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Love ya, Amazon

July 21st, 2010

Easily my 2 favorite companies right now are Google and Amazon. Google seems to get smarter by the day…have you seen the new Google Docs stuff they got goin on? It’s crazappy! And then there’s android (you’re soaking in it, since I’m writing this on my droid). And Amazon just seems to have most of the stuff I need, er, want right now (what can’t you buy on Amazon?). I think we got half of our Christmas on Amazon this year, and I get all my mp3 downloads from them now. But what happened yesterday just blew my mind.

I got my wife a kindle for Christmas…you know, Amazon’s cool, eBook eReader…the one with the display that looks like real paper & ink…the one that can hold something like 1500-2000 digital books…the one that lets you hook up with Amazon’s amazing bookstore, click a button, and download a book in seconds, all without a network anywhere nearby? Well, she loves it and has been kindling away for almost 7 months now. But then, a couple of weeks ago, tragedy…her screen froze on a nasty looking image of one of kindle’s screensavers, with horizontal lines covering a good portion of the screen.

Being the typical tech support rep that I am, I did some investigating and found out that this problem has been occurring with other kindle users for several months now. I told her we’d have to call Amazon and hope they honored their warranty. And being the typical husband that I am, I waited for over a week before I got around to it.

To tell you the truth, I was dreading the conversation I would have to have with a support rep, probably some dude from India who’s way smarter than me but has just enough of a language barrier to turn a 2 minute conversation into 10. So I sent an email from their “Kindle support” page first, and thought I might get lucky and get back an email with detailed instructions…no such luck. Instead I got back an email that essentially said “sorry you’re having trouble with your Kindle…please give us a call…” Crap.

Ok, here we go…gotta call ‘em after all. Luckily I noticed the details in the email that suggested I could initiate the call from the support page, and they would call me back. Really? That’s different…so I gave it a try. Wow…what a support experience. I entered my home number, and about 2 seconds after I clicked submit, my phone rang. An automated message told me there was currently a wait time of less than a minute, and about 30 seconds later a guy came on live…his name, Mike…his accent, American…his help, perfect. They ended up overnighting a new Kindle, and told me I could ship the dead one back (for free) in the same box. She even had access to all the old books she had on her old one, so she’s back in business, less than 24 hours after I contacted Amazon…now that’s customer service.

Fun with Google Voice

March 29th, 2010

I’ve been trying out Google’s new online voicemail app (cleverly called Voice), and for the most part it’s pretty cool. But one of the coolest features is also one of its most amusing. The app will transcribe your voicemail messages for you, and you can quickly look through a message’s text to see what the caller needed without having to listen.

Pretty slick idea, and it does come in handy…but I had to laugh when I saw that i’d missed a call from my brother who was apparently asking about my “copy rooster.” Of course I could tell he was asking about my coffee roaster. So for now, Voice remains a cool idea, but needs some work before it can tell a rooster from a roaster.

Scared by the Nav-Hag

February 16th, 2010

So far I love almost everything about my new droid phone, and I’ve already written about my shock and awe over the Google-assisted navigation capabilities. But I have 2 rather humorous asides about that nav piece, or maybe about our tendency to tire of the things we once loved and our ability to turn the formerly miraculous into the increasingly mundane.

I was heading into Indy to go to a credit union I don’t typically use, and even though I’ve been there before, I looked it up on the droid and asked it to navigate me there. This was partly because it will estimate the driving time and I was on a tight schedule…ok, it was also because I still love to say things like “navigate to the credit union on West 56th street in Indianapolis, Indiana” and watch it do its thing. Yeah…still cool.

Anyway, I fired up the droid navigation thingy and got on my way. Well, about 10 minutes down I65, I was deep in thought and completely lost in my little mobile world when some awful-sounding woman, who seemed to be virtually sitting in my lap, shouted at me, “IN ONE AND ONE HALF MILES TAKE EXIT ONE TWENTY FOUR…” I nearly jumped off the seat, and it took me a second to realize it was the female synthesized navigation voice coming from my droid, which was literally sitting in my lap. I have to tell you, it really scared the crap out of me. Then I laughed at myself…I’d been scared by the voice I now refer to as the Nav-Hag.

I promised myself I wouldn’t let her scare me like that again, so I intentionally left the navigation on even as I got closer and closer to my destination, well past the point where I needed it anymore, just so I could get used to it. And as I got closer, and it kept telling me things I already knew (I even found myself talking to it irately…”yes, I know I need to turn right on Lafayette Rd! You think I didn’t know that!?! Shut up already!”), I came up with another name for it. I called it my Nagivator.

My Philosophy of Technology

February 10th, 2010

My Philosophy of Technology has matured over the last several years into (I think) a fairly common-sense, practical approach. I’m a huge proponent of Open Source software, and I rarely if ever purchase commercial software.  Having said that, I don’t recommend Open Source for everyone, nor do I think it’s appropriate in every situation.  By the same token, I use a lot of online services and do much of my business (banking, purchasing, scheduling, communicating, etc) on the internet.  I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, especially those without a good, reliable, high-speed internet connection, but I’m comfortable telling most people they can easily use the internet for much of their basic daily to-dos.

This will certainly be a work-in-progress, as I change my mind or find new examples of dos and don’ts, but for the most part, I think this is fairly complete.  So, for anyone wanting my general thoughts on software or other things technical, here’s my take.

1 – Try free first

Use free and open source alternatives when possible and appropriate.  For the majority of everyday tasks for the majority of personal and even business users, there are perfectly capable, full-featured, and completely free programs and tools available for everything from office documents, to graphics, to accounting…even professional-level desktop publishing.  And for those of us who like to do more and more of our computing on the net (assuming we’ve got a decent connection), many online services use a “freemium” model in which they offer a basic, limited, and/or low volume version of their service for free with an option to step up to paid levels for higher volumes or additional features.

2 – Use the net

Use online services, including freemium sites (see above) when possible so you have instant access to your data no matter where you are. There are definitely risks inherent to letting a net-based program keep all of your data (especially for business users), but there are pros as well as cons that tend to balance out that risk.  For example, using online systems instead of PC-based, local programs can help upgrade-proof and crash-proof your data…if you change computers, you need only fire up a browser to get access again.

3 – Know your ‘-ability’ profile

Making a decision about what software or system you want to use involves a multi-pronged decision process. What’s most important to you can change over time and according to the type of system in question. In general, you need to take these factors into account and decide which is more important than the next:

Stability
Extendability
Accessibility
Usability
Affordability

Once you’ve got a picture of how each of these “-abilities” stacks up against one another, you can start to figure out what system you’re leaning toward.

4 – I ain’t your Big Brother…I’m more like your Cool Uncle

I’m not necessarily going to tell you exactly what to do (or what you can’t do), but I’ve got some opinions on what’s a good idea (and what ain’t). Id rather let you try something yourself than impose rigorous limitations, but I’ve got your back if you get in over your head, and I’ll let you know if you’re wanting something that’s just downright dangerous.

Not much of a gamer, but the bouncing cow is pretty dang fun

February 5th, 2010

image

I haven’t added a ton of games on my droid, but I have to admit the Alien Abduction game is addicting. Just goes to show you don’t need anything spectacular to keep you occupied for long periods of downtime.

So why a cow? Why is it bouncing? Why is it being abducted by aliens? I dunno….it’s just fun.