Amplify the Obvious

Amplifying the obvious about tech and tech commentary
~ Friday, February 14 ~
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Lock In

Farhad Manjoo’s new column at the NYT talks about a subject close to my heart - don’t lock yourself into somebody’s platform. Because you never know what the future may bring.

I don’t agree with some of his specifics, but his overall point is correct - each vendor is trying in its own way to lock you in as a customer. Apple is the worst offender - their software typically only works on their hardware - but Google and MS would like to lock you up, too.

So don’t use iBooks when you can use multi-platform Kindle. Only use Google software when it runs everywhere - Gmail, or Google Docs run on IOS and Android and Windows and OS X. Don’t come to rely on Apple software in case you ever want to move to another platform.

And I shouldn’t be using Google Keep, since it doesn’t run on OS X or IOS or Windows, just Android and the web. I should be using something like Evernote, despite its problems on Android, because it is truly cross platform.. hmm.. maybe I should be practicing what I preach..

Tags: ios android
~ Wednesday, February 5 ~
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iPhone Fashion

Sometimes it hard for Android users to understand why so many people buy iPhones - phones they consider to be overpriced, over-hyped, and over-restrictive.

Jean-Louis Gassee may shed some light on this in his most recent post. He is talking really about 5S vs 5C sales, but also talks about how people buy phones to make a statement - its kind of a fashion thing. Just as people buy expensive cars, or Nike tennis shoes, with little or no advantage over cheaper, but less “cool” products from competitors.. 

This is also why so many friends I know buy iPhones, yet don’t buy any apps, and use few capabilities of the phone - they could probably use an inexpensive flip phone for what they do, but that wouldn’t be as cool..

Tags: iphone android
~ Saturday, February 1 ~
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Bad Android Apps

I understand - to a degree - why developers make apps for IOS before Android. But I don’t understand why some apps that work on both platforms are WORSE on Android than on IOS. Once you’ve made the commitment, you should do your best.

I bring this up in the context of Evernote. Anyone who uses it on both IOS and Android would agree that the Android version just isn’t as good as the IOS version. And that has been the case for a long time.

But some other apps - Zite, Feedly - have useable versions, but obviously not as well crafted as the IOS versions. Blastr, the news page for the SyFy channel, is so bad I don’t understand why they even released it.

You can make an app to match the IOS version - look at Flipboard, or Simplenote - not to mention all the Google apps. So it isn’t impossible. 

Tags: evernote android zite feedly blastr
~ Thursday, January 30 ~
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Does Evernote hate Android?

Another UI upgrade for Evernote on IOS. Plus release of an interesting app, SwiftKey Note, for IOS, which interfaces with Evernote.

Meanwhile, Evernote on Android continues to look dated, with a truly primitive, barely usable note editor. It also got a new release this week, with no noticeable changes. The announcement said there were “bug fixes”, but they weren’t identified.

Seems to me that Evernote on Android is basically an afterthought - really Evernote is a IOS/OS X app. 

Tags: evernote android
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How much did Google really lose on Motorola?

The conventional wisdom on tech blogs is that Google lost many billions of dollars on Motorola. Many, of course, celebrate this.

But maybe not. See here and here for contrary views.

Tags: google motorola android
~ Thursday, January 2 ~
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Frustrated with Evernote

Evernote ought to be a great piece of software - one app does it all, helping you keep notes and reminders, pdfs, receipts, and especially clip web pages. It helps you keep all the digital junk you have in a single place.

But after using it for a while, I’m moving on. Google Keep is my new digital junk pile.

Some examples of my frustration using Evernote on Android (leaving aside the other platforms I used it on). Want to add a note? One tap opens the editor, as you would expect. But after typing your note, you have to add a title - another tap to take you there. Keep, like Simplenote and others, knows to make the first line of a note the title. Evernote doesn’t. Same goes for adding a note by voice - no title for your new note. Evernote does generate a title if you don’t, but it isn’t very helpful - you most certainly will go back and edit it later.

Want to look at your notes? Open one up - it is displayed in a small, but pleasant font. Want to edit it? You can’t just tap on the text, you have to first tap a pencil icon, which puts you in edit mode, and also CHANGES THE FONT. Why would a modern app use different fonts for display vs editing?

Want to manually reorder your notes like Keep does? Nope, not on Android, or anywhere as far as I know.

Now don’t get me wrong, Evernote is a more comprehensive app than Keep or Simplenote or other note taking apps. But an app like Keep is just more fun to use because they paid attention to the little things - how many taps does it take to do something, what is a pleasing font to work with - while for Evernote, at least on Android, the user experience is secondary.

Not too long ago Evernote revamped their IOS app. It doesn’t have most of the above problems (it has others). But right now, Keep is a much more attractive choice for the compulsive Android note or list maker.

Tags: evernote android google keep
~ Wednesday, January 1 ~
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7 Inches of Pleasure

I’ve had my Nexus 7 for almost 3 weeks now.

I really like it. Coming from a third generation iPad, I thought I might find it to be too small, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, the small size encourages you to walk around with it more, it is so light and unobtrusive. 

If I still bought IOS stuff, I’d definitely go with the iPad Mini, based on my experience with the Nexus. Smaller is better (at least with tablets).

Tags: nexus 7 android
~ Sunday, December 2 ~
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Inside the Apple Bubble

Shawn Blanc points to an essay by Dana Levine about the iPad mini that brings to mind a couple of issues with the Apple “community”. The essay basically says two things - the iPad mini, mostly because of its size, is quite nice to have. And the lack of a “Retina” display isn’t that big of a deal.

Now I don’t disagree with either point. But what I find odd is that someone would treat these two things like they have discovered something new and exciting. Only inside the Apple bubble would these be treated as insightful observations. People who don’t live entirely in Apple’s world have known about small form factor tablets - they have sold in the millions. Only inside Apple’s bubble would someone “discover” that you can still have a nice, useful tablet without state of the art resolution.

Until the release of the mini, the consensus of Apple fans seemed to be that the iPad was pretty much the perfect size, and all those silly little Android tablets were missing the point. And that the Retina display was yet another innovation that put Apple a cut above of the competition. But once the mini got released, suddenly the consensus changes - there are lots of reasons why a smaller tablet is a great thing, and hi res displays are nice, but certainly not a requirement.

This self imposed blindness that so many subject themselves to is going to provide more surprises in the future. Someday Apple will introduce something very much like Android widgets to IOS, or are going to bring out an iPod Touch with a 5 inch screen, or an iPhone that is not just taller, but wider, too. Or a touch screen laptop. And these will be received as further Apple breakthroughs, and people will write essays about how cool they are, and be oblivious to the fact that out in the real world, these aren’t breakthroughs at all.

My point isn’t that Shawn Blanc or Dana Levine in particular are guilty of any of this. But certainly the Apple community as a whole is. There is a whole wide world out there, full of cool things. Just because Apple hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean something isn’t cool.

Tags: IOS Apple iPad Mini iPad Android
1 note
~ Wednesday, September 19 ~
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Breaking Out of the Walled Garden

So if you don’t want to be part of Apple’s world anymore, but you have a house full of Apple gadgets, what do you do?

First, I’m not going to be so fanatic about it that I’m going to cost myself a lot of money. I have an iPad 3 that is only a few months old, and I’m not just going to go buy a new Nexus or something. But when the time comes to replace it in a year or two, I’ll be looking at Android devices.

My iPhone 4 is another matter. It is now 2 generations old, and will probably need to be replaced in the months to come. There are lots of attractive Android phones to choose from, so this will be the easiest device to switch.

Now I also use an Apple computer. My Macbook Pro died recently, and I’ve been struggling along with an old G4 Mini that I had in my closet. It is very much out of date, and needs replacing. But what is the alternative to Apple for computers? A Windows machine? Sorry, Microsoft is as bad as Apple, and I rid myself of them years ago.

So I don’t really see an alternative to buying another Apple computer. I’ll probably buy a used one so Apple doesn’t make any money, or maybe a refurb, so they don’t get their usual profit margin off my purchase. But I don’t really see a way around buying another Mac.

As I slowly migrate away from Apple, on the software side, I am making sure I don’t get locked into their world. I sync with services that are cross platform - which means no iCloud. Toodledo or Google for tasks, Google for email and calendars, Simplenote for text, Dropbox for whatever. All these services have compatible apps on various platforms, so if I go to Android or to Amazon or to whatever, I can still get at all my stuff.

Tags: Apple IOS Android Microsoft
~ Thursday, August 30 ~
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Windows?

If you follow the tech press at all, you have probably noticed all the upcoming Windows devices - tablets, hybrid tablet/laptop devices, lightweight laptops with touch screens. If Windows 8 is any good at all, it really seems like Apple will finally have a viable challenger.

But as interested as I am in moving away from the Apple ecosystem, I really can’t see myself going back to Microsoft and Windows. Microsoft has a long history of making mediocre software, and the current Windows drives me nuts when I have to use it.

Crappy alternatives is why I have so many Apple products in my house. When it is time to replace my mobile gadgets, I can easily see myself moving to Android. But I don’t see any way to move away from Macs.

Tags: Windows 8 Apple Android Microsoft