Is my phone better than my computer?

phone > computer

Which do you find more useful, your phone or your computer?  An interesting question, that probably depends on the context and what you are trying to do.

One annoying thing I’ve found is that my Android phone does some things better than my computer.  For example, I can set profiles on my phone based on my location – so certain settings can change depending on if I’m at work or home.  I can have my phone automatically silence while I’m at work.  I can have it turn on or off wifi, change the home screen, launch certain apps, etc. (This is done with various automation apps, like Tasker, Atooma, Llama, Profile Flow, etc. Some tips from LifeHacker here.

But my computer? No such luck.  Because my computer is not aware of its location the way my phone is.  Since I take my personal computer to work with me, I would like it to change my screensaver when it knows I’m at work.  Or when I’m using google maps, can’t it automatically know where my current location is?  How hard would it be to put GPS into a computer?  Or better yet, GPS plus 4G?  Here’s to hoping my next laptop has both.

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The future is awesome

Google Glass Hangout

So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, (and I’ll assume if you’re reading this then you haven’t been), you have probably already heard about Google Glass.  As someone who thinks a lot (and hopefully writes more) about tech, I guess I was bound to write something about Glass on my blog eventually.  I would love to give a more complete review, but I don’t have $1500 to purchase one, and there are already loads of reviews out there. I’ll write more later, but here  is a cool video showing the more complete potential of Google Glass (including mobile gaming).  For now I just want to make a couple short comments.

  1. Can people please stop saying “Google Glass Apps”?  Its waaay to long and feels like a tongue twister.  Maybe I can be the first person to officially use the term “Glapps” for “Glass Apps”.  Its nice, short, concise, easy to say, and gets the point across.
  2. Ok, on to what many people are saying is a criticism of Glass, that is privacy concerns. Since Glass has a camera on the front, it could be recording and the people in front of it have no way of knowing if it is recording them or not.  So people are worried they will get recorded without them knowing and without their permission.  Well I have a few points to that.  First, Hello, we are already in a world like that.  If you are in a public place, someone could be recording you with their smartphone, and unless you were looking directly at them, you wouldnt know.  And even if you look directly at them, what are you going to do about it? You are in a public place, therefore your actions are public.  If you want privacy, stay at home.  (Now I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not speaking in terms of legality.)  Besides, there are already traffic cameras and security cameras in almost every intersection and every business all around the country.  So even if someone is not recording you with their own smartphone or Glass, the government is recording you in the name of security and safety.  So I don’t see Glass as really a shift at all from where we are today in terms of privacy.  I think people need to understand that actions in public are public, so don’t do stupid things in public.  In fact I hope that maybe Glass will have some positive impact in the sense that if more people understand or think (or worry) that they are being recorded in public, maybe they will behave better in public!  Less litter, less public drunkenness, fewer kidnappings or crimes in public.  Perhaps this is a good thing – but again I stress that I don’t think it is much different from today as far as privacy goes.  Am I right?

Google Glass

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What does it feel like to be the best in the world?

REU USA/PHELPS A PUB OLY PRO SPO OLYB TPX USA DC

Ok, ya caught me again.  I have no idea what it feels like to be the best in the world at something. Right now I’d settle for just being good at something.  My last three jobs have all been in a brand new industry, brand new job description, brand new company, etc.  Consequently, I haven’t been good at any of them.  The whole time I was just figuring out how to get by, keep my head above water.

Which is good in someways.  I love learning.  Its exciting, its new, its fun.  I consider myself a lifelong learner (which is a terrible term because all humans learn throughout their whole lives.  In fact I would argue that learning is part of the definition of being alive.  But thats for another post.)  But I don’t know what its like to know that after learning something, I am now good at it.  And I know that I can do that thing and feel good because I know I’m doing a good job.  What does that feel like?  Anybody know?

People like Michael Phelps and LeBron James must know how that feels.  Can average people?

My dream is to one day do a job that I know I’m good at.  I don’t mean I want to stop learning, or be static, I just want to not feel lost and stupid.

Maybe I’m being too open.  This post probably isn’t helping anybody.  Hopefully its at least helping me.

I think I will focus on learning.  I’m picking my head up.  I will do my best at the tasks put in front of me.  Maybe eventually I’ll get good at doing stuff I’m not good at.  Is that a paradox?

Confused yet? Me too.

Here’s to learning. Growing. Being alive.

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Is Facebook going to bring down Apple?

As many of you who follow tech know, Facebook recently released Facebook Home for Android.  This was a big deal for many reasons, and has several implications in the mobile arena.  It turned out that the long rumored ‘Facebook phone’, was really Facebook Home.  (see this review on The Verge with videos) I agreed with the idea of putting large photos from other people’s Facebook feeds as the lock screen and home screen was pretty weird.  Ellis Hamburger writes on The Verge:

          “What if our phones were designed around people, not apps?” Zuckerberg asked, but what if those people are ugly? What if you haven’t seen some of those people in five years? Yes, the News Feed you browse every day is filled with these same things, but your lock screen is the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see before you fall asleep.”

His point is exactly why after a few days I found Facebook Home annoying, and replaced it.  I did however keep the ChatHeads feature, and use it often. Another thing I dislike about Home is how this review talked about how the Facebook Home ads seem to encourage us to be even less engaged in the real world around us.  Also, many images on Facebook are taken with phones at low quality, and don’t look nearly as good as the professional stock photos in the Facebook Home ads.  However after using Facebook Home for a few days on my SGS3, I was actually surprised that for the most part, the photos didn’t look too bad.  However the issue of them being irrelevant, and annoyingly taking up my lockscreen, homescreen, and causing me to spend (read: waste) way more time on Facebook than I want to, is a real issue.  Now I’m not a real Facebook user anyway (that topic is for another post), but I’m very intrigued by this move for several reasons, but most excited about the new ChatHeads feature as part of Facebook Messenger.

First, for Facebook Home.  There are several crucial points here.  1) Facebook did not fork Android, (like Amazon did and many other Chinese companies are doing) as many expected them to.  This is good news for Google, and I think good news for Facebook.  Its good news for Facebook because I think it makes more sense for Facebook to simply become a larger part of your phone experience, rather than trying to compete with Google and Apple by creating their own OS.  By releasing Facebook Home, Facebook is essentially piggy-backing on the success of Google and Android, rather than trying to expend the resources necessary to compete with them.  So it saves Facebook a lot of effort, and will likely in the end be more successful than a full Facebook Phone would have been.

The fact that Facebook did not fork Android is of course good news for Google, because as Eric Schmidt said, it is a ringing endorsement of how the openness of Android has led to a versatility of the software that its main competitor, Apple and iOS, don’t have.  And this I think is the meat of the issue here and why Facebook Home and ChatHeads are such a big deal.

It highlights on a much broader scale than simply the tech press that Android can do things the iPhone can’t.  This has been true for a long time, but never has it become as painfully obvious to current iPhone users than it is now.

My wife saw my ChatHeads and my Facebook Home lockscreen and said “Cool, can I download that for my iPhone?” The answer is no, you can’t.  And herein lies the problem.  Is this the first time that a signature brand name app is launching not only on Android first, but on Android exclusively?  And heres the kicker, its not because Zuckerberg likes Android better.  Its that their innovative idea can’t run on iOS.  Let me say this again, one of the biggest name and most innovative apps of the past few months, CANNOT RUN ON iOS.  Is this a paradigm shift? It has been mentioned that this could be the first major shift toward ending one of the increasingly few things that computers do better than our phones – layered windows for different apps.  Now of course there have been other previous apps for Android offering layers and multiple apps in the same screen, most notably Samsung’s multi window features on the Galaxy Note, as well smaller app developers such as Overlays, OverSkreen, FloatingPlayer, hovernote.  But Facebook has a user base appeal to the millions of ‘average consumers’, who will now see painfully something very cool and useful that their friends with an Android phone have but they can’t use on the iPhone.  By this I’m referring to ChatHeads, more so than Facebook Home.

Now there is certainly a downside for Google too, namely that Facebook is using Home for advertising, thus using Android to squeeze out ad dollars.  Google certainly can’t be too excited about that, but it still doesn’t mean that Google doesn’t benefit from users using other Google products on their Android phone, such as Google Maps, YouTube, etc.

Indeed for years there have been several things Android does that iOS can’t, but that was known mostly by the tech community. John Gruber (of Daring Fireball) mentions Swype as an example of something that Android can do but iOS can’t, but Swype never had the name recognition nor user base of Facebook.  The average consumer didnt know much difference between Android and iOS.  Now Facebook is an app that arguable most people use most of the time.  So now seeing a dramatic improvement in UI in the Android version of Facebook (how many times have you heard that phrase before?) ‘average’ iOS users will say hmmm, this Android stuff looks better than my iPhone. (again, have you ever heard that before?)

Now kudos should be given to Adam Bell for this jailbreak hack to bring full ChatHeads to iOS.  So just as Apple has taken other ideas from the jailbreak community before, do they somehow integrate ChatHeads into iOS 7?

What does Apple do now?  Do they respond somehow by allowing ChatHeads?  Do they open up iOS more to these types of apps?  Or do they simply do nothing, and move on as if ChatHeads aren’t a big deal?

In my mind, this is the beginning of a shift where Android, because of its open nature, starts to shine as being more flexible, customizable, and indeed beautiful, even to the average consumer, and particularly to the iPhone user.

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Surprise! Snickers

Image

One thing I’ve learned in my limited experience working on UI/UX for software, and my life experience as a software user, is that surprises are king.  I was first taught it from the design lead where I was working, and have found it to be completely true.  Companies and software that act like real people make a user feel like there is a person on the other side of the computer or phone, working to help make their life better through whatever software or app you are currently using.

Even the little things, when they are a surprise and a small effort to make something slightly more casual or funny, go a long way.  My case in point is the photo from my Dropbox yesterday.  Obviously my sync speed was atrociously slow, which is annoying to the user (me).  Instead of continuing with their usual trend of giving me the hours or days until my sync is complete, which is what I would expect them to do, Dropbox here gives me a nice little surprise that makes me smile and brightens my day.  How much work did it take for them to do that?  A few lines of code.  But, the return value for Dropbox is that they and their brand have improved in my eyes by surprising me and making me smile, and also by making me feel like I have a small friend on the other side of the computer telling a joke.

Lesson, in any consumer facing software product, give your users snickers!!

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How to do everything you ever wanted to do in life

Ok, maybe i’m guilty of using my own advice and using hyperbole in my title to catch your attention.  But it worked didnt it?

Bonus question – what do you think of my letters?

 Ok, so now to the meat of the post.
So I’m big on productivity. Or at least improving productivity. Or at least reading about improving productivity. I read a lot about it but don’t always implement what I read.
But this post is about some of the things I’ve read, that have helped me.
  1. Get Started

Of course I’m not the first person to say this, and I won’t be the last, but it has made a big difference for me.  Getting started is not as hard as it sounds, nor as easy as it sounds.  It can be hard to get started because many times I dont even know where to start.  But that in itself is an oxymoron.  Because figuring out where to start, is exactly where to start.  Confused yet?  Me too.  But what I’m basically trying to say is that if you dont know where to start, sit down and figure that out. That is the first step.  Now let me back up a minute.  I don’t mean sit down and right a detailed project plan or fill in a Gantt chart. Keep it simple. Just figure out what the first step is.  Then figure out what the first step do doing that first step is.  And keep breaking it down into smaller and smaller steps until you get to one that only takes 5 min.  Five minutes is easy and feasible.  Everyone has five minutes. You spend at least five minutes in the bathroom everyday.  Is it really going to matter if you go to bed 5 minutes later tonight?  Take that 5 min and do step one on the list you’ve just created.  More often than not I’ve found 2 things when I do this: 1) that I end up spending a lot more than 5 minutes because I enjoy it and I’m totally happy and glad and feel satisfied that I spend productive time on something I’ve wanted to do and gotten something done, and 2) That it makes it easier to do another 5 min the next day.  This idea is codified in something called the Kaizen way, in a book written by Robert Maurer.  I read about it in this Lifehacker post (I love lifehacker, btw).  I have not actually read the book, so I cannot vouch for it, but I like the idea behind Kaizen.  It has helped me a lot, although of course as all of us ambitious perfectionists would say, not enough yet!

2. Form a habit

So now you’re started! Congratulations! You’ve done step one, and you’re on your way to accomplishing your goal!  Now all you’ve got to do is form a habit around the time you’ve started.  There are many things written on habit forming, as well as few apps that can help you too. Lift and DailyFeats are two that I use.  (Although one of the things I’d love to do is make a better habit forming app/webapp :))  These are helpful tools, and I want to discuss some helpful principles, that you can implement on your own and with your friends.

  • Gamification

I’m a huge believer in gamification.  Games are addicting plain and simple.  There’s no denying that fact.  And as we’ve gotten better at designing more addicting games, we’ve better and better understood the underlying motivations behind why games are addictive, and what’s ingrained in human nature that makes us motivated.  Simple things like:

  • monitoring and displaying progress
  • rewards – in the form of badges, prizes, level ups, etc
  • competition with friends and strangers
  • leaderboards
  • bragging rights
  • starting out easy on level one and getting progressively harder
  • the basics are ‘so easy anyone can do it’
  • the possibility and potential that anyone can be the best, get a high score, get to the last level, complete the game, etc
  • and many others

Recently there has been tons written on gamification, perhaps most notably and my favorite is the book Reality Is Broken by Jane McGonigal.  I highly recommend her book as it totally changed the way I view the world and human nature.

So how is this related to being productive and doing everything I ever wanted to do in life?  Well small things you can do can help yourself out a lot.  For instance, track your progress.  Keep a journal, blog, pictures, calendar (crossing off days on a calendar that you work on your task is old school but highly effective) are all ways to track your progress and keep you motivated as you see yourself getting better and closer to your goal.

  • Competition

Also, friends and competition. Or simply a challenge.  My wife challenged me to run 5 days in one week.  Now i’ve always been a big runner, but let it slack lately.  Simply the act of one sentence of her challenging me motivated me to do it.  I’d been trying to get myself to run more for months, and always seemed to ‘not have enough time’. But when she challenged me with just a few words, it worked – the first week I ran 5 times.  Sounds simple, and it is.  Also, find a buddy to call you or email you every day or set time period you choose to ask you have you worked on your project X or have you done that task you’ve been meaning to do.  Trust me, this helps a lot.  If you can’t think of anyone, ask me, I’m happy to help.

  • Reminders

Again, simple.  Remind yourself.  If you’re anything like me and your mind is always going 90 miles an hour and you often find yourself walking into a room only to forget why you had come in there in the first place, then you need reminders.  I put calendar events into my Google Calendar, and set them up to text me or email me when its time to work on certain projects.  Another tool I love is Boomerang – which lets you send emails into the future. I often send myself emails in the future to remind me of various things.  My friend used to have his mom call him every day to remind him to brush his teeth.  Whatever works for you, do it.

  • Schedule

This is one that I myself am not good at.  Many people are glued to their calendars, and for you maybe this is a no brainer.  But for me, I never make schedules.  I just take life as it comes.  I almost never make weekend plans in advance.  I just like to play things by ear, as life changes every minute and you never know what comes up.  Anyway those are all my excuses.  But getting into a regular schedule – for example running every MWF at 7am, will help your body get into a circadian rhythm so that the task almost becomes second nature, and requires much less inertia and thinking to get up and do.  Make yourself a weekly or monthly schedule or whatever you want, and get into the habit of regularly doing your set tasks.

  • Get back to the goal

After slaving away and working hard for months, sometimes we easily get burned out or lose sight of the goal.  Occasionally take a step back and go back to that place, book, person, or whatever inspired you to get started in the first place.  For me I love triathlons, and I’ve always dreamt of doing an Ironman.  When I find myself feeling lazy or having gone too long without a workout, I watch some Ironman footage to get myself inspired again.  If you can go back to find what originally inspired you, It really works.

Anyway, those are my 2 steps:  1) get started, 2) make a habit

Most of this is written to myself, as I read about this and have huge dreams but fall down on the ‘doing’ part of it more than most people.  Maybe writing this will help me, and I especially hope it helps you.  Feel free to let me know if it does.

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Caps or caps?

Ok, you’ll have to forgive me, this post will let the English teacher out in me for a minute, so bear with me.

At work I’ve recently been involved in making lots of powerpoints.  I’ve been told that in the title of a slide, it is proper to capitalize only the first word of the title, not every word.  This goes against my training from elementary school, which was to always capitalize every word in a title, except prepositions and such, but I have to admit I’m a bit intrigued.  Sometimes I think it does look better.

So I’d love to hear your thoughts, which one below should the title look like:

This Blog Post Title Has All Capital First Letters

This blog post title only capitalizes the first word

In this case I’d have to say the first one looks better – thoughts/comments?

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Less Reading, More Doing

I’ve decided my love for reading is killing me.  I read incessantly.  And even so, I cannot keep up with my appetite.  I have about a dozen books on my shelf, and more at my parents house that I’ve bought, but havent got around to reading yet – and not because I’m not reading.  I read non-stop online.  Zite has taken up more time than I would care to count.  But on the plus side it has led me to a massive amount of knowledge I would not have otherwise had, and has helped me to find my passions. (i’m not getting any kickbacks from Zite, FYI, I just love it)

But while reading has given me my passions and enormously expanded my knowledge, just like in anything there must be a balance. And right now I feel like I’ve way overweighed the scales with too much reading, and not enough doing.  Everytime I read something it stirs in me passions, dreams, goals, and motivates and inspires me to accomplish great things!  Which is one of the major reasons why I love reading.

However, so far mostly what I’ve done is just go on to read more, about ever expanding topics, and not actually do or accomplish any of the things reading has inspired me to do.

So, starting today, (the beginning of a new year is always a good time for change, right?) I’m going to start to do more and read less.  And I hope that all the reading that I will miss doing, will be more than compensated for by the satisfaction of all that I accomplish!

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How to Get 1 Million Followers to Your Blog

How to Title a Blog Post What I learned from James Altucher’s Blog (Part 1) –

Many of you may or may not have heard of or read something by James.  He has a bit of an oddball style – brusque, blunt, rough around the edges, brutally honest.  But he also has a lot of good advice.  And an interesting book.  I’ve learned a few things from the posts I’ve read, and will likely learn more.  But the first thing that I want to point out that I learned from him is “How to Title a Blog Post”

His posts have very eyecatching names that make you click on them, like “How to be the luckiest guy on the planet” and “How I Screwed Yasser Arafat out of $2mm (and lost $100mm in the process)” and “10 Unusual things I didnt know about Steve Jobs” and “How To Live Forever“. It definitely got me to spend like an hour bouncing around his blog. Or maybe he just caught me on a slow day.  Oh ya, another point, link to your own blog.

My point is, sometimes those posts didnt really end up being as interesting as the title made them sound.  But because of a great title, they got a click, a view, and a read.  And afterall, a large part of the value of a blog is the number of views (at least monetary value).

So, note to self “Title your blog posts better by using something crazy and eyecatching”.  And to follow my note, I’ve attempted to do that to this post title.  What do you think? Did it get you to read it?  Were you disappointed afterwards? (I hope not!)  If you learned something, then this wasn’t a waste of time, right?

If you have a better idea for a title for some of my posts, I’m all ears.  Including my other blogs, here, here. Or @cockerhamAndrew

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Stupid People – Gas Prices

I could write an entire book on all the things stupid people do, and why all the problems in the world seem to be caused by stupid people.  But I’ll limit this post to a specific one.

I was pulling in to get gas yesterday, and as I always do I compare prices of gas at nearby gas stations. My jaw dropped when I saw these two directly next to each other – a 7-11 with $3.51 and a Shell priced at $3.62!!  Eleven cents different per gallon, right across the street.  And yes, there were cars at the Shell paying $0.11/gallon more for absolutely no reason in the world, other than they are stupid.

Don’t know why this frustrates me, but it does!

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