Category Archives: Uncategorized

I tried Google’s Chromebook, and nahhh

I’m on a Virgin America flight from Boston to San Francisco right now.  Google has a promotion where they are lending people Chromebooks to try on the 6+ hour flight.  (If you’re really curious, you can read more about this brilliant marketing.) The hook is that you get free in-flight wi-fi if you use the Chromebook.  So I figured I’d save $15, and try it out.

So here’s the thing.  A Chromebook is a laptop, but just with Google Chrome installed.  Well, that’s what it feels like.  It’s actually called Chrome OS.  But all that’s there is the web browser.  You turn on the computer, and you are greeted with the Chrome Browser interface.  But try to close it, and you find you can’t.

That’s actually the point:  You log in, and BOOM, you’re online, no need to launch a web browser.  Alright, great, that’s actually pretty cool.  But that’s also the problem: the whole operating system of the computer is the web browser.  Yes, the operating system (like Windows 7 or Mac OS X) is a web browser.  You can’t install local files.  No iTunes.  No Microsoft Office.  Yes, you can download files like pictures to a small 16GB hard drive.  I also found that, inexplicably, pictures were downloaded at a really crappy resolution, even though I downloaded them full size (such as the ones in this post).

There is also an web-based app store but it doesn’t seem very impressive (though I may be biased).  Plus, I can access this same app store on my MacBook Air or any other computer’s Chrome web browser.  So it’s not exactly a closed ecosystem that would drive sales, like Apple’s.

I’m all for simplicity, but it seems a bit of a waste of the decent (if plastic-feeling) Samsung laptop, which this is installed on.  I could maybe see the idea of an “internet only device” being more interesting as a tablet.  But man, I think that this a super-niche market (right now) that wants to rely on a computer which puts everything in the cloud.  When the GoGo In-Flight Internet drops, I’m limited to doing….. pretty much nothing.  No internet means the computer essentially becomes a very large paperweight.  Google says they are “working on” adding more offline features, but then,doesn’t the Chromebook become just another laptop?

Oh, and did I mention that Chromebooks run for $300-$500?  Yeah, no thanks Google.  Psychologically, I don’t think many people can justify dropping that kind of money for web access.  Yes, we’re moving towards the cloud as a society, but we’re not quite there yet.  For now, I’ll stick to being able to have my computers support local files.

I AM ANGRY

When we describe feelings, we are often taking them on as “us”.  In other words, 99% of the time, we say that we ARE a feeling.  “I am angry” or “I am happy” or “I am frustrated.”

However, that’s not really the case.  You and I, we are not anger.  We are experiencing the feeling of anger.  Anger is occurring within us at a certain moment.  I find there to be immense power in recognizing what is occurring, versus being consumed by a feeling.

In fact, I find the same is true for positive emotions.  If I recognize joy, happiness, gratitude as something that I am experiencing, I am more mindful to it and enjoy it to the fullest.

As soon as I recognizing that I have the feeling of “anger” or “boredom” or “happiness”, it allows me to experience the emotion fully and let it pass.  If I say to myself “I am bored,” then I am literally defining myself as bored, which makes changing (or accepting change from that state) from that much more difficult.

Active remembering of this can be a challenge, but I find that exercise, yoga, and meditation help me to remain present to this.

My iPhone 4S Review – Why so Siri-ous?

It’s Wednesday night.  I’m driving out of work, when I realize that I never replied to my friend Scott letting him now that I’m on my way to meet for drinks.  Normally, this would require pulling over and writing a quick note on my iPhone.  Except, now I have iPhone 4S.  And, therefore, Siri.

I email Scott with my voice.  Yes, it’s the future now.

I’m on 93 South when Scott sends me a text message with the address.  I have Siri read the text to me.  Because I’m not quite sure exactly the best way to get there, I ask Siri for directions.  Up pops Google maps with directions from where I am to the bar.

I’ll be honest.  I was excited about Siri, but she is better than I expected.  She’s not perfect.  I have trouble sometimes in loud spaces, with background noise.  There have been a few times where she’s been “unable to connect to the network”, which I would guess is attributable to the four million plus iPhone 4S’ that Apple has sold in one weekend.  (What?!)  And sometimes, she does mis-understand me.

Quick tangent:  Dictated reminders, by the way, are the killer feature of iPhone 4S.  I can tell Siri to remind me to do anything.  I’ve already used it about a bazillion times, and am in love with not forgetting things.  Siri knows my work and home addresses too, thanks to GPS, allowing me to say, “Remind me to buy honey when I leave work tomorrow.”  Siri knows what I mean, and she will buzz and alert me when you leave work.  This week alone, reminders have ensured that I bought honey and eggs, captured information from a client meeting, listened to Sister Sparrow on Spotify, and did an email intro.  All these forgettable things, remembered.  Yes, the new “Reminders” app is available for all iPhones on iOS 5.  But there’s something special about thinking of something and saying “Siri, remind me to….”

Here’s the truth about Siri.  She’s way smart, usually damn quick at responding, but I can still navigate my phone faster with my fingers.  The beauty of Siri is that I can be doing something else while interacting with my phone on in a conversational tone.  No keywords, just normal questions and statements.  “Tell my girlfriend I’m on my way home.”  (Yes, Siri knows who the important people in your life are, by asking you and then remembering.)

I find Siri to be great to use when I’d otherwise fumble with the phone — setting a timer while cooking, for example, or texting while driving.  But in a normal setting, I can do any of those things quicker just by picking up my phone and using my fingers.  Plus, you can sometimes tell that she’s in beta — she can’t launch apps, for example.  But what she lacks, she makes up in humor.  Ask her to “open the pod bay doors“, for example, and she responds:

I’d be pleased enough with the iPhone 4S with Siri.  But Apple built voice dictation into any app that has a keyboard.  The voice dictation is even more powerful when I combine it with normal use of my iPhone.  I quickly navigate around normally and then dictate instead of typing it on the iPhone keyboard — a keyboard I have always put up with, but never loved.

And damn, is the dictation good.  I have dictated entire emails, and had very, very few mistakes — to the tune of less than 2%.  And these were long emails, dictated at my normal speed of talking.  My normal speed of talking.  The average person speaks at a rate of 110-150 words per minute.  The average person types between 20-50 words per minute.  That means dictation is, on average, between 300-550% faster.

Forget averages, what about for me?  I type damn fast when I put my mind to it, clocking in at around 70 wpm on two tests that I just took.  I also just timed myself speaking normally, and hit 162 wpm.  Even with my fastest typing, dictation is 230% faster.  Over two hundred percent faster!!! Honestly, mind blowing.  It really feels magical.

(Sidebar: In case you’re wondering, to type periods and commas while dictating, you have to say “period” and “comma”.  It’s actually not as hard or annoying as I thought it would be.  Probably because we actually very quickly think “oh, I need to put a comma here” when typing.)

Between Siri and the voice recognition, my efficiency (and joy) of using my iPhone has increased significantly.

Want more?  There’s more.  The camera is so good now that it makes me cringe to think of companies making digital cameras.  Apple must have spent a fair amount of time on the camera, because it takes noticeably better pictures, especially in low-light situations.  See my two photos below for light comparison, with the difference being the overhead apartment light (click to enlarge):

Flowers - Overhead Light On

Flowers - Low Light, Overhead Light Off

With 1080p video, 8 megapixels, and the upgraded optics, I have no reason to use my Panasonic point-and-shoot.  Point-and-shoots are going to go the way of the disposable camera.  The photos and videos are noticeably crisper and more vibrant.  I showed a friend a 1080p video.  His response, “Holy crap, it’s like I’m there!”

Finally, the iPhone 4S is speedier, in the ways that matter.  For example, there is no lag in launching or using applications.  I don’t think I even noticed lag, but I notice not having them.  Things just seem springier.  For example, I hate the Skype application less because it’s about four million times faster at loading messages.  Also, I’m not much of a gamer, but I launched my copy of Infinity Blade and, wow it loaded quick and ran smoother than before.

I had a broken home button on my out-of-warranty iPhone 4, that would have cost $199 to fix.  That was my rationalization for upgrading.  And, as anyone would tell you, I was excited about Siri.  (For those wondering, while a little surprised, I actually could care less about the unchanged design.  iPhone 4 was already beautiful, plus the design has a nice feel to it.)

But this is better than I thought it was going to be.  Once again, Apple has made it feel like I’m not just holding a piece of technology in my hand, but a piece of the future.

The Siri Song

The most powerful thing about Siri,
Is that Siri’s a powerful thing
Her response to you is like lightning
To whatever request you bring
She’s Siri, neary, cheery, deary,
Fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN
And the most powerful thing about Siri
Is that she’s not even done!
Yes, she’s not even done!

(She’s in beta!)

Values

I’m reading a book right now called The Power of Full Engagement. Its thesis is that we don’t need to manage our time, but rather our energy. They postulate four different types of energy: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Further, the authors argue, in order to effectively manage any type of energy, we must oscillate between periods of intense stress and recovery. (Or, to simplify, take breaks to have more energy.)

But what has rung incredibly true is their focus how intrinsic motivation leads to much more energy than extrinsic motivation. I certainly experience this. If I think of something to do, I’m going to be much more energized to do it than if I am told. The source of intrinsic motivation? Values.

I wonder how often we find ourselves in slumps, angry, frustrated or negative because something we “have” to do doesn’t quite align with our values. I bet it’s a fair amount.

Starting simple

It occurs to me that the best way to do anything at all is by starting simple.

Do something once one day and I’ve hit my goal of one. Then once “one” is comfortable, it’s time for two!

Take a large project, break it into its smaller parts and do one smaller part each day, and I’m done before I know it.

Blogging each day for a month seems hard. Picking something to write about — no matter how unpolished — and getting thoughts out each day isn’t so bad. And now I’ve been doing this for two months and it is starting to have that pull of habits.

Start small and it’s easy. Then tweak it so it’s less easy, but not insurmountable. Amazing things seem to follow.

Goodbye, Theo.

Thanks for the memories.  (Seriously.)

No matter what happens with the 2012 Red Sox….   No matter how quickly they do or don’t recover from this debacle of clubhouse malaise, poor leadership, lack of caring, and epic collapse….  No matter all the drama in the media about smear campaigns, ownership, what have you…

No matter all that, I’ll forever thank you.

Through your leadership, you brought me and so many other Sox fans more joy that we could have hoped to experience in our lifetimes.  You turned our baseball world on its head, and I’ll be forever thankful for all you gave us…

A manager we would miss when he left.

Six postseason berths.

An AL East Title.

Two World Championship teams.  

Life is dynamic, and I don’t begrudge you wanting a change, a new challenge, and an opportunity to cement yourself as the GM that turned two epically struggling franchises around.

I was casually a Cubs fan for my NL team, but I’ll be paying attention and rooting for you to pull it off.  Best of luck to you, Theo.

But most of all, thank you for all you did here.  It won’t ever be forgotten.