Thursday, December 26, 2013

Facebook Part IV


Many days, weeks, and months have passed since my last post. The main reason I have been away so long is because of the birth of my beautiful daughter. And what a joy she is.

On many occasions I started drafting a post, only to never finish it. But finally I was driven to blog again. You see my friends, three and half years ago I left Facebook. I subsequently wrote three articles about how Facebook sucked and how it was going to collapse like Friendster and MySpace. And now I am back on Facebook...

Did I miss Facebook? No, life was good without it. Every now and then a site would require a Facebook login, like Spotify. However, there were always ways around it, like using my wife's Facebook account. But then I came across Generation Y1. In our Church group, I needed to communicate with them. My preferred method of communication for a group like that is e-mail. To my surprise, not everyone in Generation Y checks their e-mail on a daily basis. So one of the members of our group decided a Facebook group would work better than e-mail. All the members of our group, except me were already on Facebook, so it just made sense. The Facebook group page was created and now we are all hopeful that the group page will be a success!

So do I still think Facebook sucks? Yes and no. Facebook has its advantages, like offering a more efficient means of communication in specific cases. Yet, there are the flaws, like the dubious privacy settings. To make matters worse, I am now playing Candy Crush.

Do I still think Facebook is going to collapse? No, I will admit that I was wrong, and not because I came back. Facebook has peaked in its market, but it will branch on to other markets. At least that is what investors think, the Facebook stock is almost double its opening day value, and four times its lowest value.

1 "Wikipedia" refers to Generation Y a.k.a Millennials as being born from 1982 to 2000, link here.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

3-D Printing is Here

Several months ago, my sole daily reader, co-worker, and friend- Matthew- showed me a small green plastic airplane. The green plastic airplane was no bigger than three inches from nose to rudder. He told me that the airplane was created from a 3-D printer. At first, I did not believe him. But then I used some logic, if humans have fission energy, made it to the moon, and created iPhones, then why not 3-D printers? Never doubt the ingenuity of humans. If we can imagine something, it will be a possibility one day.

After my internal monologue, which happened in less than three seconds, I must have responded to Matthew with a calm, "Cool". And indeed the 3-D airplane was cool. Some weeks passed by, then Matthew brings me a 3-D printed barrel, pictured above. I begin to ask more questions about this printer. Apparently, the printer is custom made. The limitations of this printer are a length and width of a few inches, the height being more flexible. This particular printer only prints in gray and green. However, the maximum dimensions of printed objects, color, and type of ink can all vary depending on the type of 3-D printer.

I wondered how in the future we could make toys and utensils for our households. Little did I know about what was to come...

In the last several months, we have had someone create a gun from a 3-D printer and successfully fire it! This person even shared the plans with the world, well that is until the US government decided that was not lawful.

Then there are the medical applications for 3-D printing, which seem endless. Click here for an article on five future medical uses.

I do not know why 3-D printing has stayed under the radar, but give it two years and soon all the grandmas will know what it is, then we will know that 3-D printing has made it in this world.

One last thought nugget, 3-D printing will be one of the single biggest inventions of the 21st century, just like the Internet was for the 20th century.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Best Android Keyboard: Swiftkey

There are many keyboards out there for Android. To name a few, they are:
  • Android Stock
  • HTC Sense
  • Samsung TouchWiz
  • Swipe
  • Swiftkey
None of these keyboards are the perfection that is the iPhone keyboard. Hence, if you have an Android phone like me, you are stuck with the second best keyboard experience. The second best experience is not automatically a bad thing. Insane example, would you not like to be world's second richest person?

Swiftkey is the best Android keyboard option for the simple reason that it will give you the fastest and most accurate experience. The auto-correction is the best in the business and it only gets better over time as it learns from your past inputs.

Here is a comparison of the the previous version of Swiftkey versus the Ice Cream Sandwich stock keyboard.



The newest Swiftkey introduced "flow" which is essentially Swipe. But you are not obligated to "flow", since you will still have the best auto-correcting experience without it.

Swiftkey is a bit pricey at $4.00, but it is worth every penny because it greatly improves a function of your phone that you constantly use. If $4.00 is truly too steep for you, watch out for specials, Swiftkey goes on sale for $2.00 from time to time.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Revival of the Bluetooth Earpiece?

Let us get two things clear, I am not working on Wall Street and I am not a "douchebag", but I have a Bluetooth earpiece. Do Wall Street people even wear a Bluetooth earpiece? Anyways, while not as popular as in years past, I do believe there is value in these earpieces.

I recently got a Plantronics Bluetooth earpiece for $30 at Costco. And by "I got it" that means that I accompanied my dad to Costco and threw the Bluetooth earpiece in the cart. And since I do not have a Costco membership, pops had to pay to for it. Thanks dad.

After using the earpiece for 7 days, I firmly believe more people should be using Bluetooth earpieces. The main reason I got the earpiece was to drive and talk on the phone with a peace of mind. With a Bluetooth earpiece you are able to easily answer a call while driving. Making a call is a little tougher because it depends on how good your phone picks up your voice, but it is still better than using the speaker function on your phone or a wired headset. The only people who will not benefit from this are those that have Bluetooth built into their cars.

However, there are many more reasons to have a Bluetooth earpiece! For me, I also wear the earpiece at work. I can have my phone on silent and my Bluetooth earpiece will still make a noise if a call comes in, that way I will not miss incoming calls. It is true that my wife is the only one that calls me and it is usually once a day, but I do not want to miss that call. Without the Bluetooth earpiece, I am constantly turning on and off my phone depending my environment. Then I occasionally forget to un-mute my phone which forces me to miss "calls".

Another benefit of the Bluetooth earpiece is that you can listen to music. It is not the best quality, it is just a bonus.

Five years ago I tried my first Bluetooth earpiece, it cost me about $45 from Motorola. This was when I had a dumbphone, when most people had a dumbphone. The phone battery would die after only 20 minutes of talk time with the Bluetooth. And if I did not talk, but was connected to the Bluetooth with my phone also known as "pairing", my phone battery would die after one hour. The battery performance on newer phones has improved drastically when it comes to a Bluetooth signal, it is no longer an issue.

The best part of being a Bluetooth earpiece owner is that these Bluetooth devices are cheap. Definitely cheaper than a ticket from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for driving while talking on the phone without a hands-free device! I encourage you to all try a Bluetooth earpiece, but I would not spend more than $50 for one. You might get made fun of by co-workers/friends, but remember they are just "jelly" aka jealous.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Back to Android

The last weeks have been a whirlwind. After patiently waiting for the Samsung Galaxy Note II to come out on Verizon for three months, I snapped. On Friday, November 23, 2012, which is also known as "Black Friday", I bought the HTC Droid DNA.

Why would I buy the HTC Droid, if I wanted the Galaxy Note II? Two good reasons at the time. One, I wanted a large screen, the Droid DNA has a large 5 inch display with a stunning 441 pixels per inch. Two, I knew that the Galaxy Note II was coming out in less than a week, so if I had buyer's remorse, I could "easily" exchange the Droid DNA.

Since the horrible exchange experience I suffered through is not the topic of this story, I will quickly summarize it:
  • Two phone calls to *611 which is Verizon's customer support
  • Three trips to three different Verizon corporate stores
  • Two long nights of searching for a non-existing paper receipt
  • Unnecessary stress on my sweet wife
I will never buy something again, if I have a suspicion that I will return it. It is not worth it. I will say that the Droid DNA was a beautiful phone, but I was set on a phone with a 5.55 inch screen, which happened to be the Galaxy Note II.

So, how does it feel to go back to Android after having the iPhone 4S for thirteen months? At first, I wondered if I made the wrong choice by leaving Apple's iOS. In order, here is what Apple does better:
  1. The keyboard. I have swype on the Galaxy Note II and it is a fast method of typing. However, the accuracy of hitting the intended characters on the iPhone is still above any Android keyboard.
  2. The e-mail client. I have Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo, and Hotmail. They all worked perfectly well together on iOS. Android needlessly separates your Gmail from the other e-mail clients. Android e-mail syncing is buggy. I will read e-mails on my Android phone, and they will show up as unread when I log into my e-mail account from my desktop. I have my e-mails accounts set to sync on my Android phone, but sometimes I will only see new e-mails, when I physically push for a refresh.
  3. The camera. Both the Samsung Galaxy Note II and HTC Droid DNA capture decent pictures, but with the iPhone 4S I was able to take better pictures. I commend the Android phones for greatly improving their camera's, one example is the decreased time between snaps.
  4. Voice commands. Yes, Google had voice actions first, but like with most things Apple does, they were not the first, just the best to do it. With Android, I have to unlock my phone and then locate my voice shortcut to do voice commands. With iPhones, all you have to do is long press the home button on a locked out screen and Siri comes on.
  5. Pre-installed applications. iPhones come with less bloatware. On my Droid DNA and Galaxy Note II, pre-installed were: Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Amazon MP3, Audible, IMDb, Kites air, NFL Mobile, ViewDini, Verizon Voice mail ($1.99/ month for visual voicemail), VZ Navigator, and Zappos. And that was not including the manufacturer apps.
  6. Accessories. There are more accessories for iPhones. For instance, the Spygen glass, is not available for my Galaxy Note II, but is available for the iPhone 5.
Wow, after making that list, I wonder why I even switched out of the iPhone. But, the most important factor for me was size. To me, size is currently the most significant difference between an iPhone and an Android. If you enjoy working out with your phone, you will enjoy the size of the iPhones. But my biggest use for my smartphone was not a camera or a music player or even a phone, it was as an e-reader. I wanted the biggest phone possible that I could still put into my pocket. The Galaxy Note II is that perfect phone for me.

Here are the things I love from Android:
  1. Widgets. My favorite widget is the calendar widget, which shows me my next four appointments/events.
  2. Most phones like the Galaxy Note II, come with a removable battery and a micro SD slot for more memory.
Here are the things I love from my Galaxy Note II:
  1. The battery life. While previous Android phones were notorious for quarter day battery lives, the Galaxy Note II battery lasts me all day. The iPhone 4S battery would last me a little over half a day. For me battery life was the second most important factor in determining what phone I would get.
  2. The stylus pen. At work, I no longer have to take a paper and pen to write down notes during a meeting. Now, I take notes on my phone with my stylus.

After two weeks of using the Galaxy Note II, I can say to all those people that wanted this big phone, go for it, you will not be disappointed. The only thing I would caution those people is to prepare themselves for the jealous stares of "haters" that out loud call your phone too big. These haters will mimic your phone calls by picking up a tablet and putting it to their ear. But in silence, they are crying out and longing for the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Next Big Thing: Galaxy Note II

So while the suits in Motorola are chewing bubble gum, checking for updates on their Facebook page, and holding meetings, Samsung is preparing to host a big event on October 24, 2012. The Samsung event will be about their upcoming Galaxy Note II phone. Samsung is going to do what Motorola cannot do, they are going to give their formally announced product a release date.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II will be another monstrous phone much like the original Galaxy Note. The original Galaxy Note has a 5.5 inch display, the Galaxy Note II has a 5.55 inch display. For reference, all iPhones (except the iPhone 5) have a 3.5 inch display and most Android phones have between 4 to 4.8 inch display. Bottom line, the Galaxy Note line of phones is gigantic. The tech blogs refer to these phones as "phablets". The offspring of a phone and a tablet.

Yesterday, while at Costco on an errand to pick up some garlic french bread, my wife wandered over to the jewelry section. At the speed of lightning, I took that as an opportunity to visit the phones section. While at the phones section, the original Galaxy Note grabbed my attention. I picked up the gigantic phone and wondered, "Could I walk around with this thing in my pocket? Will I look goofy talking into this enormous phone?" The answers were both yes. I did not care that I would look goofy, the size seemed manageable to me. In fact, for my personal use, I want a large screen, since my phone's main purpose is to read articles from the web. I love the size of the Galaxy Note so much, that now instead of waiting for the Mototorla Razr HD Maxx, I will wait for the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

I have not been this excited about the release of a phone since the Nexus One!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Unkonwn Release Date for the Razr HD Maxx


I mentioned in my previous post that there are a lot of great phones coming soon. Of all the upcoming phones, the one that catches my eye the most is the Motorola Razr HD Maxx (pictured above). The problem is... there is no release date for the Razr HD Maxx. And I will not twiddle my thumbs and patiently wait for Motorola to release the phone. The wait could be months! Motorola announced the phone and we deserve to know when it will be released. Motorola forgets that we have options.

So last Saturday on September 22, 2012, I sent Motorola an e-mail regarding the unknown release date of the Razr HD Maxx. Here was my e-mail:
Hello Motorola,

I ask that you please give us the consumers a release date for the Razr HD/ Maxx. There are too many good phones out on the market (e.g., SGIII, iPhone 5) for those like me that would like the new Razr HD Maxx, but don't want to wait for an unspecified amount of time. Soon our patience will fade.

Thank you,

Enrique Esparza

And here is how Motorola replied yesterday on Monday, September 24, 2012:
Dear Enrique,
Thanks for reaching out to Motorola. I’ve reviewed your e-mail and I’m ready to help. I sincerely apologize, Enrique. We don't have information about the exact launch date for the Droid RAZR HD and the Droid RAZR MAXX HD.
I recommend that you register on our website to receive an update. Here is the link: https://motorola-global-portal.custhelp.com/ci/documents/detail/2/motorola-razr-family-registration_en-US 
We hope that you find this information useful and we look forward to assisting you in the future.For information about Motorola products and services, please visit us at http://www.motorola.com/ 
Thank you for contacting Motorola e-mail support.
Best Regards,
Juc
The response was pretty much what I expected from Motorola. They did not give us a release date, instead they replied with corporate "mumbo jumbo". Motorola is deceiving consumers by trying to make them wait for the Razr HD/ Maxx without giving us a release date. Motorola's announcement of the Razr HD line seems like a desperate attempt to stall iPhone 5 sales, especially given that Motorola announced the Razr HD line a week before Apple's announcement. If a company has no release date, they should not announce a device. Though I criticize Apple a lot, this is one area where I like their method of operation. Apple announces a device and gives us a release date.

Motorola is lucky that I am succumbing to their desperate plea to have people hold off on purchasing any new phones (i.e., iPhone 5) and instead to buy a Razr HD Maxx... at an unspecified later time. Because I do not want to be a chump much longer, I am imposing a hard deadline on Motorola. I will give them until Friday, October 26, 2012 to announce a release date and the release date can be no later than Tuesday November 6, 2012.

What happens if the my demands are not met? Hello Samsung Galaxy SIII or iPhone 5.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Three Thoughts: iOS 6 Maps

What an exciting month September 2012 has been for smartphones! We truly are spoiled. We got three major announcements in the span of a week, they were:

  • Nokia announced the Lumia 920, their first Windows Mobile 8 phone, it will be a thing of beauty.
  • Motorola announed the Razr HD, also a thing of beauty.
  • Then Apple announced the iPhone 5.
As part of the announcement for the iPhone 5, iOS 6 was introduced. iOS 6 is now the operating system for Apple gadgets (i.e., iPad, iPod, and iPhone) including some older generations. The biggest change in iOS 6 was the addition of Apple's own Maps app. Since there is only room for one native Maps app that meant, goodbye to Google Maps. After using Apple Maps for two days here are three quick thoughts.

Thought 1: Overall this is a better mapping experience simply because of the addition of turn-by-turn navigation and its integration with Siri. The first thing I did to test out the new Maps app was to ask Siri, "Directions to the nearest Target". I knew the directions, which made it a great test. And it worked! After I asked Siri my query, I was being fed correct turn-by-turn information.

Thought 2: There are still many flaws with the new Apple Maps, even when compared to the gimped Google Maps app we had on our Apple devices. Google has a seemingly infinite amount of street data. Their street view library is uncanny, now that option is gone. Street view is an essensial part of my mapping experience since I like to know what my final destination is going to look like. The traffic layer on the Apple Maps is horrendous. There is just a dotted red line to signify traffic. So for me in Los Angeles, this tells me nothing during rush hour, just a sea of dotted red lines. Google Maps gives out green, yellow, and red highlights for traffic. Apple needs to add the equivalent of the yellow highlight. Moreover, Apple hardly has data on street traffic, this is another essential part of a Maps since freeways are jammed during rush hour. Lastly, even the search results are questionable on the new Apple Maps, look at the picture above. I searched for downtown LA and Apple Maps pinned an area in West LA near Culver City, which is clearly not downtown Los Angeles. These are just gripes in the United States. The gaps in the amount of street data Google has outside of the US versus what Apple has is even wider. People outside the United States switching to Apple Maps will have more complaints.

Thought 3: The full version of Google Maps is transparently better than this first attempt from Apple. Too bad you can only get the full Google Maps experience on an Android phone. To summarize, I barely prefer the new Apple Maps to the gimped version of Google Maps, but I wish that I could use the full version of Google Maps on my iPhone.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Hidden Apple v. Samsung Outcome

When I buy a product I do not just look at its price and function, I take into account the culture of the company that made the product. How does the company treat its employees and customers? Are they like AT&T where they only care about quarterly profits? What is their CEO like? Does he jump the line for liver transplants just because he has a personal jet, like Steve Jobs? These are all important factors when I purchase a product.

The Apple v. Samsung lawsuits should be illuminating to all of us regarding Apple's character. Recently, Samsung was found guilty of infringing on several of Apple's utility and design patents. Samsung was ordered to pay Apple US $1 billion. Now Apple wants to ban the Samsung Galaxy SIII. Will Apple ever be satisfied, they are already the most valuable company to exist? Apple is acting like an entitled monopoly. Moreover, the US patent system is failing us, and helping to create Apple's monopoly. There is no doubt that for innovation to continue the Sherman Antitrust Law, which prohibits monopolies, must trump the broken patent law system.

Everybody understands that there are patent laws and that Samsung was found guilty of infringing on Apple's patents. However, the patent laws are flawed, especially for design patents. How can you patent curved corners on a rectangle? If the clothing industry, which would need design patents the most, thrives without them, then so can gadgets. Clothes are much easier to copy, yet people consistently pay more for the original because they value a certain brand. Has anybody seen a decrease in innovation in the clothing industry? To the contrary, the health of the word "fashion" is proof of success of the clothing industry's brand system. The word fashion is inherently about clothing and innovation. Apple already has strong brand recognition and loyalty. Nobody can take away their beloved once-bitten apple logo. Design patents should not exist. The data proves that a brand system is sufficient.

The second type of patent is a utility patent. These are given for a certain function (e.g., pinch to to zoom). Utility patents should expire in a timely fashion relative to the time it takes to research the technology. In a fast-changing technology sector like mobile phones and tablets, no utility patent should last longer than one year.

While there was a lot of hard work done in Cupertino, CA, Apple built the iPhone off the backs of other ideas. Apple did not have the first cell phone. Apple was not the first to use 2G and 3G bands. Apple was not the first to have an all-touch phone. Apple was not the first to have a rectangular phone. Apple was not the first to have icons. Apple was not the first to have multitouch, etc... Apple was hardly the first to anything. What Apple did was put everything together into the prettiest and most functional package on the market. Apple played by the rules, it copied what it was allowed to, like the notification bar from Android. Apple also bought out technology and got licenses for other pieces. But if history can teach us anything, goodness goes beyond playing by the rules, for the rules can be flawed. If the ultimate goal is consumer satisfaction, the rules are horribly flawed. If you think the laws should exist to protect shareholders profits, you are wrong, but even then the current patent laws only help to protect a monopoly's profit.

Apple has gone too far in limiting consumer choices for the sake of protecting their hundreds of billions of US dollars. The hidden outcome of the Apple v. Samsung ruling is that people that were already dubious about Apple as a company, but bought Apple products anyways, will now look elsewhere.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Facebook Prediction Part III

On January 2011, I predicted that Facebook would become irrelevant much like of fate of Friendster and MySpace. I gave Facebook two more years of relevancy (i.e., January 2013). First prediction link. Clearly, that first prediction is not going to come true.

I realized my error three months later and wrote about a special variable "K" which extended the life of Facebook, but I did not predict a time period for the end of Facebook's relevancy. Second prediction link.

Thanks to CEO Mark Zuckerberg making Facebook a public company, their demise has been accelerated. The main motivation behind making a company public is the desire to make more money, a.k.a. greed. Now, Zuckerberg must answer to his investors every three months. Investors, who will never be as patient as the owner of a private company. An early lesson one learns in life is that evil defeats itself. Greed is an evil. While greed can give "good" results, the results do not last. Eventually the bubble bursts.

The Facebook stock debutted at $38.00 a share three months ago and the stock is now at $19.05 a share. That is half the value! Imagine investing in Facebook? I cannot believe how grateful I feel for my paltry 0.08% return from my Bank of America Savings account.

As soon as the Facebook stock goes under $10.00 a share, heads will roll. Zuckerberg's head? And with Facebook employees being able to cash out of their stocks in a couple months, the Facebook stock will be even lower than the current value of $19.05 a share. The only way to save Facebook is to make it a private company once more, much like BestBuy is going to do. If Facebook remains a public company, look for them to resemble Yahoo. Yahoo is still valued over a billion dollars, but it is no longer one of the the top tech companies (e.g., Apple, Google, Microsoft). How soon will the Yahoo-fication of Facebook happen? It is coming to you soon, in Christmas of 2013!

Like most good things in life, my predictions about Facebook come as a set of three. This is it, enjoy and do NOT put any money in Facebook stock.