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What happened to Motorola

Interesting article on what happens when your corporate culture goes bad.

Meanwhile, in arguably one of the worst decisions ever made by a major corporate CEO, Zander struck a deal with his Silicon Valley friend Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple. Together their companies created a Motorola iTunes phone, the first phone connected to Apple’s music store. “We can’t think of a more natural partnership than this one with Apple,” Zander said at the time. Named the Rokr, the phone launched in the fall of 2005. Jobs, who introduced it, called it “an iPod Shuffle right on your phone.”

Zander says he believed that by working with Apple, Motorola could become cool again. But much as it had taught the Chinese to compete with it years before, Motorola was teaching one of the most creative, competitive, and consumer-savvy companies of all time how to make a phone.

Two years later, when Jobs introduced the first iPhone, Zander’s Motorola was still pushing Razrs, pumping up sales by taking new variations further and further downmarket. The result: ever-lower profit margins. One analyst calculated that the company made, on average, only about $5 per device.

Partly because of the huge layoffs of recent years, Motorola’s innovation machine was stalling. The company had long numbered among the top 10 American firms registering U.S. patents, notes analyst Joan Lappin; by 2006 it dropped to No. 34.

Zander insists that he saw the smartphone onslaught coming but that Motorola “didn’t have the DNA or the people” to understand the software involved. He also blames a less-than-speedy Motorola supplier that, he says, caused the company to miss nearly a year in the product cycle. “We should have just broken the contract” with the supplier, he says now. “The one regret I have is that I should have taken myself out of the CEO job and run the [phone] division [myself].”

Another mistake: Zander never engaged in China the way the Galvins had, leaving the details to his division heads and country managers. When China upped its networks to 3G, his managers pushed what they had—older 2G phones—at steep discounts in order to preserve market share, unbeknownst to the CEO. The collapse of the China business in 2007 left Zander dumbstruck. That year the South Korean company Samsung topped Motorola in phone sales for the first time, and it never looked back.

The weekend that was

On Friday evening we headed to the cabin for what we expected was going to be a wet and miserable weekend.  It was but we had a good time.

Oliver was quite sick on Friday morning which meant that Wendy took the day off.  His daycare has a thing about vomitting kids…  They picked me up at work and we were off to the lake and got in there in decent time.

I am nursing an incredibly sore hip so I hobbled in and went to bed.  The boys took Maggi for a long walk and swim in the lake and I was awoken by a wet dog looking to warm up with someone.  Saturday I picked up Oliver’s flu and felt horrible.  Wendy delegated the job of packing Oliver’s stuff to Mark and he didn’t pack any socks and underwear for Oliver so off to Regina we went.  18km of really soft and sloppy roads were not a lot of fun to drive but we made it to the highway.

The rain kept falling the entire time we were in Regina and the road was a slippery and muddy mess by the time we got back to Cymric.  It was a long slow drive back to the cabin where I managed to lose control once.  Not only that but we realized it was going to rain all night and into Sunday. 

I woke up on Sunday morning to a gift of a photography book by Tom Ang, A Walkable City by Jeff Speck, a Black Rapid camera strap, and an podcast attachment for my iPhone.

Here is Speck speaking to TED.

So yeah the drive home was brutal.  The car was covered in mud and it was hard to keep it on the road.  For those who feel that Saskatchewan should be converting more highways into gravel, I respectfully disagree.  The sand base of that road makes more slippery then ice when wet.  So yeah, let’s pave the entire province. 

How an iPhone is Made

Where iPhones Are Made: Interesting Facts on How Much of Apple's Smartphone is US-manufactured

2013 Ford C Max Review

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The latest Ford vehicle I am reviewing is the 2013 Ford C-Max.  After letting Toyota kind of own the hybrid market with it’s Prius, Ford decided to make an excellent hybrid of it’s own.  Two models are headed to dealerships: the C-Max hybrid in September and, a few months later, the plug-in C-Max Energi with a larger battery pack for more electric-only driving.

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I tested a Ford C Max SEL which has leather (heated) seats, keyless start, and the MyFord Touch system.  The model as tested lists at $30,199. With extra options, the price tag can rise past $35,000.  

Before I get into it, one thing that I realized this week is not all people know what a hybrid is or how it works. The difference in a hybrid engine and a standard engine is this – the gasoline engine works in tandem with a two-motor, continuously variable planetary-gear transmission that uses one electric motor to provide traction power to the wheels and one motor to change the C-Max’s battery is a compact, air-cooled 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack mounted under the cargo-area floor and comprised of dozens of cylindrical cells from Sanyo Corporation.  Let’s hope they work better than my Sanyo Sportster.

The result is that when you start the car, you hear nothing other than the fan.  With the Ford Explorer, the keyless entry worked poorly and I have had the same result because it wouldn’t recognize the FOB.  With the C Max, there is no noise because the engine is being powered by that battery pack.  It’s both initially alarming and amazing.  It feels like you are driving the car of the future.

When you get in and are 6’4, you are amazed at how big the car is.  I have always wanted to buy a Ford Grand Marquis and take a summer and explore the #1 Highway and Route 66.  If I was going to do it today, I would buy a Ford C-Max.  Considering the far is small on the outside, it is quite large on the inside with lots of storage space to keep kids, dogs, and gear in.  

In someways it is a bit of a competitor with my the Ford Escape (click here to let you know how much I loved that crossover).  While running some errands with it, we unintentionally parked it beside a 2013 Ford Escape.  Right beside each other you realize that you are not giving much up in terms of space between the C Max and Escape.

As for as in car experience, it was positive.  While I have long had a car charger for my iPhone, the cigarette lighter doesn’t drive enough volts to it to charge it quickly.  In the C Max I would toss my iPhone into the arm rest compartment and it would be charged up in no time.  The only odd part of it was that when the car would start up with the iPhone plugged in, it would start playing my podcasts that I had downloaded to the phone and not the previously playing Sirius Radio.

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The MyFord Touch continues to baffle me.  I have had quite a few issues with the Touch system in each car I have reviewed.  In the Escape it would often talk over a block to switch from the backup camera to the navigation screen.  In the Edge it was incredibly sluggish, a feature that was shared with the Explorer.  In the Ford Escape, it had problems syncing both mine and Chris Enns phone until it just mysteriously started working.

On Saturday night, the Sync just stopped working for some reason while I was driving home from Walmart.  Then the touch screen froze.  I got home, turned off the car and the screen was still on.  20 minutes later, it was still on and I realized that I was going to have a) a dead battery or b) in my neighbourhood, a broken into car.  I wasn’t happy.

I went online to see what the problem is that I saw that MyFord Touch freezing up is a fairly common problem and pretty easily fixed if I wanted to swap out fuses.  I did not but I read of some other solutions that involved driving, waiting, chanting, doing a rain dance, more driving, chanting, and turning off the car.  Since none of these needed a dealer or involved me doing anything to the car, I chose that route and hoped for the best.  

After about 30 minutes the MyFord Touch reset itself.  As a reviewer I found the problem a little irritating as I don’t have a dealer relationship but I took some time to think about it as an owner and I don’t think it would be that bad.  The fix appears to be quite easy (pop some fuses out, wait a few minutes, put them back in) and then all I would have to do is resync my phone.  There are apparently some apps on the Ford website that can induce a reboot and if that is the case, I would just keep a thumb drive in the console.  

So normally you would think that something that happened during a review period would be even worse.  In this case, if I was the owner, I don’t think it would bother me.  Software bugs are a part of our life right now.  Even my Nike Fuel Band needed a firmware update.   Of course with the system being powered by Microsoft, you almost expect the car to have a CTRL-ALT-DELETE key to come installed. :-)  I tend to think that many of these problems will get worked out in the next software update.  Of course like all software updates, that can bring new problems.  During this I was also thinking, while this is annoying, I would hate for this to happen while flying a F-35 Lightening II which has a lot more complicated software and is, you know, a plane designed to fly into hostile airspace.

The only other bad thing about the car can be chalked up to karma.  After testing several cars with heated seats and then quietly turning them up while we drive on the unsuspecting passenger, both Wendy, Mark, and some friends got me with it.  It’s a lot nicer feature when it happens to someone else.

The Hybrid Experience

I really enjoyed driving this hybrid.  Like all Ford Eco vehicles, the leaves appearing and disappearing according to how you drive but for me, the best part of the hybrid experience was a summary screen that showed my fuel usage, efficiency, and mileage at the end of each trip.  It left me thinking as I got out of the car, how that trip could have been more efficient and as I got back in, it made me think how to do this trip better.  I actually walked more and drove less.  I don’t know what that does the Ford C Max sales if it encourages us to drive less but I liked it.  It is something that I would love to see in every vehicle.

A combination of driving less and the hybrid motor meant that I used less than half the fuel that we would normally use in a week.

The rated MPG for the C Max is 47/47 (US) mile per gallon city/hwy EPA-rated.  If you take a look at Fuelly, you will see some real world mileage numbers for a variety of Ford C Max owners.   As you can see, they range from a low of 33 to a high of 48 mpg with the majority averaging around 40 mpg which was a little less than what we got.  I was impressed.  The EPA rated MPG of 47 was higher than the Toyota Prius but the Fuelly numbers show a different story.  It’s an issue that has caused Ford some problems but the National Post suggest the way that the EPA calculates fuel economy is “asinine” and inaccurate.

So, why is there such a vast discrepancy? That I cannot state for sure, although the tests used to generate the “official” federal numbers are asinine, particularly when it comes to calculating the highway consumption figure. I quote: “The highway test simulates a 16-km trip with an average speed of 77 km/h and a top speed of 97 km/h.” Ask yourself, when was the last time you drove on the highway following this guideline? I never have because it could involve getting run over by a tractor trailer — to my mind, that sort of highway speed should be classified as dangerous driving.

That being said, when I was out on the highway and hit the cruise, the Ford Eco engine would kick in and I burned very little fuel at 100 kph.  Low RPMs and almost no engine noise even though the 2.0L/188 hp engine is doing almost all of the work.   Because of it’s larger size and larger engine, I would expect highway fuel economy to be good but not amazing, essentially because at that speed, the electric engine isn’t doing the work, the gas one is.  

The Rest of the Car

As Mark will post later tonight, the backseat experience is good.  My 13 year old had adequate foot room and as I could see on the passenger side, Oliver was able to reach the back of his mother’s seat with his feet.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

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I did plug my iPod Nano into the Sony audio system, something that I hadn’t done lately and took the car for a drive.  The sound is rich and nuanced.  While any car audio experience isn’t as rich because of the road noise, it does generate a nice rich sound.  It goes back to my initial thoughts about the car, this is a car that you will enjoy highway travelling in.

The batteries go in the back which does reduce trunk space a bit.  Here is the rear storage area with a window in it (it’s going to the cabin)

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Underneath the back compartment there is a secret compartment.  Well not secret but a good place to hide Christmas gifts while you are out shopping with the family. 

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Mark said you someone could use it for contraband but my thinking if you are that bad of a smuggler, Jabba the Hut or the RCMP has tossed you in jail years ago. 

To be honest, the storage thing is really not that big of deal for me.  I drove the C Max Energi in Regina and there is less storage in it but there is still a large room to put a dog, gear, groceries, or hockey equipment.  The hidden storage compartment would be perfect for a tool kit and emergency gear.  

Would I Buy a Ford C Max?

I love the Ford Escape but I would be sorely tempted to buy a Ford C Max.  A combination of fuel efficiency and so much interior room would make up for the Escape’s all wheel drive.  More importantly I think Wendy liked the C Max more so it may be a decision that is out of my hands.  If you are thinking of a hybrid or just a new car, head down to your local Ford dealer and make sure you take a test drive.  It’s worth checking out.

Why your iPhone is stifling your creativity

From Fast Company

The value of boredom

Boredom has been defined as wanting to be able to engage in a satisfying activity and not being able to. Its sibling is downtime, both of which the smartphone–and the Angry Birds it implies–eradicates. Another way to look at boredom, Hall says, is to think of it as a creative pause where your mind can drift, which allows you to integrate your recent experiences into your present state of mind.

Sitting with boredom

So let’s get a little bit more refined in our terminology: it’s not that we should be in useless awful meetings, the kind that prompt the feeling of I’m so bored!, but rather that we resist the urge to always act on that gestural itch and give our brains a mindful break or time to daydream. Like any designer will tell you, absence has presence. Not doing is a kind of doing.

The boredom diet

In the same way that what we eat when we’re hungry has short- and long-term consequences, the actions we take when we’re bored have ongoing outcomes. So says NYU’s Gary Marcus: if you’re bored and use that energy to play an instrument and cook, you’ll be growing; if you drool before your television, you might be happy for a second, but that stimulation junk food will depress you later.

Since most of what we do on our phones is the daily dillydallying of social networks, playing games, and texting, your iPhone acts like an endless supply of Cheetos.

So before you dissolve into your screen, check your fingers for orange dust.

CSR Racing

I am not much of a gamer but I have been playing CSR Racing on my Mac lately.  It’s a simple drag racing game where you have beat “crews” to move up.  To do that you need to win some races where you win cash and then you have to upgrade your car.  Most cars need four levels of upgrades to win and there is a bit of skill involves in it as well.

The fun part of the game is that you can only race as long as you have gas and you can easily run out of gas.  To get more gas, you can pay but I am too cheap to do that or you can wait an hour to two hours for your tank can fill.  The game is free and they depend on people more impatient than cheap but for me it is great as I can play it for 10 minutes, be done and then pick it up later.  It’s like gaming designed for those of us with short attention spans.

As you can see, I started the game with a Mini Cooper S, moved to a Mustang GT, then a BMW M3 Coupe, and now a Corvette ZR1 (which is underpowered compared to the other cars in the tier and getting beat a lot).  And yes I seem to like the colour red.

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It’s a fun game to play and it’s free to try (and keep playing).  If you have a iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, you can play it on each either one of those devices.

The truth about phones on airplanes

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Husband / Father / Boyfriend (all of the men in your life) | 2012 Edition

It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible Christmas gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following.  I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and here it is.  Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below.  For the entire list of Christmas gift guides, click here.

Tablets

I bought Jordon an iPad last Christmas and has has loved it.  Now he is an Apple person (iPod, iPad, iPhone, and a MacBook) but not everyone is.  The good news is that there are some amazing tablets on the market for both Android, Apple, and even Blackberry users.

When you are looking for a tablet, make sure you understand how the person is going to use it.  I bought Jordon a 16gb iPad because Jordon is going to use it for some writing (using Pages, the occasional Keynote presentation) and surf the web.  He had no intention on putting his music on his iPad because he uses his iPod for that task.  If he was going to use it as a all-in-one machine, I would have gone out and got him a 64gb version.

Also, some have bought them with the idea that they will replace their laptop or computer.  They really don’t for most of our friends (although as I was typing this, Jordon points out that he has never seen Saskatoon City Councillor Charlie Clark use anything but his iPad and his Logitech keyboard/case).

Whatever your preference,  I have listed tablets from all operating systems below.

Google Nexus 10Android | Nexus 10 ($409) and Nexus 7 ($209) from Google.  Both offer world class speed and design and in a lot of ways are designed and produced to set the standard for Android devices running on tablets in the same way Google designed the Nexus phone to do for smartphones.

Android | Kindle Fire 8.9 ($299) and Kindle Fire HD($199)  Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire to mediocre reviews last year but has stepped up their game with the Kindle Fire 8.9 inch tablet and the Kindle Fire HD which offers retina level display on an Android device.  If you surf the web a lot, the Kindle Fire has the fastest wifi of any tablet out there.

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iPad MiniApple | iPad ($499)) and iPad Mini ($329) | While more expensive then the Kindle Fire HD, it has the advantage of the most spectacular collection of apps out there.  Also it offers fantastic integration between your iPhone and Mac.  Like I said  before, Jordon has an iPad 2 and loves it.

Blackberry PlaybookBlackberry Playbook ($194 for a 32gb model) | I include this here because I know there is still a passionate community of Blackberry users out there.  It’s a good value for the price but it doesn’t have a lot of apps for it.  It’s one of those things that I would get for a guy who knew what he was getting and still really wanted.  When I asked Jordon, he said there are those out that that still live and die on Blackberry Messenger and it has that… kind of.  Maybe you should just get any Blackberry lovers on your list, a new phone.

Music

iPod Classic ($249) | iPod Nano ($149) | iPod Touch($299)

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Depending on the person you are shopping for, they are going to have different demands on what they want out of a iPod or MP3 player.  Some people want all of their music at their fingertips all of the time, some want something to work out with, and some want to be connected to all of their apps while they are listening to their music.  Whatever kind of person you are shopping for, there is an iPod for them.

Sony WalkmanIf the person you are shopping for isn’t an Apple fan, look at a Sony Walkman ($110).  While the design and features look amazing, I am a little surprised it only comes in a 8 gb version, of which 1.25 gb is used by the software.  So if you are looking for a 6.75 gb MP3 player in a great design package and a good price, here it is.  It is slightly smaller than the Apple iPod Nano but has a lot of the same features.  While MP3 quality is lacking, with Sony you know you are getting something that is quality made and designed.

41mxVSz7SkLWhatever MP3 player you get, you will want to upgrade the headphones.  JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme ($17) headphones are much loved at an affordable price.  The series feature a bass port for outstanding bass reproduction, a durable rubber protector for impact protection and to help withstand heavy use, and a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug.  The Xplosive Xtreme also comes with a handy carrying case. 2.6mm-thick and robust 1.2m pure copper cable (Y-type) Special hard carrying case included S/M/L silicone ear-pieces included Gold-plated 3.5mm stereo straight plug iPod, iphone and iPad compatible.

If you aren’t sure the person you are shopping for would appreciate a MP3 player, why not pick up a Polaroid 8 gb MP3 player ($40)?  It may not have the features of the iPod or Walkman but it does offer a really good value and is expandable with a SDHC card.

iHome Rechargeable Mini Speakers ($45) | These are incredible speakers that provide a rich sound.  They have a carrying case which means that they get taken with us everywhere, just like our iPods.

iHome Rechargable Mini Speakers

They work great with our iPods, netbooks, and our portable DVD player.

Tivoli Model One ($149) | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it.  We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin.  It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends.  The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station.  Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio.  Different design but same classic look.

Office

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen ($38)

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen

Every guy needs a nice pen and this fountain pen is both affordable enough to give a nice gift but if high enough quality to last for decades.  If you aren’t sure the person on your list would appreciate a fountain pen, you won’t go wrong with a Parker IM rollerball pen($19).

Parker IM Rollerball Pen

Tabletop fountain ($49) | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in.  At The Lighthouse, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry.  A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit.  Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries.  It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.

Wrapped leather journalOf course he will need something to write down his profound thoughts in so why not give him a leather wrapped journal for Christmas?  Chapters/Indigo has an amazing one for $45.  While you are at it, check out this $15 5 inch globe.

Video and Camera

71cqBTpP-3L._AA1500_GoPro HD Hero 2 ($199) | Born from a passion to capture your love of life from your perspective, this camera is a feat of engineering. Wearable and gear mountable, waterproof to 197′ (60M) and boasting an immersive 170° wide-angle lens, the HD HERO2 has ushered in a new era of image capture. Professional quality 30 fps 1080p and 60 fps 720p video, combined with 11 megapixel still photo capture that has landed magazine covers.  It’s a great camera and a lot of fun for the entire family.    With this grab bag of mounts, you can hook it up to almost anything.

Sony Bloggie ($69) | Jordon has a Kodak Zi8 for years and has loved it.  We gave Lee a Flip camera a year ago and even Mark has one.  While you cell phone can record HD video, it doesn’t have the same kind of quality than a dedicated video camera gives you and it is a lot easier to deal with a SD card than trying to get a video off your iPhone.  If the guy you are shopping for is one that loves to take video, make sure you check this camera out.

Fuji Fine Pix XP50 ($150) | For years we have been fans of Fuji point and shoot cameras and the XP50 is no exception.   It’s waterproof to a depth of 5m and can capture both movies and still images underwater. The camera’s casing will withstand shocks or drops from a height of 1.5m, while cold environments are also no problem for this rough and ready device. The FinePix XP50 can withstand temperatures down to -10°C and dust is never a problem, with all the camera’s access points specially sealed for ultimate protection.

If the guy you are shopping for loves audio or is a podcaster, consider getting him a Blue Snowball ($60)or Yeti USB ($109) microphone.  Both provide amazing clear sound and are a significant upgrade over the internal microphone in a laptop.

Home

31531_lBlack and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker ($48) | Jordon is a coffee connoisseur and while the ultimate way to make a cup of coffee is with a French Press or a Aeropress coffee maker ($25), he doesn’t always have time.  For times when he needs 8 cups of coffee relatively quick and wants it to stay fresh for a while, there is this thermal coffee maker from Black and Decker.  With a stylish design and durable stainless steel carafe, this 8-cup coffeemaker is perfect for home, office or practically anywhere you want hot, fresh coffee at the touch of a button. All this, plus an easy-clean control panel and dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless clean up.  The advantage of the carafe is that you won’t be stuck with hot burnt coffee in case you don’t get it off the maker in time.  The coffee will be as hot and fresh later as it is right now.

Atari Flashback ($50)| Over 75 Atari 2600 games all in one console.  Jordon laments the exclusion of Pac-Man but you can get Missile Command, Asteroids, and Combat all on console.  Let him relive his childhood at the same time making him a subject of mockery of any child in the family.

PlayStation 3 ($269) | Yes it’s a game console but it’s also a Blu-Ray and DVD player, a Netflix player (which works way better than the Wii), and allows the family to play online.  We use it all of the time to watch Netflix, movies, and also we still play a fair amount of games.  While it’s not something that we would ever consider essential to our family life, it’s hard to imagine doing without.

Leatherman Skelatool ($42) or the Gerber Suspension Multitool ($26) | Both are amazing multi-tools and life is just better for men when they know they have a great multi-tool within reach.  If the guy you are shopping for needs something even smaller, then check out the Cabela’s multi-tool.  A great tool in a small package.

While the guys I know aren’t big on jewellery, they do appreciate a nice watch.  If the guy you are shopping for loves a nice watch, check out the Timex Expedition Rugged Field Watch ($46), the Timex Expedition Digital/Analog watch ($44.96) or the rather classic Timex Atlantis 100 ($31).

Parrot AR Drone 2.0

Finally don’t forget probably the most wanted gift of the season, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 ($300) The Parrot AR.Drone is the first quadricopter that can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. By tilting your device, you control the direction of your AR.Drone, and by releasing it, the AR.Drone is instantly stabilized. Thanks to the AR.Drone’s autopilot feature, anyone can be an expert as the AR.Drone allows for an easy take-off and landing.  It’s about as amazing and as much found as it sounds.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Defective Parts

A couple of years ago I would periodically stumble to my right from time to time.  I wouldn’t fall but I would find myself hitting a wall once in a while and that was embarrassing.  It was totally random and it was more annoying than anything.  I did go see my doctor who sent me to a neurologist who did a bunch of painful testing.  Part of what I learned was that my nerves were either non-responsive, really slow, or misfiring in parts of my leg.  As they would misfire or not respond, I would stumble a bit.

Misfiring nerves has been the story of the last eight or nine years of my life.  What drove me to getting help for my diabetes was the knowledge that something was wrong because of the pain in my extremities.  The pain never left but got progressively worse.  Nerve pain is unlike anything else you will ever have and my polyneuropathic pain dominated my life for a couple of years.  It was all encompassing and nothing helped.  Anywhere I had nerve endings (feet, hands, face) was in overwhelming pain for months at a time.  It was relentless.  Pain medication didn’t help.  Stuff like Oxycontin didn’t help and had some annoying side effects at a time in my life when the last thing I needed was annoying side effect.  While nerve pain is horribly painful, it is kind of fun to reflect on.  I remember being in excruciating pain and thinking, “This is a new kind of pain, it’s like I am being drilled into slowly” while other times it felt very much like being burned or being electrocuted. While the pain has become more manageable, it is still there, all of the time.

Since then it has gotten progressively worse where now walking is a conscious effort many days.  What I mean by that is that it’s no longer natural and I find myself thinking about the constant lack of balance that I feel.  They tell you as a kid that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget.  Well apparently that’s not true because I am forgetting how to walk.  It’s not noticeable for others unless I can’t see where I am walking, like carrying things down stairs or if I am walking in a residential neighbourhood which really bad sidewalks like Mayfair (the old trees lift the sidewalks). I also can’t use my iPhone and walk at the same time.  Fatigue also plays a role.  All I know is that I hate this with a passion.

With it getting worse, I went and had more tests done and the result is that I am losing my ability to walk.  No body knows how long but it is degenerative and will continue to get worse.  There are things I can do to slow it but I can’t really ever stop it.  The doctor said that it may plateau and be manageable with a cane but that is a best case scenario.  Worst case is that it continues to spread.

I don’t know how to feel about it.  Yesterday was a day of cancer, suicides, and serious health issues for the clients I work with and I just shrug that off.  It’s part of life.  So too is this.  It’s part of my life and I need to deal with it.  It’s frustrating because it’s not something that I can tackle head on and fight.  It’s my body giving up on me and I hate that.  All I know is if I get a cane, I want one of those ones with the blade hidden in the handle like all of the spies had in the Len Deighton novels I read as a kid. 

This sucks.

Why I hate the cloud.

I have had a Gmail account since Gmail opened it’s second round of invites years ago.  Users had five invites and because I was only two degrees separated from someone at Blogger, I got one.  It was like gold and it was amazing.  Within days I stopped using Outlook and started to rely on Gmail for all of my email.  The launch of Google Calendar meant that I could move my life to the cloud and it worked perfectly for me for years.  When I was at the Salvation Army Community Services, we used Google Apps to power email which meant that I never did need Outlook or anything there either.  With Google Calendar integration I could have my life at a glimpse.  While I was always frustrated that Google Contacts didn’t sync up Google apps and my personal address book, it worked well enough that I didn’t complain.

About six months ago a friend emailed from a major U.S. company.  I had sent him an unimportant email about a year earlier and he never got it until that day.  He blamed his company email system and I never thought about it.  During this time I would send my column to two different email addresses at The StarPhoenix and every once in a while I would get an email close to my deadline and it would be the editor asking for my column.  It kind of freaked me out but again I would think it was The StarPhoenix’s email system and I would send it again and it would be good.  I was using Google’s email system after all.  Now my editor just emails me back as soon as he gets it.  I still get nervous when I don’t get an immediate reply but he is human and could actually be doing other things but even two weeks ago I was surprised how long it took him to reply and I wondered if the column got there or if he was busy.   It isn’t just him, during that time I would email someone once in a while at The StarPhoenix and wouldn’t get a reply.  Some email gets replied to, some doesn’t and I figured it didn’t get replied to.

Then my email got hacked and it was a horrifying experience.  During that time I lost some email but blamed it on that.  I have a new password (my old one was only six letters and one digit long) and then brought in double authentication but I was still wondering why I didn’t get replies at times.  The last couple of weeks since I have had my new phone, it has been happening more and more and I was blaming the phone.  Like many of you, I have 3G connection issues in parts of Saskatoon and was wondering if that was the problem.  Over the last couple of days, everyone has been pissed off at me for missing emails and I realized I was also getting them out of sync.  I also fired off some important email and people are telling me they never got them.  That scared me because both were really tech competent people on reliable mail servers and the email was sent by my laptop via the Gmail interface.  No email client, no phone, just me and the computer sending to two different reliable email services. I contacted Google and haven’t heard a thing back.  I was searching my email tonight looking for emails that I knew I had not deleted and there was a massive hole from 2008 in it.  I know was recently hacked but those emails were restored.  No sign of it at all today.

I remember the rants that Tech Crunch used to have when Google Voice was offline and I now understand what they were so angry about.  Google isn’t just providing a service, they are providing a service I rely on dearly.  When the internet went down on my block, I can work around that, my primary email acct not working is horrific.  My friend Nathan had a horrible experience with Twitter.  It was mindboggling how stupid it was over a glitch that was completely their fault.  They finally just stopped talking to him about their problem and he was locked out of his account.  All of this contacts and followers were gone and there isn’t much you can do about it.

What’s even more bizarre is that when you read the Google help forums, I am not alone.  Some are user error but most are just disappearing emails.  The thing is that the reason I went to Gmail in the first place was because of Google’s reliability.   What I found out is that it is company that really offers no customer service at all.  They talk all of the time about the small % of users affected.  That’s great that it is .61% until you are one of the quarter of a million users that are affected and then it is no fun at all. 

The other hard part is that who do you contact at Google?  You can’t call them or write a support ticket.  You can leave a note in the forum.  Back in the days when Blogger was small and buggy, you knew you could email Ev or Biz and get a response.  Even today with Dreamhost, I can get a support ticket answered within minutes but I can’t with Google. 

I use Koodo as my cell phone provider.  It is horrible to use to send texts.  I just was sending texts back and forth with Seabass (if you know who I am talking about, you will get it) and I had about 10 “fail to send” texts but I know that my texts are not getting through and I know that he isn’t getting them.  Yet when I text’d a guy I’ll just refer to as Man-Bag yesterday, he said he never got it which is an entire other frustration.  Is it Koodo or Sasktel or the fact he may not understand his new iPhone.  It’s frustrating and now I am mad at Google, SaskTel, Man-Bag, and Koodo.  I’ll quit while I am behind.

I’d tell you to email me with your suggestions but I won’t get it.

We love our smartphones

I may not be addicted to my Blackberry so much as I just really love it.

Friends who have accidentally left home without their iPhones tell me they feel stressed-out, cut off and somehow un-whole. That sounds a lot like separation anxiety to me. Not long ago, I headed an effort to identify the 10 most powerful, affecting sounds in the world: I found that a vibrating phone came in third, behind only the Intel chime and the sound of a baby giggling. Phantom vibration syndrome is the term I use to describe our habit of scrambling for a cellphone we feel rippling in our pocket, only to find out we are mistaken. Similar to pressing an elevator button repeatedly in the belief that the elevator will descend sooner, we check our phones for e-mails and texts countless times a day, almost as if we can will others to text, call, e-mail or Skype us.

So are our smartphones addictive, medically speaking? Some psychologists suggest that using our iPhones and BlackBerrys may tap into the same associative learning pathways in the brain that make other compulsive behaviors — like gambling — so addictive. As with addiction to drugs or cigarettes or food, the chemical driver of this process is the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.

Earlier this year, I carried out an fMRI experiment to find out whether iPhones were really, truly addictive, no less so than alcohol, cocaine, shopping or video games. In conjunction with the San Diego-based firm MindSign Neuromarketing, I enlisted eight men and eight women between the ages of 18 and 25. Our 16 subjects were exposed separately to audio and to video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone.

In each instance, the results showed activation in both the audio and visual cortices of the subjects’ brains. In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects’ brains didn’t just see the vibrating iPhone, they “heard” it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also “saw” it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia.

But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.

In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.

It’s really not that much of a mystery of why we love our phones.  In an age of being increasingly disconnected because of working hours, distance, or other reasons, our phones bring all of our connections back into focus.  We don’t love our phones, we love how they bring people back into our lives.

Another horrible strategic move by Nokia

Since launching Windows Phone 7, it’s marketshare has dropped 38% which means that by the time that Nokia introduces Windows Phone 7 devices, the OS may be about as popular as the Symbian OS it dropped in support of Windows 7.

The question is for how much longer handset makers and carriers will consider it worth supporting Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s mobile market share has been declining at a compound rate of about 5% per month for the past six months. At that pace, its overall share may be be hovering around just 4% by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, rival Google is on track to dominate smartphones. Android devices held 40% of the market as of the end of June, according to Comscore. Apple’s share came in at 26.6%, while RIM’s share, also in decline, fell to 23.4%.

i don’t know of a single user of Windows Phone 7 now that I think about it.  No one I know even talks about it.

Anyone see anything wrong with this ad?

The Toronto Sun doesn't know what an iPhone isIf you can’t tell the difference between a Windows Phone and an iPhone, how do we trust you to get the important things right. Everyone asks me why I care if a news outlet spells my name right.  CBC is the absolute worst for this.  On camera I spell out my name.  I give the reporter a business card and then when I look online or watch the news, it is spelled wrong.  I don’t care that much but it’s careless and it bugs me and I immediately wonder what else they have gotten wrong.

A couple of reporters have said that I should use the report a typo form and I have and nothing has ever happened so I give up.  Maybe I should legally change my name to Jordan and just give up.  That and maybe I’ll pick up a Windows Phone 7 like the one to my right.

The right tool to tell a story

The New York Times on using the iPhone to tell a story in a war zone.

“Composing with the iPhone is more casual and less deliberate,” Mr. Winter said. “And the soldiers often take photos of each other with their phones, so they were more comfortable than if I had my regular camera.”

Mr. Winter even found himself taking a few iPhone pictures during firefights while he was shooting video with his single-lens reflex (a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, as long as we’re on the subject). The Hipstamatic app forced him to wait about 10 seconds between photos, so each one had to count.

Rewired for the digital age (and that’s not necessarily a good thing)

From the New York Times

Sam Crocker, Vishal’s closest friend, who has straight A’s but lower SAT scores than he would like, blames the Internet’s distractions for his inability to finish either of his two summer reading books.

“I know I can read a book, but then I’m up and checking Facebook,” he says, adding: “Facebook is amazing because it feels like you’re doing something and you’re not doing anything. It’s the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway.”

He concludes: “My attention span is getting worse.”

The entire article is a must read I am amazed at how passive families and parents are about their kids school work.  I was a noted slacker when I was a teenager about homework but my mother rode me to get it done.  While one student points out that there was distractions out there, there has always been distractions.

But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate.

“I realized there were choices,” Vishal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.”

This isn’t new.  I was grounded from early in grade seven (other than church and hockey) until sometime in grade 8 without a break.  Even over the summer months.  It wasn’t one big grounding but a series of smaller ones that kept being added on.  Eventually my mother took away television, then my radio in my room, my toys and I still found new ways not to do homework but eventually you realize that this world demands something of you and you have to focus.

Students say that their parents, worried about the distractions, try to police computer time, but that monitoring the use of cellphones is difficult. Parents may also want to be able to call their children at any time, so taking the phone away is not always an option.

Other parents wholly embrace computer use, even when it has no obvious educational benefit.

“If you’re not on top of technology, you’re not going to be on top of the world,” said John McMullen, 56, a retired criminal investigator whose son, Sean, is one of five friends in the group Vishal joins for lunch each day.

Well first of all, why does a kid need a smartphone.  One student sent 27,000 text messages last month.  That can be controlled by downgrading her phone, limiting her outgoing messages to a more manageable number, and then demanding that she has to have cell phone minutes and and available text messages if she wants to go out.  Since when is “unlimited texting” and unlimited web access a human right?  The Nokia 1100 is the world’s most popular phone and really does someone going to school needs more than that?  250,000,000 users have gotten by with it but in North America, Rogers, Bell, and AT&T have got us convinced that a $600 smartphone is our only option.

“I’m doing Facebook, YouTube, having a conversation or two with a friend, listening to music at the same time. I’m doing a million things at once, like a lot of people my age,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll say: I need to stop this and do my schoolwork, but I can’t.”

That is why kids need parents.  They can’t always draw boundaries themselves.  Sadly it seems like all of us are having a harder and harder time drawing those boundaries.