it is because everyone around me is becoming more and more paranoid about the internet and facebook in particular, but I seem almost ok with what they have been doing. If you have no clue of what I am talking about, in a nutshell facebook has software that will allow it to be able to tell who is on every picture you post by recognizing the faces. Don’t panic, you can turn it off.

I am a geek, I read a lot of tech streams and find out about a lot of things before other people do. The biggest one lately though was the whole facebook timeline that was only available to users that were developers. It made me realize that this new world is probably scary to people without the computer competency required to understand privacy. What is worse is that some people don’t even know they should be scared.

I recently played a bit with the google image search. If you search for an image and you find one that looks like what you are looking for, drag and drop that image into the search bar and instead of searching for a word it will search for a similar image. Ebay is releasing something similar, so you can take a picture of what you want and find it on Ebay. Right from your phone.

You say, OMG that is so cool!

Wait a minute though. That is the same technology that is going to make it so scary to live in this new digital world. Face recognition software has been out for a while now, but most people don’t understand how powerful and intrusive it really is. You think your car telling a company where you are at all times and how speed you are going is intrusive? think about software that can recognize your faces so any time you are near a camera it can do the same thing. No GPS, no need to carry a phone, nope just showing your face will get you identified!

I learned something new not too long ago. There are a lot of people that don’t use the banking system and rely on cash. That was a surprise to me. Most of the people I know have a bank account, even more so do online banking. It was bizarre to have to think that there are people that still stuff their mattress.

Its not scary to me, it does not make me paranoid. I just don’t think that most people are aware of that. The government has had the technology to do this for a while, but now corporations have it too.

I think this information should be available to all, and users when signing up for a service should get a tour of the privacy settings. Also you should be prompted by the software when something is released that has a privacy setting attached to it.

I assume that most people know a lot of this information, but every time I have a conversation lately people don’t know that facebook knows who they are even when someone else uploads a picture. I get incredulous, no “f*ing” way. Oh YES way.

Jesus Phone vs Android vs CrankBerry

As you guys know I have been looking to change my Android. I had already set my eyes on the iPhone and was even thinking about dropping Verizon altogether (even though I have been with then for over 10 years… since they were Ameritech and even before that I think). I know that the iPhone 5 is just around the corner, but I am not interested on going to Sprint or waiting forever for a phone. I am already sick of my android.

Before we continue with this post I would like to define a couple of things. When I say phone, I mean call quality and ease of making phone calls. That is not to be confused with smartphone which I associate with all the other computer related functions. I had my Motorola Droid for 2 years, the blackberry for a week and been using my wife’s iPhone 4 since she got it over 6 months ago. I have also been the original iPhone that practically became my iTouch since my wife upgraded her iPhone.

The night before I pulled the trigger someone started to sing the praises of the BlackBerry Torch 9850. I fondly remember how much I love the experience of having a BB and how great of a phone it was. Calls were easy to make and I never hung up on anyone while talking to them. I think I hung up on someone at least once a week with the android.

I was prepared for Verizon to give me their canned speech when I called. I had been looking at the BB but it was not available through Verizon, so I had my argument all prepared. When I start to go into it, guess what sir, we now carry the BB torch, it just came out this week in Verizon. I am like NOOOOOO! Dam it all.

I decided… lets give it a try. Even though the reviews are pretty poor, maybe it will serve me well. Oh how wrong I was. Long story short, after a week of trying to love the BB I ended up returning it and getting an iPhone 4. Now I will explain why.

Feature iPhone 4 Android BB Torch
Phone Calls 7 5 10
Web Surfing 9 7 2
Battery Life 7 5 8
Apps 9 7 2
Navigation 9 7 3
User Input 8 6 3
Design 9 7 8
Score 8 6 5

Phone Calls

Here is where blackberry shines. BB makes hands down the best phones that I have used in recent years (I’ve had in possession LG, Motorola Android, BB with and now without physical keyboard.) Making a call is extremely easy, it takes literally a couple of button presses and you are dialing. This is where the Android started to wear down on me. Making a phone call always felt cumbersome, like the smartphone had to open up an up to become a phone dialer. It was a PDA trying to have phone capabilities (remember the Treo.) Couple that with hanging up on people consistently an 50% failure rate of answering the second incoming call (it could have been mostly user error,) muted myself all the time and you have one unhappy customer. The iPhone does not shine, but also it does not hung up on people.

Initially I thought that since call quality is my number one priority on my phone choice, that it will clearly outweigh the other smartphone features. After one week with the BB, it clearly did not. I obviously use the smartphone part of a device a lot more than the actual phone. I became increasingly annoyed every time I tried to web surf and failed.

Web Surfing

Web page loading is one of the most annoying things about the android phone. The way a page is rendered can mean you getting to content quickly or you basically just giving up. While it is great to be able to zoom in to read content, if you have to do it over and over, it becomes a chore and depending on your level of interest on the content, you simply give up. The BB made this even more painful. Viewing any kind of web content required at least 3 or 4 interactions with the user interface. Then while reading you had to scroll probably twice as much as I did even on the android. That is annoying.

The iPhone has alternative web browsers, but even with just Safari, the experience is superior to the other 2 phones. Content is easy to read and you do a lot less clicking. I thought that the BB providing me with a quasy mouse experience to click on those hard to reach link (because they were too small) was somehow going to make up for things, but it just made things more annoying because my fat finger would some times still activate the touchscreen resetting the mouse. What a mess of an interface to just try to read something.

Battery Life

If I would have written this post prior to spending a week with the torch, I would have talked a lot more about how this matters. Now, all I have to say is that who cares if you have a smartphone that stays charged for 2 days with medium level use if the reason its not getting heavy use is because it sucks. Get extra cables, charge it in the office or the car. Don’t let battery life affect your decision at all, its all about the extra cables.

Apps

So I don’t play a lot of games on my phone. I do however play games on Bea’s old iPhone (for a while my iTouch) now retired device.

Leave it DeGuia (who by the way seems to have been planning this Borg conversion with Bea because they are both laughing at me for having an iPhone now.) to rub it in my face that he has an app for that. Driving on my way home last week it smelled like a whole forest was burning. It was not a near by forest, it was all the way in freaking MN! So what does DeGuia do, oh let me pull up the police scanner up to see what they are saying. If it is local the cops will probably be talking about it. SHOW OFF!

Not to mention that Gaucho Software is coming out with a new version of Seasonality. (Disclaimer: the developer of Seasonality is one of my best friends.)

I don’t think I even have to make a case for this, the apps available for the iOS are just better than anything I was able to find for android and light-years away from what is available from the BB.

Navigation

The blackberry simply fails on this area. You have to be able to navigate through your phone in an intuitive and seamless way. I thought that having everything available via menus was going to make my life easier, I really liked having that option before. After a couple of minutes your brain should not be aware of trying to find something, it should be able to just find it. Android does it well, iOS does it better.

User Input

This is where my hatred of the new Torch started. I have not mistyped a letter on an iOS device after I spend an actual 20 minutes playing with one. I spent a lot of time on the Torch the week I had it and I would never actually type an e-mail on it… and that is what the BB are supposed to be the stars at. Sure the ones with a physical keyboard might be able to… but their touch keyboard is garbage. The auto-complete feature worthless.

I don’t particularly love the android keyboard and I very seldom used the physical keyboard. It is sad, but iOS made me forget about physical keyboard on devices now. A feature that I thought would be a must on any device.

Design

I never thought that BB could come up with a cool design, but the Torch is beautiful and feels amazing to the touch. They did make a couple of mistakes with the button, but overall I think it is a great design both in looks, comfort and weight. Too bad that they cool factor wears off quickly when you cannot quickly access the multimedia experience that the awesome display is supposed to deliver.

Score

Sadly for the Android and the BB, the iPhone just pulls ahead. Sure it might not have the best battery life and you might have to jail break it to have the flexibility that android has. The iPhone might not be as strong of a phone as BB is. The iPhone basically does not compete with any of those other devices, it is in a class of its own and everything else simply seems to be playing catch up. As sad as this makes me, I have to break up with google at least when it comes to mobile devices. I don’t stay sad for too long though, I am now part of the Borg and LOVING IT!

Is your Google+ boring?

Then you are doing it wrong.

I guess Facebook has once again tried to keep up with Google plus and twitter and in the process alienated their user base. I don’t think they understand their users anymore. Once you move a platform forward and have wide spread use, those users might not want to embrace the change. I have been wanting to talk about Google plus for a while now, but I think today is a great day. Facebook is all screwed up trying to be google plus, so why not try the real thing? Specially now that is not just invite only anymore!

First go get your account. I’ll wait. If you don’t have a gmail address, get one of those as well. They are both very useful things to have.

Once you have an account, add me. The cool thing about Google plus is that we don’t have to be friends. You can simply see the content I put out whenever you want. You can make a new circle called Frenemies or Secretely hate or BFFs or Chicago and add me to that circle. The awesome thing about this feature is that you become your own curator for online information. That could be done before in other places, but content creation in google plus is a lot more robust than in either twitter or facebook.

You know who is another cool person to follow, its Tom, yeap, the dude from MySpace. The content he creates is pretty informative.

You can create very obscure content, like how to write a procedure on user creation on 3 LDAPs at once. Instead of making all of your friends and family scratch their heads with that post, you can select to only share it with your technology circle. You can even make a Jersey Shore fan group and share the latest Snooky rumor just to that group without making it awkward at the next bikers meeting.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Google plus has many features, and if you are bored with Google plus, that means you are doing it wrong. You can customize your google plus with something called Sparks. It is kind of like what you are interested on, but its also a very powerful news aggregator of sorts. Type anything that might interest you and see the useful thing being posted in the net pop up. Its like having a friend that knows a lot about that subject share some of the latest links with you.

The other awesome feature that I have not used but know many people that have is the hangouts. Basically it is Skipe, but better and free! How about that.

Any social network you join is only as powerful as the people you follow. With google+ you can follow everyone, just make sure that you put them in the right buckets. Have a lot of buckets and enjoy the experience.

Take google plus for a spin, I think the network will grow little by little. If anything it will be a place for you to find the information you want in an informal way.

Making Blog Comments Social Again

Ever since I started to get serious about posting in the blog again I am faced with the problem that made me stop doing it as much as I used to… all the comments go elsewhere.

While it is easy to get a post into facebook for example, it is another story to get the people to come and comment on the actual blog.

I have been looking at plugins and alternatives, and it just does not seem to be simple. Part of it is that my facebook is not public, and only some people have adopted google+

While the blog still has readership besides the ones that I have that also use facebook, it seems that the vocal ones have moved on to that platform.

The other issue is the stream. Some people ride the twitter stream all day… I just never got a surfboard for that one. Mostly it is because it requires a lot of time, and depending on the number of people you follow, it can quickly get cluttered. Facebook’s stream seems a little easier to follow, but it faces the same issue other streams do, you miss the boat and you are last hours post.

Our internet usage seems to have a very quick attention span, so topics gets lost quickly and even though I really never cared about how many people read my blog, I do care that those that do get to interact with one another via comments. All of that is lost when the comments become fragmented between social media and the blog itself.

I guess I won’t worry about it too much, in the end what I want to do with most of the posts here is make people think, and if it does not spark a dialogue I can deal with that. I am going to keep my google+ pretty open for now (I am having fun with the circles features) and maybe I can figure out a way to merge comments without them being hosted somewhere else like discus. Let me know if you know of anything that can accomplish the daunting tasks of creating a seamless streams for the comments to be a attached to an actual post.

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