A Tech Grab Bag

For Apple and Amazon Enthusiasts (and some others as well)

My 1 month Facebook Hiatus (and counting)

Maybe it was seeing an article that talked about depression and facebook that made me finally do it.  The article said in general that Facebook can make you less happy than you were before you logon to it a fair amount of time.  So I thought, “Is this true for me?”  And it was, after 4 or 5 years of checking it obsessively, I found that seeing updates of vacations that I wasn’t on, parties I wasn’t invited to, inane comments, increasing ads, etc.  I thought it was well past time for a break.  So that’s what I did, and so far it has been a lot easier than I figured it would be.  I deleted all my apps from my IOS devices, (IPhone, iPad,etc.) but left my account active.  In the place on my phone where facebook normally resided, I replaced it with “Flipboard” my favorite RSS reader, so that my need for the most up to date info was always satisfied, all be it in news form.  Image

 

So what does this mean for Mark Zuckerbergs revolutionary social network?

Well he does have 1 billion people on his website, so he’s OK for a while, but there are a few troubling signs.  Teens and early twenty somethings are fleeing the site, and more and more other people like me are taking an idefinite hiatus.  Facebook will eventually go the way of myspace unless it drastically evolves.  That is my prediction.  

A few other thoughts that I texted to my brother when he asked me if I like being off and not posting and what made me turn.

  • It makes for weird in person social situations (my high school reunion) most people knew everything I was up to and vice versa, so there’s no joy in catching up with old friends anymore
  • Trying to govern my compulsion to “puke out” every thought
  • Most of these people aren’t really my friends
  • I can still text message 
  • It has taken over “blogs” like this one that I have all but abandoned, but blogs lend themselves to more careful thought and writing.

 

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Christmas time is Amazon Time-Did you get a Kindle in your stocking?

Yes it happened again this year, once again I am left wishing that I could receive my Amazon gift cards from my relatives before Christmas.  That way, all my Christmas presents would be paid for as I purchase the gifts.  That said, to coincide with TKC 230, I will give you, the first time Kindle owner a rundown of some of the benefits of the amazing Amazon Kindle.  So here is your to do list:

  1. Don’t lose that Amazon username and password , it is now your whole life! (This one might be obvious, but if you’re like my Dad, you know the importance of this)
  2. Sign up for Amazon Prime for $79 and take advantage of the Kindle Owners lending Library, a fantastic addition to Amazons offering that lets you borrow 1 book a month for free, incidentally, if you received a Kindle Fire under your tree, you can also stream about 25,000 movies and tv shows through prime)
  3. Subscribe to “The Kindle Chronicles” a podcast by Len Edgerly which is the gold standard of all Kindle Podcasts.
  4. Have a specific genre of books you like?  Chances are that Amazon has it for you.  Search for sub genres within sub genres from your Kindle device or a web browser
  5. Kindle daily deal:  Every day amazon heavily discounts a popular book, (today it is “under the dome” by Stephen King) Sign up to be emailed every day at http://www.amazon.com/kindledeailydeal
  6. If you have a Kindle Fire,  browse and take advantage of Amazon streaming video which now has almost 30 thousand titles (Requires membership in Amazon Prime which is 30 days free are given to you)
  7. Received a Kindle Fire 7 HD, but maybe you wanted a Paperwhite instead?  Amazon makes it easy to exchange your e reader.   My personal favorite of all the Kindles is the Paperwhite with 3G
  8. Enjoy and happy reading!  If you are like me and many of us, you may never read on physical paper again!

In person at the Amazon Event: The chance of a lifetime

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(All these pictures are my own that I personally shot with the iPhone 4S)

Today was a landmark day for me in my tech life.  I’ve wanted for a while to be in the audience for an Apple or Amazon announcement event, and today I was fortunate enough to have that dream come true.  These events, for those who don’t follow them as obsessively as I do, are like Christmas morning for us tech geeks.     By now there have been hundreds of blog posts detailing exactly what was announced, and the features and benefits of each and you can feel free to check Amazon to look at the specs of each.  But what I want to do is chronicle this day so that I can remember it always…so lets get into it.

A few years ago I stumbled across Len Edgerly’s “The Kindle Chronicles” Podcast which quickly became a big favorite of mine.  Two weeks ago Amazon announced their annual event was going to be in Santa Monica, and so I reached out to Len as I knew he was flying out to cover the announcement .   I wanted to meet him, have coffee and talk about his podcast and all things tech.  During our conversation I sort of half jokingly mentioned that if he needed an assistant at the event I would be more than happy to do it.  Well in no time he emailed his Amazon liaison and asked if I could be put on the list.  About half hour later Len said, “OK we have an email here, you are in!”  One word describes how I felt when Len read me that email,  STOKED!!

The night before I couldn’t sleep I was so excited, and wound up leaving my house to drive the 30 miles at 5:10 in the morning!

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The Iconic Sign at 5:45 AM

Well at that time of day there was no traffic on the 405 so I was in Santa Monica by 5:45…I ate breakfast at a diner, walked along the pier a little bit, and then picked up Len at 7:00 at his hotel.  About 20 minutes later we arrived at the site of the event, the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport.  Check in time was at 8:30 and after a little confusion, Len and I found out where we were supposed to be, and patiently waited outside a chainlink fence for about 45 minutes or so before they checked us in.

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Once we were checked in, they gave us our badges and then had a very nice outdoor area complete with comfortable couches to relax in and some blazing fast WIFI in case we wanted to do some blogging.  They had some good food and drinks for us as well, while we waited for about 90 minutes to be let in to the actual event.

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Once we were checked in, we got to hang out here (Yes Len and I were the first ones there)

So here we go, they opened the doors for us, and we were offered a choice of going right, or left, we picked right, which unfortunately delayed us for about 10 seconds, but were still able to get great seats in the fourth row, off to the middle right of the stage, in front of the podium.

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Inside Barker Hangar right before the announcement

There were about 400 tech journalists there, and over 20 video cameras stationed in the back of the room to record the event.  The lighting and the look of the stage was very sharp and professional, there was a podium on stage left, and a large movie screen setup with a projected amazon logo so sharp I didn’t even realize it was a screen at first.   At 10:43 the lights dimmed and Bezos came out.  From this point all of you can watch the keynote yourself if you are interested in the content of it.  I can tell you what I felt and was thinking throughout the 1 hr talk:  I was amazed to be there, to be actually seeing it live, I was hanging on Jeff’s every word and I loved every second of it!  It was surreal and was a tremendous privilege to see it live.

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Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos

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Jeff Unveils the “Kindle Paper White” my favorite of all the Kindles that were announced

After the event was over, I assisted Len in gathering audio and video interviews from the main players like Russ Grandinetti, and Jay Marine, both Amazon VPs.  Len got a lot of great material for TKC as we went from station to station gathering interviews and demoing the new Kindles.  All of them were on display afterwards for us to play with except for the new hd fires, which were only in the hands of the Amazon folks.  Amazon also had great food and drinks for us which we enjoyed.  I have to say I was very impressed with the folks at Amazon, they were very nice and accommodating, and also very down to earth.  Maybe part of Jeff’s personality and DNA rubs off on his group of “missionaries”  I’d like to think so.

 At about 1:30 or so, we left the event, I dropped Len off at his hotel, and we were done.  In conclusion I would like to reiterate that this day will stand out to me as one of the coolest tech experiences I have ever had, and I can’t thank Len enough for making it happen for me.

Waiting for Amazon Event

I am here in Santa Monica with Len Edgerly podcaster extraordinaire, of The Kindle Chronicles for the chance of a lifetime to actually see the Amazon event live and in person, a dream come true for me!  Please follow me @grabbaggar or len @lenederly for updates as we go, and tonight for a full and complete wrap-up of this amazing event complete with multi media.

Mountain Lion gets ready to roar!

In 2000 Steve Jobs heralded the revolutionary OSX operating system for the Mac, and now 12 years later, we are ready for the 8th incarnation:  OSX.8  code named “Mountain Lion”  Available in just a few hours on the app store for just $19.99 Mountain lion provides some great updates and here are just a few:

Air play mirroring:  Whatever you see on your mac, you can now see on your tv via apple tv and air play

Tons of deeper integration with iCloud: for example now iWork actually will hopefully truly work in the cloud.

Dictation:  Now built directly into the OS, Just speak what you want to and your Mac will display it on the screen

Power Nap: Even when the computer is asleep it will automatically download software updates, and check for email and other things, as long as its connected to a power source

Sharing:  Ever read a great article and wanted to send it to a friend?  Now instead of copying the link and pasting into an e-mail, just hit a share button with option to email, message, Facebook, twitter etc

Twitter and Facebook deep integration:  Now they are built into the OS directly, (Facebook coming in the fall)

All this and much more for 20 Bucks?  A no brainer!

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Sonos: The Game Changer

One of the most fascinating things about the tech revolution is how quickly the way in which we listen to and enjoy music has changed in the past 10-15 years. Music lovers like me once had to buy and collect 100’s of Compact Discs, or Vinyl records and store them somewhere in our houses, where they took up a bunch of space. If we wanted to listen to something, we had to locate the physical CD, pop it in the player, and listen to it in one room. Oftentimes the CD you wanted was in the Car or vice versa. That all changed with the Internet and gained widespread popularity soon after Steve Jobs offered the iPod with “your entire music collection in your pocket”

And now with iTunes match/Amazon Cloud drive/Google music we have this value proposition: “Your entire music collection in the cloud, able to be streamed on any device”

As amazing as this is, when you are in your home, you still must connect your iPod or music player to one single home stereo.

Apples solution to this problem is “airplay” which is a way to wirelessly stream your music from your IOS device to a single point where have speakers connected to an airport express or apple tv.  So now we can just take out our iPhones, and play a song/album/playlist on any speaker. But there are two main problems with Air Play

1. Its not always reliable
2. I can only stream to a single point at once

And now ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sonos: The Game Changer.

Sonos began in 2003 in Santa Barbara, CA. I have known about them in passing for a while, but had always resisted because I was already invested in an array of apple hardware devices and “airplay” points in my house.

Since I took the plunge with Sonos  I must make an admission that startles even me, and should startle you as well: Sonos, as a music system blows away Apple’s Airplay. Crazy I know, but its true. Here are some of the reasons why:

Sonos makes speakers that are wireless, more of an all of one solution that doesn’t necessitate separate purchases of speakers and air port expresses. The speakers sound amazing, they are not large by any means, but the sound is. Here’s how it works: You must connect at least one of your speakers to a physical router (if a speaker is not near, then Sonos makes a small device called a “bridge” that can be connected to the router) Once done,  other speakers can be put all over your house, garage, backyard/pool. Unlike apple, Sonos creates a mesh network called “Sonos net” different from your wireless signal so that it is much more reliable.  It also is synchronized exactly between zones, so you never lose the music no matter where you are in your house.  Setting up a new speaker is amazingly easy, to take a page from Apple it does “just work”.   Upon setup the new speaker very quickly synchs up with all of its friends wirelessly.  Type a name for your new speaker like “Kitchen” and an icon of a Kitchen appears on your Sonos Controller.   Oh and I almost forgot, it is compatible with airplay.  In fact it vastly improves the airplay experience in that it allows streaming to all points in your house instead of just one.

Sonos has partnerships with every streaming music service as well as all the Internet radio you could ever contemplate, Sirius, Pandora, etc. And it is compatible with your iTunes library. Unlike Airplay, you can control multiple points in your house at once and even play a different song in every room at once, if you so choose. All this is of course done from your iPhone or android device.

I bought Sonos shortly after I decided to subscribe to one of the 4 major streaming music services which are Spotify, Mog, Rhapsody, and Rdio.  I have tried them all and decided that MOG is best for me.  All of them cost 10 dollars a month and they have much of the same content.  Instead of “owning” music, I now stream it.  MOG has 14 million songs and is really cool for music discovery.

My only negative with Sonos is that I didn’t discover it sooner!

www.sonos.com

The Lineup:

Sonos Play 3 :  Their smallest speaker is probably my favorite one it has multiple speakers in one package.

Sonos Play 5:  Their largest speaker that is a little big bigger and has an extra speaker or two than the play 3

Sonos connect:  a piece of hardware that lets you connect a Sonos Point to your existing stereo/home theater

Sonos Amp:  a piece of hardware that lets you connect your own speakers.

Sonos Sub:  A subwoofer that is compatible with the play 5 and 3.

Sonos Bridge:  a piece of hardware that plugs into your internet router if your play 5 or 3 is not nearby.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble used to be one of my favorite places to go to.  I would go there to browse the vast selection of books and oftentimes would pick one up to read.  Even if I wouldn’t buy one, I would walk by the Stephen King or Michael Crichton sections and quietly say to myself, “Read em all”  

I have not purchased a physical book from Barnes and Noble since april of 2008 when I bought my first Kindle.  The process of reading is so much easier and so much more enjoyable on the e-ink display.  I sense a lot of people who “refuse” to read anything on paper feel that people like me don’t like reading as much as they do.  For myself though it’s the complete opposite, I’m able to read faster now then I ever could before and I am reading books that I would have never discovered in the past.  Here are a few reasons why the Amazon Kindle or other e-ink displays are much more enjoyable than a physical book

1.  The Kindle is easier to hold 

2.  The font size and style are always perfect

3.  There are never any imperfections in the text like pulp grain artifacts

4.  When an author updates a book to another edition, you can just get it automatically

5. Your eye is focused only the text in front of you, you do not see another page in your periphery 

6.  Turning pages is faster

7.  Wherever you are you can just think of a book and have it in your hands in 60 seconds

8.  Highlighting pages and taking notes is amazing

9.  Your books are saved forever without taking up space in your house

10.  Its good for the environment 

 

When I was in Barnes and Noble it was so difficult to put myself back to pre 2008 time frame before I had my Kindle but today I tried.  I found the process so cumbersome, the selection was lacking, the process and the system are just antiquated.  I think that Barnes and Noble stores as we know it will wither away and die unless they rebrand themselves and sell other things then books.  Because as much as I love books, I’ll never buy a physical one again.

iTunes Match!??

 

iTunes Match is Steve’s final “one more thing”.   He closed his June keynote with the announcement of it.  Along with photo stream it is my number one most looked forward to aspect of iCloud.  Going an “order of magnitude”  leap beyond the original value proposition of the 2001 iPod “1000 songs in your pocket”   Now with iTunes match, you can have access to your entire music library, without it taking up more then a GB or 2 of cached content real world use.  For $25/year you can have iTunes scan your non iTunes purchased content  and “match” it to what they already have in they’re servers.  So now on our music app on our iOS devices we just see our entire library, without it taking 60GB of space, because the music isn’t on the iOS hard drive, its in “the cloud”  Without this, I would never be able to fit all my music on to the phone.  So this solves it…and candidly folks, I would pay more than $25 to get this service.  But I am starting to get a little restless.

 

BECAUSE

 

On October 4th Eddy Cue announced that “iTunes Match” would ship by the “end of October”  obviously they have missed that deadline, and it is bugging me.  This is Apple, you expect premium everything, “it just works”  and it should “just ship” as well.  Apple has made no announcement as to why there is a delay, but my sense is that there are problems with the album artwork, or maybe it’s some other issue we don’t know about.  Today they did roll out a version of 10.5.1 beta 2 for iTunes, so we will see what happens….In the mean time, Apple don’t promise something like this to us if you can’t deliver on it.

My Apple Product History and Timeline

 

There are a zillion writers out there that have written touching and poignant tributes to Steve Jobs

and rather than attempt to add one more, I will focus on not all, but a few of the products that I have bought

and add a personal about each.  So here goes.

The iPod

In 2003 I walked into Costco and bought a 40GB Black Pc+Mac iPod (co-branded with hp)….

Impressions….This was the first Apple Product that I bought and I took to it immediately.  I quickly loaded all my songs

that I had ripped onto my compaq presario running windows xp.  I took the iPod with me everywhere, and soon I thought it

was amazing to have all my songs in my pocket and I loved the scroll wheel, it was so intuitive and felt perfect to use.

Mac Book Pro

When I got my current job I finally had enough money to go to a mac reseller and buy a late 2006 model mac book pro 2.16 ghz

The thing was/is beautiful, having used windows all my life and becoming very proficient at it, there was a slight learning curve in learning the new Mac OSX operating system code named “Tiger”  Within a few short months I was convinced by the stability and performance of this machine that it was far and away superior to any other computer hardware running windows.  Since then I have never voluntarily bought or used a non Mac Computer and it’s safe to say I never will.

Iphone

6/29/07 I remember that date very well because in a lot of ways that was a watershed date in my life.  With this device everything changed.  I waited in line at the Northridge Apple store for 4 hours.  It was an experience I will never forget.  People forget now just how revolutionary this product launch was because multi touch smart phones are the standard now.  When I made it into the store the first time I saw it live was when an Apple employee had one.  The first moment I laid eyes on it I felt a jolt, like seeing Dodger Stadium as a little kid, or Disneyland.  I got the 8GB model and loved it.  My current iPhone will be as of this Friday is a White iPhone 4s with 64GB.  It is always with me, and when I forget it or don’t have it on me I feel like something is missing.

Imac 20 inch 2.0 ghz

My second mac was the iMac 20 inch, and it became my main computer, I loved the way it transferred everything over from the MBP seamlessly.  Beautiful machine with everything contained in the screen itself, no tower necessary.

The iPad 

The last of the revolutionary game changers that Steve Jobs would ever announce came to my doorstep while I was at the Dodger Game.  Upon coming home it was christmas morning x10.  I took out the machine and again was amazed at the beauty of the device and it soon became an indispensable part of my life.  Being able to interact with your media by a simple touch on such a powerful yet easy to use device captured me as it continues to capture millions.

The IMac 27 Inch Quad Core i7 processor (with 14 GB of RAM) 

The Mothership.  Thanks to iCloud yes it now “just a device” as Steve correctly pointed out in his last ever keynote.  But its a super powerful device! This machine is a workhorse it is able to handle everything I throw at it and do it quickly, whether it is ripping DVDs in handbrake, rendering iMovie, managing iPhoto etc.  I love this Computer!

The Mac Book Air 11 inch

Amazing amazing amazing.  There aren’t superlatives to describe this, the computer that I am writing this post on as we speak.  I have had it for about 8 months now and it has changed the way I think about laptops.  It is what a notebook computer should be, a second computer that is ultra portable and ultra sleek.  And light!  It is portable and light and perfect.

And that is it folks #thankssteve

Steve Jobs Passes Away

So So Sad to hear the news that my idol, and person that I have looked up to so much in my life, the Genius of all geniuses, Steve Jobs died today.  I watched with awe over the past 10 years as starting with the iPod, Apple transformed everything about all of our lives.  And grew to be the greatest company in history.   We’ll remember him always.

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