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 😉 .

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Lit Motors and molars

While at the dentist office today getting a crown put in, I started to talk to my dentist about the whole process.  My dentist had basically carved out the back half of my tooth to insert a porcelain piece in its place.   I was curious to know how the particular crown he was putting in could be strong enough to withstand me biting down (the human jaw can produce a bite force of around 175psi) since the crown was in the middle of my tooth creating a fracture line.  The bite force should basically break my tooth in half over time I thought.  How could my tooth withstand me biting down hard on a popcorn kernel or whatever other junk I decided to throw down the hatch?  I told my dentist that I had a degree in physical sciences, so I always want to know how things work.  Well, my dentist explained a lot how the new porcelain piece is bonded to my tooth both chemically and mechanically.  He described in detail how the dentin in my teeth worked and bunch of other stuff.  I mentioned that it sounded a bit like “nano machines” at work.  He laughed.

We then started talking about the machine that was building my new crown piece.  I told him that I worked at HP for many years and was somewhat familiar with CAD machines and this appeared to be something similar.  Again, my dentist talked to me at length about the machine and told me how it carved my crown out of a solid piece of porcelain.  I talked to him about how I wanted to get a MakerBot 3D printer.  He said he just bought one for he and his son to develop something for dentistry.

It was at this point that my dentist said I reminded him of his son.  Now my dentist is a Korean guy and is maybe 5′ 3″ tall.  I am of Scottish/Irish/English/American Indian decent and 6′ 4″ tall.  Obviously I have some other attribute that made him say what he said 😉

My dentist told me that I talk about things just like his son does.  He told me about his son’s current project.  He is building a pretty cool vehicle called the C-1 by Lit Motors.  It involves using gyroscopes to keep the two wheel vehicle upright at all times.  Very cool stuff.

Now it kind of sucked getting a crown put in and a couple of fillings done, but chatting with my dentist about geeky stuff kind of made it a little more bearable :).

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.

Nokia Lumia 920 low light performance

The kids were watching “The Grinch who stole Christmas”.  I took a pic with my work Nokia Lumia 920 phone.  I also took a pic with my Samsung Galaxy II (AT&T SkyRocket).  Both are 8MP cameras (technically the Lumia is an 8.7MP).  I didn’t enhance either picture.  I am also showing what gets uploaded automatically – Skydrive for the Nokia Windows Phone 8 and Google+ for the Android.

IMHO the Nokia blows the Samsung out of the water.  I didn’t use a flash on either picture.

Nokia Lumia 920 pic

Samsung Galaxy II (SkyRocket) pic

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Too many phones

I think I have too many phones to lug around in my “man bag”. 

From left to right:

iPhone 4 with Mophie Juice Pack, HTC Thunderbolt, Samsung Focus, Blackberry 9700

DSC_1111

 

The iPhone is mine.  The Thunderbolt (Android OS) is on loan from the nice folks at Verizon.  I should be getting one permanently soon though.  The Focus is my Windows Phone 7 test device for work.  The blackberry is also for work as I am the “BES” admin.

Mophie juice pack air for iphone 4 review

I was asked if I wanted to test an extended battery pack for iphone 4’s that we might deploy to our iphone fleet at work especially field support people who are on the go a lot.  Test…cool…gadget….hmmmm…Where do I sign up?  Winking smile

The test unit is a Mophie juice pack air for iphone 4.  The device looks like a plain phone case but actually has a 1500mAh battery inside of it (there is also a 2000mAh model available called the juice pack plus).  The standard iphone 4 battery utilizes a 1420mAh battery.  So, technically this battery pack should double my phone’s lifespan between charges.

Looks:

The case comes in two pieces.  The larger piece which contains the battery has a bypass switch on it which allows you to draw from the Mophie juice air battery or the iphone’s internal battery.  There are 5 white LED charge lights on the bottom with accompanying button that when pressed shows the battery strength.  There is a micro USB connection port that allows the device to be charged and sync with a computer via itunes.  There is no need for disassembly of the case to sync and charge both the phone and the battery in the case.  Once the iphone slides into the bottom piece and mates up with the connector that looks like the connector on a standard iphone/ipad/itouch cable, you can then slide the top piece down to cover the top of the iphone. The two pieces come together slightly past a third of the way down from the top of the iphone.

The sides on my juice pack are silver and the back is a matte black.  There are also two other back colors available (red and white).  The back part of the juice pack is a rubbery material that provides some tactile support to help you keep from dropping the phone.

There are cutout slots in the case for the volume controls, mute switch, power button, headphone jack/upper mic, and the camera on the back.

The Good:

The most important question here is does the juice pack well, deliver the juice?  In my testing, the device almost but not quite doubled my battery life.  Normally after a full day of use, my battery is around 50% used up.  I typically have all the antennas on, (3G, GPS, bluetooth, and wifi).  With the mophie juice pack, it doesn’t kick over to the internal battery on my phone until around four in the afternoon.  Realistically, if I pushed it, I probably could get a day and a half of usability from the combination of internal phone battery and the Mophie juice pack.  The documentation says you should get ~500 FULL charges out of the juice pack.  Three recharges of the juice pack while it was at 1/3 battery battery strength counts as one full charge.

The styling is quite nice.  I like the rubberized back on the device.  The juice pack adds about 1cm of length to the phone which isn’t too bad although there is a downside to this as you will see below.  Additionally the back on the juice pack adds about another 5mm of depth to the phone back which isn’t too bad.

I really like how you can charge and sync the device with a micro USB cable.  I have plenty of those floating around from other devices and this makes it easier to sync and charge the device.  I have never liked the proprietary iphone connection cable.

The Bad:

As mentioned above, the length of the juice pack is only increased about 1cm, but that seems to be enough to make the balance of the device “off” in your hand.  When you hold the phone with the juice pack on it, it feels like it going to tip over the top of your hand (and I have fairly large hands).  It isn’t that bad, but it is noticeable.

The phone becomes big enough with the juice pack installed that getting it in and out of jeans pockets takes a little more work.  Again, it isn’t too bad, but those of you wearing tight “lawmen” jeans might want to think twice about getting this battery pack/case.

I wish the case had some sort of latching mechanism for where the two parts of the case come together.  I don’t think it is too big of an issue, but I have already pulled the top piece of the case off pulling the phone out of my pocket.

I would be a little concerned dropping my phone with the juice pack attached to it.  I think my phone would be ok, but I don’t think the juice pack would survive the fall.  With the weight of the phone plus the battery pack and the fact that the silvery band around the case is just colored plastic, I have a sneaking suspicion that it would break quite easily.

There is a very slight degradation in voice quality due to the ports used in the bottom of the juice pack that funnel the speaker sounds up and through it.  Also, callers reported they can hear something when I got a text or email notification and my phone was set to vibrate.  The vibration through the juice pack could be heard according to callers.

The Ugly:

The price.  The list price on the Mophie website is $79.95 at the time of writing.  That is a bit spendy for my tastes.  If it were say $50, I think this would be a much more reasonable price.

Verdict:

If you are looking for a nice extended battery for your iphone 4 and money isn’t an object, I recommend the Mophie juice pack air.  It pretty much doubles your iphone 4’s battery life, it is built well, and it looks great.

******* 7/10 stars

Some pics:  (Note, the LED’s aren’t on all of the time.  I just turned them on to show what they look like)

DSC_1063DSC_1068DSC_1067DSC_1060DSC_1066DSC_1072DSC_1064DSC_1074