Hello, I'm Sig.  I develop cool things.

Minifying Life + Backups

Ya know, I was looking around today and starting to realize the fruits of some of my labours over the past couple of months.

If there were to be some disaster today, and I only had a few moments to grab my valueables, I would be very confident that all I need to do is grab my dog and maybe (big maybe) something like my wallet or cell phone.  I’ve been removing clutter of late and been trying to continually get down to the “bare essentials.”

So what does that actually mean?  More peace of mind than one might realize.

Many people dread losing items that have sentimental or intrinsic value — for me that would consist of pictures, gifts from family/friends, and items I tend to cary on my person or that otherwise identify myself (drivers license, credit card, phone, passport, birth certificate, etc).  The entire goal of planning for the worst is something of an optimization problem (there’s likely a mathematical proof or equation floating around for this already—if so, go read that). 

In this day and age, we have things like “cloud computing” that consumers can now take advantage of.  Being a person who loves the subscription economy we’ve dived into as consumers (more on this in another post), I’m totally biased to solutions that might cost a small dime, but provide great value over the course of their service.

The simplest solution to ensure that, given the worst disaster where your house burns down and you lose everything you own, how do you recover priceless memorabilia or family herlooms or photos/family videos?  The answer is: digitize that, damnit (DTD).  In using DTD, you can quickly realize just how little you may lose in the worst of events.  Further, it’s always worth noting the services you can utilize to ensure that should you lose everything you own, there’s a path to getting those items back.

Backing up your content online is the easiest means of ensuring data loss prevention in the long run.  Things you might be interested in scanning and storing would be items like a birth certificate, social security card, drivers license, passport.  DTD and then throw those items on a backup. 

Family photos and such are priceless.  Once they burn or get soaked, you’ll never be able to restore them to what they were.  Accidents happen more ofte then not, and it’s best to store and organize those images.  What to do?  DTD and then throw those items on a backup.

Aunt Nelda’s pearls or Uncle Ed’s gun collection will be a tough go to replace.  I’m leaving you, dear reader, to figure out how best to protect those valueables.  If you leave them on display because they give you pleasure, it’s naturally a risk for theft/disaster.  If you lock something away in a fireproof cabinet of sorts, then it kind of defeats the purpose of enjoying those artifacts.  Nonetheless, whatever you decide to do, know that your dear old pictures of Aunt Nelda and Uncle Ed will be meticulously maintained.

Once you have your backups, the most critical (and by most critical I mean *the* most critical) step is get those backups onto the cloud.  Backup everything.  It’s cheap, it’s easy, and works for you.  Where do you go to find a backup service?  Try googling Carbonite or something along those lines.  After you’ve got that running, be sure to back up all of your documents, photos, and files on your computer(s) as well. 

Assuming you’ve got an interest in doing the above steps, what did you get?  For about $15 a month you likely have a new backup service, you’ve digitized your entire photo collection, identification documents, and any other personal documents of interest, and guess what?  That wasn’t so bad.  Fifteen dolllars a month (depending on the service you use) is relatively cheap, and buys you a good bit of peace of mind.  That’s one small step on the way to a much less worrisome scenario should the worst happen.

Another item that you should consider heavily (assuming you’re a renter) is renters insurance.  This is on the order of $20/month depending on where you live, but it reimburses you for physical items that you’d be likely to replace in the event of a disaster.  This one’s kind of obvious, and homeowners insurance can serve a relatively similar purpose here as well.

So what about the rest of your stuff?  How can you minimize risk when it comes to other items you own?  Aside from replacement, there are plenty of other options available.  I used to have a (very) large collection of books and movies.  I amazon-ed/ebay-ed all those suckers and am getting digital copies as I go.  Magazine subscriptions are moving that way as well.  I bought my first digital edition of .Net magazine recently, and am looking forward to cancelling all my physical copies and just going with the digital version in the near future for all magazines.

Music is another area that is very hard to part ways with.  Certain records have a good bit of sentimental value when listening to them.  I’ve kept a handful of my favorites, but the rest of em’ I sold online as well.  With subscription services like Spotify, Pandora and Amazon’s cloud player, I’m a pretty happy camper having everything in digital format.

Services are again starting to creep into the discussion of this post.  Overall, I’d guess that for well under $100 / month I have relatively easily replaced most all of my CD’s, DVD’s, books and now backup as many items as I can think of to the cloud without issue.  Next up?  I’m selling a bunch of extra computer components, furniture and other trinkets lying around to get ever closer to my goal of owning only 100 things.  I’m not far off now… not far off at all.

Moving from paperback to eBooks... Is this the future?

I’ve recently decided that I wanted to minify my life, much like one might minify javascript on a webpage (really bad example, but they both use the word minify which works out well).  I got the idea from the “100 things challenge”.

My parents consider me to be a minimalist already, but that’s part of what comes with living in a city.  People in cities tend to be more conscious about the space they live in because the dollar per square foot ratio is a bit higher than rural areas. The question I started to approach was how do I run a minify operation on my life, such that I can really understand what a functional person needs in order to be satisfied in the technology age.  My motiviations are purely economical.  It’s not that I’m looking to save money by selling or donating a ton of junk, rather I’m trying to see a business model that might be interesting to a recent college grad with his or her first apartment and job after leaving school.

I’ve noticed advertisements to rent a neighbors call for a few hours which directly competes with the City Car Share and Zip-Car services in the bay area.  Spotify launched in the U.S. and I’ve noticed facebook friends who I don’t view as nerdy/geeky to be using subscription-based streaming music services to get their music fix (e.g. Rhapdsody, Spotify, Rdio, etc.).  I also took a class in grad school in understanding technology and the services industry a good while back and have found the subject to be a bit fascinating.  I think the world is moving from product to services, and technology will be a major player in that movement.

What does this have to do with moving from paperback books to eBooks?

This is a step that I think the next generation won’t be making.  The future won’t have people moving from paperback to eBooks, they’ll already be using tablets to buy, rent or checkout books, magazines, and newspapers.  The concept of buying a physical book is going to foreign to many kids in the very near future.

I’m willing to bet that the government will take a look at public education in the near future and realize it’s cheaper to get kids new textbooks by giving them a tablet and sending them an eBook version rather than buying, shipping and re-using (outdated) textbooks year after year.  These kids will be looking at the economy in a vastly different way than the likes of anyone not having experienced this.  This group of individuals will look at the world wanting to understand what method is easiest to consume the content they’re looking to utilize.  Before this generation of kids, we decided we liked a particular magazine and bought a subscription which was delivered to our door every month.  This group of individuals may buy a service which allows them to look at the last 50 issues of any one of their favorite magazines and new ones as they come out on a digitial device.  That’s a good bit different from the way we do things now.

I am a massive fan of the subscription economy, which I plan to blog a whole lot about in the very near future, and think that’s the way our entire society will move towards.  It will be a massive shift in focus from a product / ownership-based economy in the short future.

As I started looking through my collection of books, I realized that some I’d read and kept on a bookshelf with no intention to read them again.  Others were textbooks from my undergrad or grad work that are very specific in nature and likely nothing I’d need that I wouldn’t be willing to buy again should I need a copy in the future (assuming a digital copy wouldn’t be available at that point in time).  A small set of books I realized I couldn’t part with.  These are books that an author had signed or had some special significance to myself.  The last set of books were mostly technical reference books that had an e-book version I could replace it with.

To help get the ball rolling, I shipped all the books to Amazon (including a few DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s I didn’t have a need to watch anymore).  The “Fullfillment by Amazon” feature is fantastic.  Ship your books to them, set a price, they notify you when something sells.  That way, the books are immediately removed from my life, and I get some money from month to month as they sell.  Granted, Amazon takes a bigger chunk out of the profits in this scenario than if you were to sell it yourself on Amazon or trade it in to a bookstore.  I found this to be the easiest method for me.

Step two was to order a kindle (I opted for a Kindle Fire, but think I may get an e-ink version as well).  When my Kindle Fire arrives, I’ll be purchasing replacements of a few books I know I’ll need (as many raw PDF copies as possible for backups and portability to other devices) and only buying new eBooks through early March 2012. 

I believe this will be enough time to evaluate what life is like when getting rid of most of my technical books and opting for electronic copies.  Part of this results in me getting rid of my bookcase/desk which became a storage haven for most all books, and cleaning out a few dust-balls collected behind those pieces of furniture.

I’ll let you know how it goes in a few weeks when my Kindle device arrives!

Updated website + more blogs

I’ve cleaned up my act.  It’s time that I regularly blogged about everything going on in the (technology) world that I care can gripe about.

I hope you enjoy my new site!  I plan to post multiple times a week on Android and iOS development, other Joomla projects I’m still working on, and how to take over the world (in 6 ~ 10 steps).

My resume is horribly out of date, but no matter! I pledge to update that within the next decade as well (it’s a bit farther down on my to-do list).

With a little luck, some of the stuff I blog about my be of interest to the other software engineers floating around the world.  I’m totally pumped to be attending O’Reilly’s Android Open 2011 conference.  Hopefully I’ll get to learn a heck of a lot that I didn’t over the three days.  A couple of my coworkers at SendMe are going as well, so it should be a pretty fun affair for us to see what the rest of the android mobile app world is doing.  At least those that have decided to trek to San Francisco.

Aside from that, I plan to post some new music recordings here and there on the site as I find time, and also post pictures of my adorable little nephews as I get new pictures in.  In addition I get some pretty nice photos from my other sister in Beijing, China (which I’m planning to visit early next year), which I plan to post as I get them as well.

My new years resolution was to blog more.  This marks the first blog post I’ve done in 2011.  As unimpressive as it seems, we’ll see if I can keep up to my goal and accomplish that little resolution I made such a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away…).

Selling Smartphones

One of the biggest problems (in my opinion) with cell-phone carriers these days is the inability to really try a cell-phone before you purchase.  When a customer walks into Best Buy, they are expecting to touch, look at and play with the devices inside the store.  Best Buy stores (and other similar retailers) generally have a section of technology products that a customer can demo—be it a laptop, desktop or other techno-widget-device, however when it comes to cell phones everybody is lacking it seems.

When a customer wants to consider purchasing a product, the easiest way many sales veterans might advise would be to get the product into the customers hands.  At stores like Best Buy, Costco, and many cell phone retailers this is where they go insanely wrong.  They get a “model” of the product into the customers hands.  It’s a plastic rip-off without any functionality.  In the age of touch-screen-enabled devices and the mobile-app economy, the former ideology of placing a cheap plastic prototype on display for customers to see is a bit absurd.  How many people would actually walk in and say “Man, this plastic container fits my hand perfectly, so the phone’s operating system, applications, screen, etc., must all be great in the real thing.”  Nobody.

I’d propose fixing this problem by having the likes of LG, Samsung, Apple, Palm (HP) and all the other carriers get a device to put on display that actually works.  Maybe lock it down or disallow the addition of apps in the various models, but the days of a plastic model being the means for making a decision on a new cell phone are long gone.  With increased projections for cell-phone sales this year, it might be time to put some actual sales tactics to use for some of these stores.

The W3C

I’ve been reading article after article, and listening to podcast after podcast about how the World Wide Web Consortium’s CSS and XHTML standards are basically moot in the ongoing browser wars between IE, and Firefox, and Opera, and Safari, and …

I thought I’d throw in my two cents. I think standards are fantastic, and love coding to them, when I get the chance. Of course, I’m not claiming complete compliance, but lets face it—there are standards for a reason. We hope that someday every browser abides by the standards so that we can stop coding two or three additional CSS files just to get the look and feel down across all the browsers.

I’m not sure why it is that it’s so hard for all these groups to conform to a standard, sorry—THE standard. It seems like it will be an ongoing battle and everyone is merely in the midst of rooting for their favorite player.

Who knows, maybe next week Microsoft will release a patch that standardizes everything. That would single-handedly save out-of-employment programmers. How, you ask? Lets see, everyone starts upgrading, those that upgrade will realize that their websites are all goofy now. What are they gonna do? They’re gonna hire a consultant to fix all the goofy little problems. You know what—that’s a LOT of problems that need-a-fixin’. Okay, I’ll admit, it probably wouldn’t be THAT big a deal, but who knows, maybe it would generate some business for all of us pawns in the web and software worlds who are looking to climb up the chain.

Or maybe we should look for a different rope to climb up. Ah well, who knows.


I’ll first mention why I do not care for Comcast’s HD-DVR. I don’t like monthly bills—and when a monthly bill is absolutely necessary, I want it to be as low a fixed cost as possible. I pay $40/month for internet via Comcast, which is quite speedy, and when I had the HD-DVR, that cost went to $90.00 for the first six months. Six months later, I saw my bill jump to $120.00, and being a person that doesn’t watch a massive amount of TV, I called and cancelled. The actual DVR lacked many capabilities, and was annoyingly complex. I was paying for HD-service and DVR capabilities, yet when searching for programs 1/2 the screen is taken up with the Comcast logo and new movies available for purchase. I’d prefer to see a full-page listing of as many channels and programs as possible, but the capability to remove advertising is nonexistent. Further, I don’t want to manually delete every show just to free up space on my box. I’m slow at watching programs, and 2 weeks is often not enough time to get me caught up on my shows, and so I get far behind on my DVR. It fills up, and in order to free up space, I have to go through and punch delete (a 3-step, slow process) on every show I decide I can do without seeing.

TiVo HD and Series-2 DVR’s have the same user interface, but their hardware specs differ. One can do HD, the other cannot. One has tons of storage space, the other has 80 gigabytes (which is still alot!). One costs $300.00, the other you can snag used for $30-40 bucks on eBay. After toying with the HD version, I decided on the HD box because of my interest in watching HD content.  There is one caveat with my choice—I had to get a cable card from my local cable company.  When I inquired about the little cards, I had some interesting responses from Comcast—I told them it was going into a TiVo, and that I wanted the “M-Series” card (M-Series = Multi Stream, I believe).  An “M-Series” card allows a user to watch one channel and record another at the same time.  The “S-Series” cards (or Single-Stream) only allow for one channel at a time.  The difficult part of this situation was that, in requesting the “M-Series” card, the phone support tech at Comcast was convinced that I’d have to pay to have a tech come out and do an “advanced install.”  I asked if I could just pick up the card and put it in myself (it really can’t be that hard, can it?), and was told that it was out of the question.  I caved and paid the one-time set-up fee for the tech to come out.

When the Comcast technician arrived, he had an M-series card in hand, popped it into the back of the TiVo, made a phone call to send an “Init” request to the mothership, and left.  I know what you’re thinking, and I blame Comcast (not the technician) for believing that I was too inept to plug in a card and make a phone call.  After reading the forums online, I found out that maybe it was best to have the technician come after all because there are users having great difficulties with CableCards in some cases.  Ah well, at least I got my HD service and TiVo up and running in under a week.

Well, there you have one more rant. Eventually I’ll find time to go back and proof read one of these, but that day is certainly not today.

Cable Company DVR vs. TiVo

I’ve got some positive news—my television picks up over-the-air content quite well, so I now have about 25 channels (everything from G4, HGTV and Animal Planet to local programming). I was thinking it might be time to consider getting a TiVo DVR. Then I started thinking it might be worthwhile to compare the features of TiVo to that of Comcast’s DVR.

I believe in this day and age, everything should be about HCI—Human Computer Interaction. If you don’t have an awesome, clean, intuitive user-interface, your product and user-base will eventually disappear. I firmly believe that Comcast’s DVR’s, if they weren’t subsidized by the cost of cable, would all be headed to the landfills because no one would want to pay for such a clunky device (even though most people do, they just don’t notice it popping up on their cable bills).

I’ve played with three DVR devices: Comcast’s HD-DVR, TiVo’s Series 2-DVR, and TiVo’s HD-DVR. There are pros and cons to all of them, and it’s notable that all devices have dual-tuner capabilities, but one device has a warm spot in my heart…

I’ll first mention why I do not care for Comcast’s HD-DVR. I don’t like monthly bills—and when a monthly bill is absolutely necessary, I want it to be as low a fixed cost as possible. I pay $40/month for internet via Comcast, which is quite speedy, and when I had the HD-DVR, that cost went to $90.00 for the first six months. Six months later, I saw my bill jump to $120.00, and being a person that doesn’t watch a massive amount of TV, I called and cancelled. The actual DVR lacked many capabilities, and was annoyingly complex. I was paying for HD-service and DVR capabilities, yet when searching for programs 1/2 the screen is taken up with the Comcast logo and new movies available for purchase. I’d prefer to see a full-page listing of as many channels and programs as possible, but the capability to remove advertising is nonexistent. Further, I don’t want to manually delete every show just to free up space on my box. I’m slow at watching programs, and 2 weeks is often not enough time to get me caught up on my shows, and so I get far behind on my DVR. It fills up, and in order to free up space, I have to go through and punch delete (a 3-step, slow process) on every show I decide I can do without seeing.

TiVo HD and Series-2 DVR’s have the same user interface, but their hardware specs differ. One can do HD, the other cannot. One has tons of storage space, the other has 80 gigabytes (which is still alot!). One costs $300.00, the other you can snag used for $30-40 bucks on eBay. After toying with the HD version, I decided on the HD box because of my interest in watching HD content.  There is one caveat with my choice—I had to get a cable card from my local cable company.  When I inquired about the little cards, I had some interesting responses from Comcast—I told them it was going into a TiVo, and that I wanted the “M-Series” card (M-Series = Multi Stream, I believe).  An “M-Series” card allows a user to watch one channel and record another at the same time.  The “S-Series” cards (or Single-Stream) only allow for one channel at a time.  The difficult part of this situation was that, in requesting the “M-Series” card, the phone support tech at Comcast was convinced that I’d have to pay to have a tech come out and do an “advanced install.”  I asked if I could just pick up the card and put it in myself (it really can’t be that hard, can it?), and was told that it was out of the question.  I caved and paid the one-time set-up fee for the tech to come out.

When the Comcast technician arrived, he had an M-series card in hand, popped it into the back of the TiVo, made a phone call to send an “Init” request to the mothership, and left.  I know what you’re thinking, and I blame Comcast (not the technician) for believing that I was too inept to plug in a card and make a phone call.  After reading the forums online, I found out that maybe it was best to have the technician come after all because there are users having great difficulties with CableCards in some cases.  Ah well, at least I got my HD service and TiVo up and running in under a week.

Well, there you have one more rant. Eventually I’ll find time to go back and proof read one of these, but that day is certainly not today.

Cable Bills!

Yesterday I got a bit frustrated, yet again, with the massive cable bill from Comcast. I get my Internet and TV from them, and realized that I only really need one of their services—high-speed Internet. When looking at the numbers, I realized that I could get the fastest Internet package for around $60.00. The package I had yesterday included a slower connection (12Mbps) and digital cable. Not only is their remote control utterly annoying to use (the buttons have a slow response time, and there are just too many of em’!), but everything seems so clunky to me. I needed a cable box, remote, wires galore, cable modem, more wires, a router, and a few more wires. And I had to pay more money.

The problem I was running into was that only one outlet was of enough quality to support high-speed internet—the same one the digital cable box was plugged into. That creates quite a bit of congestion in terms of wires mixing around in the TV stand. When I realized I was spending $100/month on cable TV and Internet, more than all my other bills combined (yes! you read that correct!), I decided it was worth it to, yet again, live without the TV. I did this for about 3 months a year ago. The difference was, at that point in time, I didn’t have a TV, just a computer.

Here’s what I’m thinking, I’ll save approximately $40/month by cancelling cable and snagging the fasters Internet connection speed. That $40 will go to a long way—I can go to a movie once a week every month, get popcorn and a drink! Or, I suppose I could put that money towards my daily cup of coffee—that’s three weeks of coffee paid for! Maybe I could put it towards my savings account, or invest it in something cool. I could use the $40/month to get a Sprint MiFi plan and then have the internet with me everywhere I go. I’m not sure what exactely I’ll do with the spare change—granted it’s not a bunch, but $40 x 12 months = $480. If I go without cable for a year, I can buy myself a pretty awesome gizmo next summer.

So, you may be thinking, what are you actually gonna do with the money??? I’ve decided my time is more well-spent reading. But I tend to go crosseyed if I read for a long amount of time, so I’m investing that spare change in Audible.com. These guys are professional story-tellers, and I can put it on my portable music device and spend the wasted time in front of the tube exercising my brain for a change. Novel, you say? Exactely my point!

But, alas, I can still watch TV online. There’s always Hulu and the big cable network websites to check out, so I don’t think I’ll starve myself of mindless (though oddly enjoyable) entertainment anytime in the near future.

Apple vs. World

Another day, another set of tech company feuds. Some of you may know that Apple, Google and the Federal Trade Commission are looking into whether anything is amiss when Google people and Apple people are on each others executive boards. Well, whoop-dee-doo. I’d argue they’re in different tech sectors altogether, but with the announcement of Google’s Chrome OS (i.e. Linux), and the fact that the second generation of Android-based smart-phones are on the horizon, maybe there is some credibility there.

I’m a big fan of strategy games, and I think the smartphone market is the perfect place to whet my appetite with a good bit of strategy talk. Palm and Google have said that each of their respective mobile-platform operating systems, WebOS and Android, are going to eventually support Adobe’s Flash standard. Great! Right?

Apple has continually refused to nudge on the Flash-support front, and, from the Apple point-of-view, I think this is a rather smart move. First off, Apple’s always going to tick off a few people that are really wanting to see Flash on the iPhone. However, as Apple continues to gain marketshare, up from 5% to 10% over the last year, I think we will notice companies think twice about putting any content in the public domain that cannot be accessed by the entire smartphone market. Translation: if Apple’s market share continues to climb, more and more websites are going to have to find a method of making their product or company available to their entire user-base, and that means stripping Flash from their websites and opting for XHTML (or HTML5 whenever that one comes to fruition).

So what does Apple gain from not supporting Flash? I think their goal would be to make obsolete the Flash standard. If every other smartphone has spent time to bring such functionality to market, and it becomes moot, that means Apple has that much more strength. Apple’s never been a company to be “open” and, in fact, remains quite closed. I think we’ll see that Apple, by slowing development and deployment of Flash-based applications, will erode the future need to become “open” on any alternative platform. We won’t see Apple cave to anyone if they can move this mountain (or rather, prevent it from moving). If users were really wanting Flash and started buying Palm’s Pre in place of the iPhone, I think we’d see the chink in Apple’s armor become bigger, but if users accept the lack of Flash functionality, the use of Flash-based applications will, in turn, dissapate.

The RIAA really wanted Apple to have DRM in the iTunes store, but after Apple got enough of the downloadable music market, look what happened… Suddenly the RIAA’s bargaining power was lost because Apple was strong enough to say that DRM wasn’t gonna fly with them anymore. Sure enough, if Apple gets to the point where businesses are purposefully not using Flash because they don’t want to alienate potential end-users then Apple has more strength down the road negotiating standards and formats. This is something that could be massively powerful for the company when they do support a specific technology…

Bank stocks.... Buy! Sell! Trade!

I have to say, the last few weeks have been really good for me—in terms of the stock market.

I decided a couple months ago that I wanted to start playing around in the stock market. So I dumped a small amount of money into Scottrade with the intent of trading stocks like crazy. It turns out that I don’t trade, buy and sell stocks as often as I first thought I would. I had this vision of trading every 15 minutes…. “Buy Low, Sell High!”, “Limit order!”, etc.

Well, I started buying what I (thought) I knew best. Tech Stocks. I bought a bunch of Palm stock well before the notorious Pre came out, and boom, made a bunch (little bit) of money. Buy low, sell high! Wahoo! I bought and sold some Microsoft, Garmin, Google, and a few other companies. Then I decided to expand my horizons. I bought some Coca-Cola, because I am pretty sure I can keep the company afloat in tough economic times, and that is what we would call the blue-chip stock. Slowly but surely, it has done pretty well for me.

Then, came the bank stocks. I started investigating stocks like Bank of America, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase, and thought to myself… “they have to go up!” So I bought a bit in each, and boy, do I wish I bought a whole bunch more. Citigroup was originally $1/share, and is now up around $3.25/share. Bank of America was around $3.25/share and shot up to $14.50/share. The reason I like these bank stocks is because, as Uncle Sam has shown us, we’ll bail anybody out at this point. So it’s like a protected investment—they’re not going anywhere. Further, once they recover and start trading at their previous costs per share, I’m hoping to make a heft profit off of them.

So that’s my investing experience… Limited knowledge earned me a good bit of change in no time at all. Now, if I had a ton of money, you better believe I’d consult my investment advisor, but why not have a bit of fun while the stock market starts to recover from the shambles it’s been in as of late? Use that funny money, you might just make it back two times over!

Count the Lappy!

As I sit back in my favorite coffee shop to work a bit, I realized that there’s a better business model for these guys. As I look around, I’m counting 19 people, 10 of which are working on their laptops. Three people are in line for their caffeine fix, five are working on the newest generation of Apple’s Macbook, the other five are on a combination of Netbooks and Notebooks running Windows. The remaining six persons are being social, reading the newspaper or eating. I know what you’re thinking—you’re creepy, staring at everyones computers like that! Okay, I’ll give you that. I don’t normally try to check everyone’s lappy hardware out, but I realized that there is a better way for coffee shops to serve their tech savvy patrons. Let me explain.

Imagine walking into a coffee shop. You walk in, queue up, and order. Next, you wait for your order to be completed, grab your coffee, then pick a seat. Lets face it, you always eye out a spot with a power outlet so that you don’t have to leave in 30 minutes when your battery dies. If you’re unlucky and no seat is availble with an outlet, you watch those who are plugged in and try to hop in their seat when they leave.

Now, imagine walking into a tech-based coffee shop. You walk in, order and sit down. Don’t worry, someone’ll bring you your order with a dab of milk in it and a couple napkins. Did you decide on one of those scones or a bagel? No worries, navigate to the wifi hotspots homepage, key in your order and that nice person who brought your coffee order will soon be back with a toasted bagel, a dab of shmear and butter knife. Once you boot up your lappy, you notice the wireless password of the day posted on the wall, and log-on to a secure wifi connection. Don’t worry, no need for one of those shady wifi hotspots where you have to worry that logging on to your e-mail or banking website might result in your passwords being sniffed and stolen. Are you having trouble connecting via wifi? Flag down the coffee shop tech and they’ll get you up and running.

You start editing some of your vacation pictures and notice that in one corner of the room, the coffee shop tech is now giving a tutorial on image editing with Photoshop to a few other patrons. You decide that your cup of coffee might go well with a bit of education and join the daily “seminar” on an area of technology that happens to pique your interest. Before you know it, you’ve had a cup of coffee, learned how to get the red eye out of your holiday pictures, and spent half your day in your favorite “office space” that allows you to stay connected, productive and will maybe even teach you a few things. I’ll have to conecptualize this idea a bit more, but it’s certainly novel, in my opinion at least.

Wireless... In My Pocket

I think it was Bill Gates that said something like…

“In the future, the internet will be in everyone’s pocket.”

I think the relization of his dream hasn’t come yet, but in doing research about some of the latest and greatest mobile internet solutions brought to us by top U.S. cell carriers such as Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, it is clear that the technology is starting to come to fruition.

Oddly enough, I think Sprint is going to be leading the pack with their 4G network. Rumors have been appearing of late about Verizon “fast-tracking” their 4G solution for another rumor of an Apple table PC. These rumors are getting a bit old, but as soon as I start really knocking the rumor-blogsters I’ll be aghast to find a press-release from Apple stating that the tablet is real.

Enough of hi-jacking my own blog post… Sprint has already rolled out the “Beta” version of it’s 4G network in Baltimore and has concrete plans for rollouts in many other cities Q1 2010. The thing that excites me about the 4G network is that there are:

  • No Bandwidth Caps! All the major carriers currently limit you to 5 Gigabytes per month over their 3G networks.
  • Fast speeds! Imagine in 5 more years what hi-speed wifi brought to us over the air will mean—fiber-to-the-home will be moot, we’ll have hi-speed internet traveling straight to your pocket!
  • Competition! Eventually (maybe on the 5G networks) we will have a choice of having internet provided by any of Comcast, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon or whatever other cable/DSL companies that exist in the neighborhood. This is great for the consumers because as TV and telephony converge into the Internet we’ll finally have a TV/phone/internet solution that will be the equivalent of a modem and router that is mobile, fast and, most importantly, cheap!

This is bad news for some of the companies that have invested heavily in land-line infrastructure, such as Comcast and AT&T, because eventually I’d bet that most everything to the end-user will arrive from over-the-air. Well, that’s my two cents. I could be totally off course, but I know what companies I’m going to be investing in and watching over the next few years.

Tech Support + Family = ...

Some in my family would call me a tech enthusiast… a label I accept open-armed. Geek and nerd are names that have been tossed my way, and I’m pretty content being called any of these because, lets face it, they’re pretty darn accurate. Being called upon by various family members and friends to answer tech questions, advise on purchases and troubleshoot annoying computer problems are just a regular task for me these days. While I know some people in the tech community loathe calls that go something like, “Hey Sig, how are you? Do you have a minute to answer…?”, I actually rather enjoy them.

 

I know some people are thinking I’m crazy for saying this. Who actually enjoys doing tech support, and for free!? I decided a while back to happily accept any “Call For Help” (sorry TechTV, I had to steal that title) because it is a great communications medium. We all like to feel needed and useful from time to time (I’m not sure why this is, but I’ll leave that to the psychologists to answer). When receiving a call from aunts, uncles, sisters, parents, cousins or friends, I not only get to find out what tech my family and friends are into in terms of technology, but what makes them tick when using it. When hearing stuff like “this stupid printer…”, “I really NEED a new phone, this thing just…”, and “who the hell designed this thing” I tend to chuckle a little bit and procede with the best advice I can give to fix whatever ailment is plaguing the particular item at hand. I also, however, get to find out what my cousins are doing half-way around the U.S. (and world!), how wedding plans are progressing, or the latest news with whomever decided to ring me up that particular day.

In addition to tech support, I also love calls about potential technology purchases. Whether it’s a question of upgrading to the latest version of Windows, ditching the desktop and getting a laptop, or finding out whether it’s useful to get a netbook or not I tend to get great investing advice. That’s right… It’s all about the money! I’ll admit, I was the first one in my family (I think) to get the 1st generation iPhone, and had I had the cash to dump some spare change into Apple at the time, I probably would have made a quick buck. If I realized that netbooks were gonna be popular with some in the famliy, I would have probably dunked some money into a computer manufacturer like Acer or ARM, a popular processor-maker for phones, netbooks, and other devices that, in some cases, we don’t even realize have a “processor.”

Well, in short, I guess I’m trying to say that answering a few tech questions every now and again keeps me connected with a bunch of different family members at odd intervals. It’s pretty easy to rely on Windows going berzerk, or a printer wigging out, and it’s these connundrums that enable me to reconnect, albeit breifly, with all sorts of family and friends that I may only hear from on select occasions throughout the year. If I also get some investing advice on tech stocks or cool new products myself, all the better.