About Me

Semi-retired technology (originally) entreprenuer living in Seattle with my partner, Michael, and our three cats: Barnum, Bailey and Buster.  Currently mostly on hiatus from technology; exploring new things I couldn't when I worked full-time.  And...continuing my love of all goods baked. 

About this Website

Musings on things that interest me: the stock market, personal and enterprise technology, pop culture/entertainment as well as my family and other general observations in my daily life.  Also, this is the place to find out more about our charitable foundation and what non-profits we are currently supporting.

Twitter Updates

Follow me as I wade through my own use of technology and editorialize on the state of technology in general.  It's a mixed bag!  Everything from iPod Touch video sorting to the state of cloud computing.


Time to embrace my inner Chrome

My technology friends will probably laugh that it has taken me so long to make this switch:  yesterday I finally began using the Google Chrome browser full-time.  It was not without it's challenges, but worth it seeing that I was ready to throw Firefox (FF) "out the window" if that were even possible without throwing my awesome Sony Vaio VGN-Z laptop out with it.  

See, ever since I upgraded to Windows 7 (which BTW I think is a great improvement over Vista and XP), anytime I would run Flash within FF, I would get stuttering video.  Frustrating because there was plenty of CPU headroom and it shouldn't have mattered anyway because I have hardware video acceleration with my Flash supported video card.  Never could figure out the problem.  Searching the web produced many people with the same problem but no solution.  Literally in forum after forum, someone would describe my exact problem and there would be zero, nada, zilch solutions.  I only have empirical evidence, but I feel like FF is failing to keep up performance-wise with Chrome.

So, it was time to see if I could make the switch to Chrome because it did not exhibit the bad Flash behavior.  I have attempted to use Chrome in the past, but I had become particularly accustomed to a number of FF add-ons and in particular my hyper-custom FF tab behavior provided by TabMix+.  Control of tabs in vanilla Chrome was simply not going to cut it and extensions are so new, there isn't a very well developed eco-system of truly good extensions.  In the past, to even attempt to get similar tab behavior in Chrome I had to install a ton of little, podunk, extensions and never could get the browser usable.  Lucky for me that yesterday I found a  modified version of Chrome called ChromePlus, which natively added much of the functionality that had previously been missing.  I still had to install some of the podunk extensions to perfect my experience, but now I have a fully functional Chrome with working Flash and I don't miss FF at all.

For your amusement, here is a list of extensions I have added to ChromePlus to give me most of what I had with TabMix+:

  • TabsPlus - Activates tabs in last used order (with several other useful options)
  • New Tab Redirect - Sets a user-specified URL to load in new tabs
  • NewTab - Open a link in a new tab easily with an icon on the link
  • Tabs to the front - Brings newly created tabs to the foreground

And for completeness here are some of my other extensions if you would like to make the switch:

  • Google Voice
  • LasPass
  • Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer
  • Reader Plus
  • RSS Subscription Extensions
  • Secbrowsing - plugin version checker
  • Session Manager
  • Xmarks Bookmarks Sync


iPhone 4 vs. 'Droid...what's my geek-poison...? #fb

For those of you already bored, I'll save you the suspense: iPhone 4.  Read on for more details.

As many of you know I have been a smartphone user for many years, starting with Treo devices running PalmOS, then moving to Windows Mobile and finally moving to the iPhone 3G. Funny that in all this time I have never once owned a Blackberry.  I feel like I should congratulate myself.  Anyway...after using the iPhone for 2 years now, I can honestly say it is a singular device which has satisfied most, if not all my needs.  It does calling just well enough for my needs (as many of you know I'm not a big phone talker so I don't really care that much about the complaints about the iPhone "phone" issues:)).  The rest of the device works so well for me, were it not for battery life (see below) I would no longer keep a dedicated iTouch around for audio/video playback.

The iPhone is still not perfect by any means.  Here are some of the complaints which forced me to look elsewhere:

  1. The AT&T network sucks near my house (or the iPhone network reception is terrible depending upon who you talk to).  For me, more so for data than voice, but annoying on both counts.  There are 2 specific points on my way from downtown (Seattle) to home where I always drop calls 100% of the time.  Good grief, it's 2010 not 1980 and I'm not Dan Tanna talking on one of the very first wireless car phones ever built---a Vega$ TV show reference for those of you old enough to know.  Also, I regularly walk and cycle an 8-mile stretch near my home where the data is horrendous.   How do I know this and why do I care that much, you may ask.  Well, it seems I have figured out a much better way to test a carrier's data network than the standard "Can you hear me now?" method.  Just launch the Sirius iPhone app to your favorite station and start walking (or riding or even driving in the car).  That app is so sensitive to data outages you will know immediately where there are problems.  To that end, of the 8-mile stretch near my house where I listen to the app, it fails on 60% of the trip...every time!
  2. (Again, an AT&T complaint)  The stupid phone being locked to AT&T's network when I go internationally means I have to jailbreak my phone in order to use an international carrier or pay AT&T's international extortion rates ($15/MB in some places).  You can probably guess which I've done.
  3. Battery life is pretty poor and no switchable battery.  I've figured out how to make it work for me, but sometimes it does drive me crazy.  I can get a working day's worth of use out of an iPhone if I only use e-mail, make the occasional phone call and occasionally surf the web.  If I start using a data intensive application like news reading or the Sirius iPhone app I get two, maybe three hours max.
  4. The app store drama.  I have to say I am irritated by the perceived randomness of Apple's app approval process and now all of a sudden their jihad against porn.  Not that I care if there are porn apps available or not, it is really just the principal of the thing.  I understand Apple is a closed system for a reason. A trouble-free device for the average consumer requires a significant amount of control over what can be done to the device.  I get that and I believe the number of sold iPhones proves that it has worked.  What gets my blood boiling is when this legitimate control turns into a policing mechanism for content.  That's where I believe Apple has taken their position too far.

I started looking into the new Android devices when Google released Froyo (2.2) and I saw that it was getting pretty good reviews.  Please keep in mind as you read this that I am not a gadget blogger/reviewer and I have very little experience with Android devices beyond reading other blogger/reviewers, so you are just going to be getting my impressions, right or wrong.  Right now (June 2010) it seems the two best/latest Android devices out there are the Incredible (on Verizon) and the Evo (on Sprint).  They seem to both have the most advanced hardware/feature-set made for Android phones to-date.  The fact that they are not on AT&T is their No. 1 attractiveness to me.  Solves my annoying data problem because both Sprint and Verizon have excellent data coverage where I spend most of my time.  The downside is that neither phone has any international capability, so that problem isn't solved.  I read that these two phones have another serious flaw which you can read about all over the web.  Their battery-life is terrible.  I have read many people who say they get a max of 2 or 3 hours before switching the battery.  Admittedly, neither of these phones is out today with the new Froyo build which purportedly fixes some battery-life (and speed) issues.  There are also, of course, a gaggle of Google fanboys who regularly point out the 101 things you can do to conserve battery life with Android, yet it seems the improvement has been negligible.  And that brings me to my final Android point:  If I have to dig into the guts of Android to make battery-life reasonable, then Android is not yet for me and certainly not for most people.  Now even though I am a technologist, I long ago gave up the need (and want really) to dig deep into the guts of a system to make something work.  It was the happiest day of my life when I no longer had to configure and use a Linux box as a network firewall/gateway because Netgear came out with a box that did the same thing for $100 and an easy to use interface.

This is why Apple is still winning for me...today.  Even though I would like to give Apple the "heave ho", they understand better than most what consumers of a mass-market device want....Something beautifully designed that works as you would expect...every time.  We don't want to futz with the gutz :) Today's iPhone 4 announcement did nothing to dissuade me of that notion.  If that battery life is anywhere near what they quote I will be very pleased.  The new design is spectacular.   Putting  the radio antennas in the frame seems like design genius.  The new OS now has multitasking for non-Apple apps which has always been one of the big advantages of Andriod.  Their understanding and a solution to what's wrong with the smartphone cameras...low-light photography where adding mega-pixels doesn't help.  It all seems to add up to an almost perfect device that I want to have.   I could also just wait for the supposed iPhone on Verizon, but my spidey senses tell me I'm probably not going to get iPhone 4 hardware (AT&T needs some advantage to counteract their crappy network...right) and I do really think I have fallen for that new hardware...enough to sign another 2 year contract.  I will probably have to keep my jailbroken 3G just for international trips since I am guessing it could be a while before I am freed of AT&T international with a iPhone 4 jailbreak.

Now I am sure my Google-fanboy friends are rolling their eyes at all the things I don't understand about Android that make it the best thing in the universe.  Please know, I do understand the potential of Android.  In my mind though, it just isn't there yet.  I believe we need to see the Android hardware which comes out over the next 2 years in combination with Froyo or better versions of Android to see if the system can work flawlessly for those of us that don't car about the guts.  If and when we get there, it could be a contender for my next phone unless Apple once again beats you at the "what consumers want" game.


iPod Touch has Bluetooth

Okay.  Let's get this party started! 

Did you know that your iPod touch could have bluetooth capability?  Yes sir.  If you have gen. 2 hardware or newer and you've upgraded to the 3.0 or greater version of OS.  How do you know if you have gen. 2 hardware?  Look at the back of your iPod touch.  If you have an oval shaped antenna cover in the upper left corner.  Check out this pic.  Pair that with a set of bluetooth headphones and you are good to go.

Though I am not clear if this is hardware or software issue, the current iPod/iPhone bluetooth AVCRP implementation only supports volume/stop/play but not skip.  Still, not having a cable between you and the iPod while running on a treadmill is a godsend.