Category Archives: Technology

It’s been quite a year. So many memorable moments across tech, politics, the economy, and so many other areas that it seems at times overwhelming to try and keep up with it all. When reflecting on the year, there’s a few things that stick out in my mind as top moments worth remembering. I’ve managed to keep the list to 10 items (barely) and yes, I decided to NOT add “Facebook goes public” or “Facebook buys Instagram”… as a matter of fact… Facebook isn’t on MY list at all! These moments mattered to me because I’m a tech junkie, a political junkie, and somewhat of a sports fan… Here goes:

Windows 8 is Released

There was a lot of talk this year about the impact Windows 8 is/will/may have on all of us as we move to more gesture-based computing. I see Win8 as a giant leap forward for mankind. While Apple twiddles with it’s tired-looking skeuomorphic software designs and its old-school looking Mac UI, Microsoft has shown us what the future of computing looks like. The Metro UI which easily adapts to multiple devices is the friendliest, easiest computing OS I’ve ever seen. Adoption may be slow, but in one big release, Microsoft has taken the lead in future-proofing our computing experiences across multiple devices.

Jim Lehrer Moderates the First Presidential Debate

By mid-year I think most of us were frustrated and tired with politics. Luckily, living in California, I wasn’t inundated with political ads. I heard from friends in Ohio that wanted the election to be over long before it really was because of the constant stream of ads they were bombarded with. As the debates approached, I was finding it hard to believe there would be anyone left in the country that hadn’t made up their mind already. However, the show wasn’t really over as Jim Lehrer proved. His performance was unexpected from such a veteran newsman. The halting lack of control over the candidates, the meandering miasma of his inane questions let a top-of-form Romney command the stage and made Barack look like he’d forgotten to do his homework. We have come to expect more from our TV news anchors, and Jim just had a terrible moment… really, a terrible 90 minutes.

David Byrne Tells Us How Music Works

I’ve been following David Byrne since he started blogging and posting online. Long before, naturally, I was a Talking Heads fan and I’ll never forget the day I bought the cassette of My Life In The Bush of Ghosts. So, sure, Byrne is a fixture for me. It’s fun to follow him online however, because he is leading quite an interesting post-Heads life. This year he released a book “How Music Works” where he takes us on a journey to the inner-workings of what music really is and what it feels like and how and why it plays such a big part in our lives. In addition to reading the book, I had the extra pleasure of seeing him in discussion about it in San Francisco with Bernie Krause. Along with a few quirky anecdotes, I got to experience Byrne giving a PowerPoint presentation filled with bird sounds. Yeah, Byrne and PowerPoint. What a great moment!

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the London Olympics

It seemed like when I was a kid, the Olympics were a much bigger deal. However, with the games in London this year, I thought I’d tune in and watch as much as I could… well electronic cigarette liquid that didn’t work out. What did work out was the opening and closing ceremonies. Man, do the Brits know how to put on a show. These events are becoming like the Halftime shows on the Super Bowl. Yeah, a tad over-the-top, but a visually stunning show all the same. And, oh yeah, the USA won the most medals (104)!

The Mars Rover Safely Lands

Yeah, yeah, the comparisons to Wall-E were rampant, but think about it. NASA designed and built a device that not only made it Mars, but made it in one piece with cameras attached to send us photos and videos. This still blows my mind when I think about it.

The Pope Tweets

Yeah, it’s a moment that matters. I’m not Catholic, however, the old man holed up in the fancy flowing robes in the Vatican actually sliding up to an iPad and tweeting is something to remember. I know it’s all symbolic… but just imagine how ubiquitous Twitter has become now when Da Popa feels the need to send out his own thoughts in 140 characters or less. This could have an interesting impact on those really long liturgies.

The San Francisco Giants Win the World Series

Yeah, the Giants won in 2010 as well. And that was exciting because it had been the first time since they moved to SF that they won a World Series. But it’s just as cool knowing my home team is the reigning World Champions again. And although I didn’t have tickets to the games, I had front row seating in front of my HDTV. And there’s nothing like baseball on a big-screen HDTV. And there’s nothing like the show the Giants gave us this year as well.

John McAfee Goes On the Run

I love having instant access in real-time to news. The Internet has given us an impatience with “breaking news” — we want to know what’s happening now! Late in the year, I discovered software pioneer John McAfee’s blog and the clusterf*ck drama he was embroiled in down in Belize. While he was on the run from the Belize law enforcement, he kept us all informed with constant blog posts. There’s nothing more warming to the geek heart than a guy on the run, but still able to connect and update via the Internet. Who knows how sane the man actually is, and who knows if he actually committed a crime… this was REAL reality TV unfolding before us as it happened.

Bill Clinton Tells Us Like It Is

I like Obama’s soaring, elegiac speeches. He’s kinda like a modern-day television evangelist when he gets all fired up. But, rosy and uplifting as he always is, it took Bill Clinton to paint a more realistic picture of where we’re all headed and what the impact of the election would have. His speech this year at the Democrats’ nominating convention easily captured for him the title of “Great Communicator” from Reagan. Clinton handedly laid out the pros and cons of the choice we faced between Obama and Romney and more than likely in that 49-minute speech single-handedly sealed Obama’s re-election.

OH, right… a 10th unforgettable moment. Well, I was going to add Newtown. But it’s so tragic that words aren’t coming. All I can hope for is that we as a nation have a good dialog in 2013 about the issue and try to come to some common-sense solutions to make sure our kids are as safe as they can be. Happy New Year!

I generally loathe predictions, so I won’t really refer to the following as “predictions” and instead refer to them as a “natural evolution for tech in 2013”… although “natural” may not be the best work either. However, these are some of the topics that I think will become more prominent in our lives in 2013:

Less Freedom Online
The Internet will become less open and more regulated by government agencies. Along with commerce on the Internet being taxed, governments will exert more control over what its citizens can access. The “foundational” period of an open Internet with no government intervention is dying. Proof is that just this month a  majority of the 193 United Nations member countries approved a treaty giving governments new powers to close off access to the Internet in their countries. China and Russia led the treaty because they realize that to continue to control their citizens, they must control the Internet, unfettered. So the Internet becomes geographical, like the rest of the world, divided in two camps: the open Internet and the closed Internet. The UN treaty takes effect in 2015, but the process of closing it off begins now.

The Cloud becomes De Rigeur
The cloud has already moved past the state of buzzwordiness and into practical integration in our lives. The only thing holding back the complete immersion into the cloud is bandwidth speed and device fragmentation. But even my grandmother understands “The Cloud” as a term now. It’s achieved mainstream.

The “Platform Curtains” Begin to Fall
As the big three (Google, Apple and Microsoft) compete against each other with their hardware/software platforms, they are no longer “playing friendly” with each other by continuing to support their apps and services across different platforms. Each company, to varying degrees, is lowering their “platform curtains” and walling their consumers in. Google just recently announced it will not develop apps for Windows Phone, and will curtail access to its APIs. Apple tried to boot Google Maps off its platform, and if it wasn’t for the debacle of its own offering, would have succeeded. Microsoft is the short-term loser here since its App Store resembles a Soviet grocery store: lots of empty shelves to stock, but very little bread on them. Consumers will be faced with choosing devices not based on hardware alone, but based on platforms. In the spirit of building walls, it will mean that sharing and connecting to each other will eventually be more difficult since your friend with a Windows online blackjack for two players Phone may have to jump over a wall to share a photo with your iPhone. Let’s hope common sense prevails and we don’t have to go dark and live in our own East Berlins for 50 years.

Online Access Inches Toward Ubiquity
I’ve always said Wi-Fi access needs to be like electricity. I hope someday we have a network grid similar to our electric grid. And maybe it should be regulated by the government as well. With Google trying out fiber-optic connections in the heartland, and Comcast providing Wi-Fi access anytime/anywhere to its subscribers, there are more options to staying connected as we move around our communities. Frankly, I’m tired of buying mobile devices with cellular connections just so I can be assured that if I desperately need to answer an email while waiting for the train, or if I just MUST have that new Taylor Swift single while riding the bus, I can get online to whet my appetite for digital bling. Although we’re being extremely over-charged for cellular connections, there are glimmers of hope that the providers know they can’t keep charging us like the 80s when we bought $25 CDs in cardboard long-boxes… they feel the pressure to provide faster service with less hassle. Now, if only we can do something about those $4 lattes in Starbucks…

Your Computing Experience Transformation Continues
Unabated, your options are many, and as you quietly and quickly move away from a state of tetherness, you still demand multiple devices to do different things. The hope of one smart device that you can hold in your hand to get everything done is anything but realistic, and not really what you want. You like 10” tablets for your lean-back experience. You like your smartphone tucked safely in your pocket, just two fingers away from you at all times. You’ve even found yourself sleeping with or near it. You like the e-ink lightness of that latest Kindle/Nook when you get all literary and actually read, and you like your big-screen TV to take you on those harrowing blu-ray journeys to far away places… and, yes, now you’re thinking that little 7” tablet would be a great gaming device. You’re not a one-screen kinda gal, but what you want is a seamless experience moving between all your screens. It’s getting better everyday, and 2013 will make that experience just a bit better although you may have to make some hard decisions about your own loyalty to one of the Big Three.

Yahoo! and Flickr have announced that if you’re new to Flickr, you can now test drive a Pro account for free for 3 months. Normally, a Flickr Pro account is only $25, but hey, if you’re fed up with Instagram for varying reasons, maybe you’ll want to try Flickr.

If you’re an existing Pro user, you’re daisy fuentes pokies not out of luck either. Your subscription will be extended for 3 mos from your renew date – but you do have to go click and participate in the promotion.

Just log into your Flickr account and click the banner at the top of the page.

You can also participate just by logging into the Flickr mobile app.

With over 275,000 apps in the App Store specifically optimized for iPad, and what seems like a million more for iPhone, it gets a bit overwhelming to discover the apps that can benefit your life — especially when you consider the average person only downloads 60 apps to their iPad. Here’s a list of the 5 that have earned prominent positions on my home screen, never wiggling to be tapped out of existence… in other words, the ones I can’t seem to shake off:

Bloomberg TV
I’m not a big “stocks” guy, and my financial portfolio consists of lots of credit card balances and too-high interest rates. So, I’m probably NOT the target audience for this iPad app. However, I am compelled to tune in every morning — they have diverse coverage of what’s going on in business, with a razor-sharp focus on the tech industry. I find their commentary to be witty, succinct and spot-on. You can register and synchronize content across your devices, create custom playlists, and oh yeah, you can get stock portfolio updates if that’s your thing. On my iPad mini 4G (Verizon), there’s never a hiccup in performance either.

 

The Magazine
I would like to find the individual at Conde Nast that made the decision to just port their print magazines to a “pdf” style iPad edition that requires me to sit and stare at the download meter as each 600mb edition downloads. This is the experience you want to provide your end-users? I don’t want a big, thick, glossy, tree-killing tome ported to my iPad. Just when I’m about to give up and go back to lugging around magazines heavier than my grandmother’s Bible, Marco Arment steps in to save the day. The creator of Instapaper, he has redefined the “magazine” experience for us on-the-go tablet geeks. Just imagine: instant download, simple, clean design, TEXT to READ, no stuffy, 25mb .jpgs, and no intrusive ads and lame videos. Just content. Marco’s vision is to “go beyond technology” and deliver big-picture content experiences. I hope product managers, or those in charge at the Big Media Companies, will get a chance to download this app. Maybe then they’ll re-think what they’re doing… and save me some precious space on my almost-filled-up iPad.

 

TED Books
I know, I know. TED is now a Big Brand, and a bit over-exposed. It’s kinda like South by Southwest now… it’s surpassed being “trendy” and is almost at Payday Loans that annoying state. However, I found this app this year, and find it almost all-consuming. There’s a Newsstand-like UI filled up with short ebooks about the human condition and what you can do to be an active part of making things better. I find the selections to be uplifting and some quite controversial. Most are in nice, bite-sized chunks as well.

 

 

McSweeneys
Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re thinking, “Oh he’s trying to prove he’s a literary fellow”. But what I like about the McSweeney’s app is less the “liberal Mother Jones” kinda bloviation and more the diverse writing that never ceases to surprise me. Even today I was able to tap in and read about how Yoga is able to help people who are struggling with tragic circumstances in their life, learn about self-driving tractors, and laugh at the “pain” of playing sudoku. All that and then add that I get a monthly Greil Marcus column. Can’t be beat.

 

 

Tom’s Guide
There’s no shortage of tech apps and sites to get your fill of whatever it is you’re jonesing about at any particular moment. It’s a tad overwhelming, actually. How many Engadgets, TechCrunchs and Verges do I need in my daily tech news Favorites list? Well, I discovered Tom’s Guide this year. And what I like most about it is its simplicity in the face of a constant stream of information. “Tech” as a subject is big, and Tom’s Guide takes the low-fi road in presenting it. Text with a small picture, when appropriate, and a very easy navigation scheme. It’s one key app I use to get the tech news I need for my day.

 

 

Tied for 5th: Tappestry
Disclosure: I know the developer of this app. Having said that, Tappestry opens up a new way of sharing, debating, and dialoguing with communities around almost any subject. You start out by broadcasting what you’ve learned, read, tried, achieved, or want to do. Anything. It won’t take long for someone to have something to say about your post. There’s much more going on behind the scenes though: Tappestry represents what I like to call the “achievement broadcast complex (ABC)”… it’s the first app that I know of that facilitates you being able to record what you’ve learned, take it with you wherever you go, and discover like-minded people that add to your learning and offer you new perspectives.

I’m sure you’ve seen it on Facebook. I’ve seen it at least 30 times in my feed this morning.

“Oh no! Instagram changed their terms of service and they can now sell my photos!”

First off, I’m actually impressed that people are reading their Terms of Service. (Hey, you guys know Facebook pretty much owns all your stuff anyway, right?)

Here’s the new line in the TOS:

You agree that a business may pay Instagram to display your photos in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions without any compensation to you.

Here’s the thing – Facebook is already doing this to you. I can’t tell you how many times I look over in my right column and see that one of my friends has Liked a page or Purchased something, and it even shows their photo. The first time it happened it was jarring – did my friend give that company the right to use their profile photo? Well no. But we did give that right to Facebook to use in their sponsored posts.

That folks, is what Instagram can do. You’re not going to be seeing your cool photo on the side of a bus or denigrated at a bus stop beside a weeks-old movie poster. Instagram can’t change your photo, modify your photos, or drop their logo on it. In fact, as the Verge puts it:

Well, an advertiser can pay Instagram to display your photos in a way that doesn’t create anything new — so Budweiser can put up a box in the timeline that says “our favorite Instagram photos of this bar!” and put user photos in there.

Again, Facebook has already been doing this to you for months. Yet, we tend to eventually accept all that Facebook does to us because our worlds are often on Facebook.

Thanks to The Verge for clearing that up. Guess their news feed was overrun as well.

UPDATE: Instagram says “Thank you and we’re listening.” They’ll be re-wording their policy soon, so that the legalese is less confusing.