A year without Facebook

A year ago I decided to give up using Facebook (FB).  I had several reasons why I wanted to give up using it on a regular basis.  I wrote a blog post about it http://bit.ly/1dRYyVw.

I started using FB about 6 years or so ago.  At the time I was working for HP and they were doing some testing with the newly acquired Snapfish service and how it would integrate with FB.  I reluctantly agreed to sign up.  I had no idea what I was going to post and “put out there”.  For years I have had a personal website and a blog, so why did I need this FB thing?  For quite a while I barely used it other than to do the initial testing for work.  To get somewhat motivated using it, I decided to at least publish something once a week.  I started publishing 80’s music videos once a week on Wednesdays with some commentary about the video.

Over the years, FB became a sort of PITA.  It was like I was in high school all over again.  It was all too easy to get caught up with who was doing what.  It always seemed like people were doing wild and crazy things and then I started to realize statistically someone in my group of friends was going to have an “AWESOME DAY IN CANCUN!” event at least a few times a week.  There is nothing wrong seeing your friends posting these types of things, but it just grew tiresome.  I wanted authenticity.  If you had a “stepped in dog shite, got fired, had a flat tire, and the baby threw up on you” kind of day, say so!  That is what interests me.  Keep it real.  I like to hear about the good and the bad.  It just seems like on FB everyone only posts the “BITCHIN’ day! Just won the lottery!!!!” and nothing else.

When I signed off of FB, I decided to give other social media services a try. I tried Google+ and found it interesting with the way you could circle your friends into separate groups.  In practice I rarely sent something out to just a few people though.  I like the different communities that you could subscribe to.  What I didn’t care for was the “Google-ness” of the service.  My primary phone is a Nokia 1520 which is a Windows Phone 8 device.  There are no real Google apps for my phone.  Without those apps, it made it a chore to post things and to follow others.  I sort of gave up using the service because of this.  It was nice when I would grab my work Samsung Note 3, but that isn’t with me all of the time.

I started using twitter more and more often.  I like the spontaneity and ubiquity of the service.  I found it sort of hard to follow others as the timeline can be sort of hard to parse out what I wanted to follow other than trying to drink from the fire hose of data coming in.  I also found the 140 character limit a bit challenging at times.  I still use this service more than any other social media service, but I am not a heavy twitter user by any means.

So, the big question: Did I cheat?  Did I use FB while I had a self imposed ban on the service?  Well, yes and no.  I didn’t willingly sign in and post or read others posts during the past year.  I didn’t “Like” anything on the web (I never really did that anyways).  For the most part I stayed away.  The only time I did use the service was to sign into certain websites that use FB as an authentication service (this practice is LAME BTW).  I also inadvertently logged in when I set up various mobile devices.  A couple of times I needed a phone number or address that I realized was still locked up in FB-ville, so I needed to sign back in to get that info.

Will I come back to FB and start posting regularly or catching up with what people are doing?  Probably not.  That ship has pretty much sailed.  I just don’t feel the need to check in and follow what others are doing or make posts about my life.  I may just keep using it as an address book.

Andrew at work started a new campaign:  “No Facebook February” complete with wrist bands and all.  I think people are growing weary of FB and it is things like this that are showing the cracks in FB’s appeal.

No Facebook February!

No Facebook February!

My daughter is going to be 12 in March and has been asking about FB as some of her friends are on it.  The jury is still out on whether she will be able to be FB anytime soon, but when she does I will be one of those parents who will be on FB to check in on her FB to see how things are going.  I have shown her twitter and how it works and she thinks she may like that service better.

I like the combination of a blog for long winded pontifications and twitter for short updates about my life.  I use Flickr or SkyDrive to post pictures of what I am up to on the web.  These combination of services seem to work for me for the most part.

Who knows, maybe I will post a few more 80’s videos on Wednesdays  for old times sake 😉 .

New Years resolution – No more Facebook

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. I never felt the need to do one. If I need to make a change in my life, I just change it. Why wait for some arbitrary date?

Since I want to make a change in my life and it just so happens to be around the beginning of the new year, I am going to call it a New Year’s resolution.

I have decided to give up Facebook. I am not completely giving up Facebook per se. For the time being, I still want to have the ability to A) use Facebook as a universal contacts database (until I get off my duff and put all of the data somewhere else) and B) keep my account to log into some sites that require a Facebook account (note to web sites – Don’t be idiots and go this route. It is lame and it shows that you are lazy. It also creates a single point of failure. If someone hacks your Facebook account that is tied to say your bank account, you are screwed. Tying together authentication mechanisms is a recipe for disaster. Case in point).

So, what is changing? I am not going to be posting new content to my Facebook timeline. I am also not going to check what is going on in the Facebook world via the web site or on my phone.

Why am I doing this? Well, I am just tired of Facebook. I am tired of the “rat race” to be honest. I don’t get what most people put on Facebook (I don’t follow most sports except for rugby, I don’t care who is doing well on American Idol, and all the rest of pop culture). I am tired of seeing people’s progress on the Fartville Farm app or their zodiac charts for the day. Yes, I know I can block these, but I get tired of going in and blocking them as new games and apps appear. I am tired of the constant privacy changes. Who has the time to constantly be checking their privacy settings to make sure stuff that you don’t want to be seen by others stays that way? I know I don’t. I have other things to do. I don’t post a lot to FB, so that makes it somewhat easier to leave. To me Facebook is a poor way to communicate. I don’t like chatting all that much (why not just TALK to each other via phone or Skype, Gtalk, etc)? The FB email system is a joke; no threading, no relevant info that is easily searchable, etc. Since the terms of service for using Facebook keep changing, I don’t want to post any more content to their servers. I still don’t get why so many people post pictures to Facebook. Look what Instagram did (and later rescinded – sort of) with their terms of service. Who do you think owns Instagram (Save you a search: It’s Facebook)? Some things that I have posted don’t show up until I pay money to “promote” the post (seriously!?!?!). And lastly, enough with the walled gardens. Facebook wants to wall in the Internet into its own little cocoon of bits and bytes. Facebook wants to put a wrapper around what you see and experience on the web and track you ever step of the way. Nope….No thanks.

What will I do instead of using Facebook for social media and my <sarcasm> oh so important “web presence” </sarcasm>? Well, I mostly have been using twitter (which auto-feeds my FB timeline -turning that one off….now). My twitter account is @bradymac if you want to follow me there. I post my pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bradymacdonald/. I don’t post a lot on Google+ (I do like their communities feature), but here is my info in case you are interested: http://goo.gl/fvL5Z. I am also going to start using the Path (path.com) app more frequently.  I think they have the right idea for social media (at least for me).  Path  really does need a Windows Phone app though.  My website is http://www.bitflipper.com where you can find my email address and other info as well.

I guess I will see how this goes. I figure for those of you who want to keep in contact with me, we will do so by other means. Who knows, maybe I will give it up completely.

Which mobile device is right for me?

Due to the nature of my work (IT Systems Engineer) and being the “mobile device guy” (BES admin, etc) I often get asked, “I am looking into buying a new phone. Which mobile device is right for me?”. “Well it depends”, is what I usually say.

If you saw my previous post, I carry around four mobile phones (plus I have an iPad). I have ready access to a blackberry 9700, an iPhone 4, WP7 (Samsung Focus), and an Android (Samsung Infuse). When I show people the different phones, they usually ask, “Which is your favorite?” This is the point where my likes might not be the same as the person asking. I am a geek at heart and like messing around with gadgets, so my take on things might be different than someone who just wants their phone to work without much fuss.

Here in no particular order are the pluses and minuses of the different phones. I am not breaking down every single detail of each type of phone OS/device. I am just hitting the high points.

iPhone :

+’s

· Lots of polished apps

· Great camera*

· For the most part it just works

· Pretty good phone sound quality

· Lots of peripherals

-‘s

A little restrictive (for example, try adding a custom alert tone like you can do on most any other phone).

Personal preference, but current hardware is not that great considering you need a cover to prevent the “death grip” reception issue. Also the phone is made with glass that is on the front and back making it easy to drop and crack. Plan on getting a case for the phone.

Lousy camera*

Recommendation:

If you are a diehard Mac fan, this is your phone. If you want a phone that pretty much works like you want it to, again this is your phone. If you like to “hack” your phone, you can always jailbreak it, but this will void your warranty. Why is “camera” listed as both a plus and a minus? The phone sensor is actually really good and takes crisp, clear pictures, but at the same time, it oversaturates the photos which is to me something that should be left to post processing a pic in say Light Room or another photo manipulation application.

Blackberry:

+’s

· Great physical keyboard (if you are into that sort of thing)

· Great messaging device

· Great phone sound quality

· Great reception

-‘s

· Applications aren’t that good and can be a bit expensive compared to the other manufactures

· Phones tend to be on the smaller side which makes the screen kind of tiny and hard to read

· RIM seems to be out of touch with its users and not really innovating for the consumer market

Recommendation:

If all you do is use your phone as a phone and/or for messaging purposes and don’t mind a smaller screen, then this is your phone. Most of the major apps like Facebook and Twitter are available and work ok, but honestly they aren’t nearly as polished as say the iPhone version of the application.  If a physical keyboard is a necessity, you can’t beat the keyboard on most blackberries especially their newer high end models like the Bold series, and the Torch.

WP7:

+’s

· Fast user interface (UI)

· Simple UI

· No crashes

-‘s

· Not as many apps as iPhone and Android

· Not as many phones to choose from compared to Android. For example at the time I am writing this there is only one WP7 phone on Verizon while there are over a dozen Android devices again on Verizon.

Recommendation:

WP7 is not like the older Windows Mobile OS that you might have remembered from a few years ago. It is a complete rewrite. Now that is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because they are getting rid of all the old code and starting over fresh. Bad because all the old apps no longer work and have to be rewritten. Right now there are close to 25,000 apps in the Windows Marketplace with the majority of the well known apps being there. The WP7 is a good OS for an OS that has only been around for less than 9 months.

Android:

+’s

· Plenty of devices to choose from on most carriers

· Lots of apps

· Customizable

-‘s

· Crash prone

· Malware, viruses on the upswing

Recommendation:

Google Android devices are currently the number one selling mobile phone. Many different companies make the devices and they are available on almost all of the carriers. If you like “hacking” your PC with different skins and launchers and what not, then Android is the mobile OS for you as you can hack it any which way you want.

Well Brady, this is all well and good, but if it was your money, what would YOU buy?

Ok, this is usually the second question I am asked after which device someone should buy.

First, I am not a big gaming fan especially on my phone. The screens are just too small and well I am 43 years old and not into gaming like I used to be ;-). I like to play the occasional game of “Go”, but that is about it. I also don’t browse the web that much on my phone. What I do care more about is email, text, phone sound quality, a good camera (like they say, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you and most people have their cell phone with them all of the time), and a few select apps.

I don’t care for Android as it crashes and locks up quite a lot. I shouldn’t have to hack my phone (“root it”), just to make the GPS, wifi, etc work properly. Also the UI is an absolute mess.

iPhones are a good phone, but they are too restrictive. If you want to change your alert tone, you had better like the built in selection because that is all you are going to get. To me it is just too much of a controlled environment.

Blackberry is a pretty decent phone, but it lacks a few apps that I like to use. For example I like going geocaching, but the geocaching app isn’t available for blackberry. Blackberry does a good job with every other function that I look for in a phone. I am looking forward when RIM releases their QNX based phones (maybe by this time next year).

This leaves WP7. My next phone will more than likely be a WP7 device. I really like the UI and the speed. They have all of the apps I need and email on the device works great. I think Microsoft is in this game for the long haul and have committed to a minimum of five years to the launch of the new mobile platform. From what I understand developing for the WP7 platform is relatively easy which should help increase the amount of apps available.

Summary:

In the end when purchasing a mobile phone is personal decision based on many factors like cost, performance, carrier choice, etc.  What is the best phone for one person might be the worst for another.  At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what do you see yourself using the device for the most and make sure that the device you are purchasing is tops in that category.

 

 

 

 

 

Technology: Still amazed by it

While at work today I attended an "All Hands IT Meeting".  During the meeting a picture came up on the overhead in a PowerPoint slide that looked kind of like San Francisco.  The picture looked like you were standing on Jefferson or Beach Street and looking West up towards Ghirardelli Square.  Kind of bored and not being one to let things go, I quickly logged onto my iphone and brought up the Google Mobile app:   http://goo.gl/eO3q.  I took a picture of the PowerPoint slide and let the Google Mobile app do its thing.  Now understand I snapped the pic very quickly and was quite a distance from the wall that the PowerPoint was being projected onto.  There were also people in the way, so again this wasn’t the best of situations.

Once the Google App finished, it came up with a link:  http://goo.gl/QtkP2.  The shot I was looking for was in the “Images for traffic at night” link at the top of the results page:  http://goo.gl/lYRTo.   I clicked on that picture and found out that it was a picture of “Harrogate town centre”.  Realizing that it wasn’t a picture of San Francisco, I selected the text and copied and pasted it into the Google search engine.  I learned that this picture was actually in Harrogate, North Yorkshire England (if I had been more observant, I would have noticed the cars headlight trails were on the “wrong side” of the street.  Duh).  I then saved that Google link into another app called “Read it Later”:  http://goo.gl/KsDm.  When I got home at night, I did some reading about the area and learned something about Harrogate England.

This sequence of events utterly amazes me that things like this are possible.  I work around technology all day and stuff like this keeps me energized with the type of work I do.

Your future cell phone will be your computer.

We are at the beginnings of another watershed moment in personal computing folks.  Motorola displayed the “Atrix” phone running the Android operating system at CES 2011 a couple of weeks ago:  http://engt.co/eFkLlf.  This “phone” is actually more than just a phone.  With the docking station plugged into your monitor, it can become a desktop PC or TV.  With a laptop shell that the phone plugs into, it becomes a sort of netbook.  The key is this phone will have a dual core 1Ghz processor.  Soon there will be quad core processors coming out for small form factor devices:  http://engt.co/ifwI4q.

This is huge!  Why?  Think about it.  You will only need one device (and some accessories) to do all of your computing.  You go to work and plug this device into its docking station and through the Citrix interface connect to VDI backend.  Basically VDI is a server running in your companies or third party datacenter that has multiple desktop sessions running on it.  You then connect to your desktop that is running on the backend server via the Citrix interface over the network and do what you normally do like opening up Word documents, fill out Excel spreadsheets, check your email, etc.  All of the heavy lifting is done on the backend servers with your phone just displaying the graphics.  You undock your phone and go out to lunch all the while staying connected just as you would with any full featured smartphone that is available today or over a 3G/4G network stay connected to your work desktop session if need be or running locally stored apps and games as you do now.  Later that day you need to take a plane flight to a customers site.  You grab the laptop accessory and plug in your phone and finish your presentation in route.  Later when you get home, you plug your phone into the docking cradle at home and watch Netflix on your large screen HD TV and check your email.  If you think about it, this will also reduce the impact on the planet as theoretically you won’t need multiple PC’s and laptops anymore.

Now will you be able to play a very graphic intense game or do heavy photo or video editing on these types of devices?  Certainly not (for the the foreseeable future anyways).  These devices will appeal to road warriors looking to trim down their necessary equipment to take on a trip and people that need simple machines to check their email, browse the web, etc.  This is what cloud computing is all about (well mostly).  It means a simple device that gets you connected to the wireless network be it 3G/4G or WIFI and then you are off and running.

Sounds like science fiction huh?  Years from now this device will be remembered as THE device that changed computing….again.

The digital cleanse

I read about how the musician John Mayer suggested people go on a “digital cleanse”.  I had tried something similar a few years ago before twitter, facebook, and blogs became popular.  You had to go without email for a week.  Work email was ok, but no personal emails.

I only made it a day.

You see I am a weak bastard when it comes to electronics, gizmos, technology, etc.  Just looking around my house, it is sickening all of the electronic crap I have.  Well, no it isn’t, but my wife thinks so and maybe she has a point.  I am on the computer a good 50+ hours a week and always have a cell phone (myyyy preshhhhhuusssss) within arms reach at all times.

I would say I am a connected kind of guy.  No not THAT kind of connected with Tony Soprano and crew.  The geeky kind of connected.  Information of any sort is interesting to me.  When I was a kid I used to sit and read catalogs like Crutchfield’s, Heathkit and just memorize all of the different statistics and power ratings.  I read a lot on just about everything.  When I was a teenager, I liked reading my Dad’s Scientific American, OMNI, and Playboy magazines.  Oh, that last one wasn’t true.  Really.  I am just seeing if you are paying attention.  Anyways, having access to information and how information is disseminated to me has been kind of an interesting topic.  It is one of the reasons why I wanted to get into the IT field (besides that the chicks love a guy who talks about routers, servers, storage area networks, etc.  If my wife asks me to talk dirty to her, I say something like, “The server shut down dirty and I had to do a fschk to make sure I didn’t have any dirty sectors on the drive that would cause corruption.”  Yeah I know how to turn a girl on.).  For a while I was really interested in ham radio as I thought that was so cool that you could bounce radio waves off of the Earth’s atmosphere and talk to someone on the other side of the planet if conditions were just right.

Nowadays it is really easy to get access to pretty much anything you want to know about.  It is also easy to stay connected to this information stream that includes your friends and family no matter where they live.  I don’t live where I grew up.  I moved around quite a bit during my college years and then in the military.  Most people I know are scattered across the globe and with things like email, twitter, facebook, and blogging, I can keep up to date with what they are doing.  Distance really doesn’t mean anything now when it comes to relationships.  I always knew that growing up, but today it is even more true.

Getting back to the digital cleanse thing, this week was interesting.  I had a lot to say with my son turning six and the CES show (digital toys!!!) going on among other things.  I got accustomed to updating cyberspace with my ideas, and thoughts that were important to me.  I will admit it was a little difficult not posting things this week.  I actually slipped up once this week and sent an email via my phone, but I had seriously forgotten that was on the verboten list.  Other than that, it was a complete shut down of all social internet sites and applications(other than email).

I also missed not keeping up with people.  Did Steve find a job? Just how cold is Cindy in Montana this week? What sort of heavy machinery is Shawn driving today?  Did Kevin post any new videos of his music?  Will Michelle regale us with another housewife from Yacolt witty-ism (I kid Michelle, I kid!!!)?  All of these things become a part of my life that I can dip the digital toe into every once in a while to get a slice of their life and they in turn get to do the same with my life if they so chose.  Seriously, how great is that?

Yes, all of this information can be hectic and controlling if you let it and I think that is the point of what John is saying here.  Back away from it for a while and gain some perspective.  I fast one day a week for several different reasons, but this is one of the reasons why I fast with regards to food.  How do I relate to food and what is its meaning to me?  I am always trying to gain more insight into my life and my surroundings.

Now back to posting a bunch of useless nonsense about what I ate and what movie I saw because you know you are dying to hear about my life.IMG00018-20100108-1941