Category Archives: Tech

Apple watch displaying time

10 Impressions on the Apple Watch, 10 Days Later

I bought an apple sport watch, the smaller version, the day it came out, and with the help of a friend, had it shipped to me in the United Arab Emirates. Here are 10 early impressions.

  1. It’s gorgeous and well made. There’s a lot of talk about how this is a 1.0 product and how folks are waiting–but this is a 1.0 product from arguably the world’s best product development company that has been making touch screen devices for almost 10 years. If Daniel Humm makes a new dish, I’d be happy to be at the table.
  2. It reminds me of the most important things on right its face: what time is it, when is my next meeting, where is my next meeting. Added bonus: how hot is it outside (what should I wear.)
  3. Switch it to do not disturb while driving–it presents serious distractions in your line of sight.
  4. Most 3rd party apps seem immature. A happy exception is MusixMatch. Who knew that lyrics on your wrist could be so much fun.
  5. Hands free timers come in very handy while cooking. “Hey Siri, remind me to check the granola in 15 minutes,” (Related: dictation on the watch works well.)
  6. Fitness tracking provides great visuals and it’s easy enough to swipe when sweaty during a run.
  7. I spend much less time looking at my phone. The watch works well enough to let you know if you need to respond and then you can choose the tool that makes the most sense–a simple answer from the watch, a short email from your phone, or a more in depth message later. There’s too much friction for most activities, but that’s good. It promotes engagement with those around you and the real world.
  8. Sometimes notifications are delayed–I have had more than one awkward, “no, I didn’t get that text” conversation, because I missed the tap, tap, or it came an hour later.
  9. I sort of wish there were a running qualifier for messages sent from my watch–pardon the one word or emoji replies…I responded to your text using a pre-defined list of options.
  10. On nine out of 10 days, the battery did not need a recharge until it was bedtime.

More than anything, it’s a watch–and a darn good one. Have one? Want one? Waiting?


Help your missing Mac laptop find its way home

Laptops out at airport security?  What if you forget to put that laptop back in the bag? I know, you would never do such a thing. Nor would I, except that I did. Ran the Athens Marathon, was doing the airport security routine. Asked the guard if I should take my laptop out. Guard said yes. Retrieved all other items, zipped up my bag and was on my way–without my laptop. It was only after I arrived home that it was missing. The good news is that the airport security folks turned over my laptop to the Hellenic Police and its on its way back home. I remembered a simple trick that would have saved me a whole lot of trouble and cash. Put a contact number on your lock screen. It takes only a few minutes. A good Samaritan could call, send a text, or email while you’re still sitting in the Lounge.

Normally, your MacOS lock screen looks something like this:

MacOS Login Screen


Sorry, we have no idea how to return this laptop to someone.

Instead, your laptop could look like this:


Contact information right on the home screen. I know, you could also do something like put a label on the outside of the laptop, but that would be too easy.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Download Cocktail.  This nifty little program allows you to tweak many settings on your Mac. We’re going to use it for one thing: adding your contact information to your lock screen.

2. You’ll probably have to “allow apps from unidentified developers,” if you haven’t already.

3. Launch Cocktail. Select Login tab. Enter your contact details. Press apply.

Cocktail Login Screen Elements

That’s it. You’ll have your mobile and email on your home screen.

For extra credit, you should be sure to enable find my Mac, for iCloud–that will help you find all of your iOS devices. I’ve recently started tinkering with Prey which is like Lojack for laptops…it helps you track things down in the event your device falls into less scrupulous hands.

Facebook Gets Pushy with Friend Coaching

Has anyone noticed that Facebook's suggestions are becoming more aggressive? Perhaps their new tagline could be "Facebook, your digital friend coach: We help you find friends, provide guidance on how to connect with them and never let you forget a birthday."  Sometimes the reminders have a sad quality about them.  Today, I was prompted to help a friend find more friends–is there something that triggers this prompt?  FriendSuggestions


Then there are the paternal reminders, "you haven't spoken with Jack in a while, send him a message,"  Forget that Jack used to taunt me about my height in high school, "Hey Jack, what up bro?"   And then there's the seamlessly unlimited supply of friend suggestions, and despite how inane they are, I can't resist clicking on them.  I wrote earlier on the Five Phases of Facebook, and I'm still at acceptance.  I am grateful for friends tagging good reads, sharing reactions to the season finale of Dexter, or encouraging folks to support health care reform, or same sex marriage, but I remain perplexed by the stream of quizzes, and Farmville updates.  I'm also struck by the conversations that start here.  My college consitutional law classmate debating with my Parisian neighbor out here in the 'burbs.   Facebook, where worlds collide.    How's your Facebook experience these days?  Love it?  Hate it?  Can't imagine life without it?  

Ubiquity: Mix Your Own Mashups in Seconds

I never met a keyboard shortcut I didn’t like–spend a little time learning a combination, save a load of time everytime you use it.  Every program has them–many even work from one program to another.  (Everyone knows control-A to select text, control-C to copy and control-V to paste–right?)  It beats going to the Edit menu everytime.)  I’m a fan of programs that help you do more with shortcuts like Quicksilver and replace text you type often, like Textpander but Ubiquity puts dynamic mashups within the reach of mere mortals. Want to to send an email to a friend with a map of where you’re meeting? Just type send this map to Joe, and off it goes from your GMail account. Ubiquity understands plain english and the contexts we work in. Looking at a list of addresses on Craigslist and want to see all of them on a map? Just type, “map this” and Ubiquity generates a map. The project is ambitious–they’re trying to shift the web to be user centric instead of application or service centric–in other words, you tell the machine what you want and it stitches the services–calendar, map, reviews, together. Note, it’s not even a beta–it’s an experiment. One worth participating in. Intrigued? Watch the video–go ahead, install it. And tell me you haven’t been wishing for something like this all along.

Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

iPhone 3G Experience: Line Me Up, I’ll Take It

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a geek, in possession of good fortune, must be in want of an iPhone.

That’s me.  

I work in SoHo, just off Lafayette Street, and young kids regularly line up for product launches at the skate stores.   When I see this happening, I wonder, who lines up and waits a day to SPEND money.  I mean, what’s the sense of that?  What’s the opportunity cost?  This is conspicuous consumption at its worst.  Is this how we form communities?  Around products?  What’s America coming to?

Right.  And so, on Friday, July 11, iPhone 3g day, at 8:40 AM, excited, hungry, and eager I took my place at the back of the line outside the Short Hills Mall,  and I was not alone–at least 500 others had the same idea.  And then I was flooded with a new sensation:  worry.  What if I didn’t get one?  (Yes, I admit it’s ridiculous, but if reason carried the day I never would have been in line in the first place.)   Should I go to the AT&T store?  My twitterpack urged me to stay put.  Apple has deep stock.  “New shipments are coming all day,” said Katie, the bubbly but tight-lipped, orange t-shirt wearing Apple Concierge working the line.  And so, with my line mates, Randy (who got a phone call about every 3 minutes) and Ravi, I settled in for the long wait. 

9:49 AM.  The security guards, with backup from the Millburn police, usher us into the mall, where we see, the heavenly glow of the Apple logo against brushed metal, and a line that’s 4 rows deep and about 100 feet long.   One of my fellow line-mates, Randy, earned his PhD in math or finance–he develops a model that predicts when we’ll arrive at the store’s entrance.  Like any good model, it undergoes revisions to reflect change–like that AT&T’s activation servers are overwhelmed by demand.  The line stops moving for 45 minutes and I lost my ability to tweet because my Blackberry battery dies.  Fortunately, I was still able to rely upon a much older technology, speech to learn more about the people around me in line.

Ravi had a passion for yoga.  Brandi had three kids and worked for the State of New Jersey cracking down on fraud, which apparently there’s quite a bit of.  We nursed our free frozen, chocolate-mint lattes from Starbucks and passed the time.  I felt like I was playing hooky, which probably added to the fun.  We parted when Apple reps finally admitted to the store.  I was surprised to learn that 2 of the store staff that I spoke with had been there since its opening 6 years ago–and they seemed happy to be there–I dare say, proud, that they helped create the store.

And though this was a product launch and Apple commodities like computers and music players what they really create are experiences.  The line was absurd, but they had folks out there working it, water, free coffee, and there was a positive buzz that only got more intense as we neared the story.  I think part of the reason that I’m so keen on Apple products is that my associations are overwhelmingly positive.  I am consistently, pleasantly surprised and pleased by what they’ve built.  They create technology that lets us be ourselves–that celebrates our humanity.  And though they’ve gained in popularity, I still think most technology forces us to think like a machine.  I am an Apple fan boy, have been for years, but no one does it better.  

I got into the store at 2pm and am introduced to Tom, who gets me my first iPhone.  I think I’m going to be out of there in 15 minutes, but that wasn’t the case.   I hit some sort of snag when they tried to transfer my number.  This gives me an excuse to spend more time in the store soaking up the vibe, and now I’m seated, in front of a 24″ iMac tweeting like a madman and emailing.  There are worse places to wait.  Henley’s negotiating with AT&T assuring me that it’s going to get done, but he’s got to leave at three, so he turns me over to Frances, who just started 2 weeks ago.  While she waits on hold for AT&T I learn that she’s an art history major at Rutgers, that she was recruited to work in the store by her friend Johanna, (a former nursing, now Pharmacology major, also at Rutgers.)   I also learn that the shirts are color-coded.  Orange: Concierge–it’s their job to connect you with people who know the technology–so they learn the people, and Blue:  the people who know the technology.  At least 2 other folks help troubleshoot the problem.  At one point I’m like, is this really worth it?  I should leave, but the truth is that I was having a blast.  I got to ask  Johanna a few dozen questions about Leopard, and just enjoyed hanging out in the store.  By the third phone activation, I had switch from black to white–thinking it might be good luck but Frances’ persistence is really what did it.  

I never worked so hard to spend so much money, but it was a ton of fun.  Special thanks to my twitter posse, debwaldman, snark12, psyker390, clemtastic, nybble73, robmaruzi and the gang at Apple Short Hills.

What’s your iPhone story?  Holding out?  Updating?  Blackberry Curve Forever?  And yes, almost 1 week later, I’d say it was worth the wait.

Change Congress

Gas is over $4 a gallon, the planet’s getting warmer, we’re fighting a war in Iraq, we live in the era of “No Child Left Behind,” and we leave children behind. The old trope is that “people get the government they deserve.” We don’t. According to Larry Lessig, the founder of Change Congress, we must and can do better. Our problem: we the people, get interested in politics every four years. The solution: a congress–the people’s house working in our interests everyday instead of the interests of lobbyists. You can help by taking the pledge at Change Congress and then checking on your legislator to see how he or she acts on key reform issues. Now, I agree, “Yes We Can” but we also need the persistence to sustain the movement–and that comes from a Congress that is truly of, by and FOR the people.
For reference, here’s Lessig’s presentation about Change Congress. If you haven’t seen him present, you must watch–he’s got an amazing gift–he informs, entertains and insprires.

What do you think of Change Congress? Are you happy with the representation you get in Washington? Locally, or are you tuned out?

The Five Phases of Facebook

If you thought Facebook was a time-drain before, now they’ve gone and added Chat.   Their stock price notwithstanding, these clever folks are taking notice of how annoying Facebook’s become.  Between their choice of Billy Joel’s "We didn’t start the fire,"  for the melody, and replacing it with "we’re getting sick of facebook," LLP81’s video critique is one of the funniest things I’ve seen online in a while.  What are your thoughts on Facebook?

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Here Comes Everybody (I’m here too!)

Clay Shirky’s latest book, Here Comes Everybody:
The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
discusses how light-weight web-based
technologies like blogging, twittering and photo sharing sites like
Flickr result in real world actions.  Shirky talked about the book
at the Markle
on April 10.  I’m going to highlight
a new of Clay’s examples and then reflect on what I think his ideas
mean for traditional organizations. 

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A Blogging Manifesto

Why bother keeping a blog? Everyone’s doing it, but I struggle with this humble blog–whether or not to post, what to post, analyzing my analytics, and questioning the worthiness of the endeavor. Why bother with posting your thoughts and reflections in public? Given all of the other things that we could be doing, why blog? I am at war with my old media self, that’s quite content to keep a journal that’s for my eyes only and new media self, who wants to embrace this not-so-new medium with more gusto. Given that context, here’s the argument in favor of blogging I’m working on:

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Continuous Partial Attention? Hey you, listen!!!

I was blown away by the ideas in Linda Stone’s talk at O’Reilly’s e-tech conference, summarized on Radar.  In a nutshell, she talks about the limits of "continuous partial attention" and urges that we use employ "quality of life" as the benchmark for adopting new technologies.  It reminded me of an idea expounded by Frank Moretti at the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning in his History of Communications class.   In sum, modern, web connected society may herald a return to pre-literate, oral cultures–where the notion of the self was something that existed outside of us–where we responded like a chorus and pinned our actions on the furies.  Does continuous partial attention really mean that we’re not paying attention to what’s important to us?  Or is it just adaptatation to new tools?  Like Stone, I’m inclined to agree about smarter technologies really being able to help us manage what’s important and what’s not.  Just being able to create a master feed on Bloglines is a massive improvement on surfing from one site to another–of course, it means that one can consume even more, which brings me back to her question:  how is this technology improving my quality of life?