Info

badice.com ~ musings for the masses

Posts from the Technology Category

ESPN’s Kate Fagan with “Split Image”, a look at depression and suicide in the age of social media.

On Instagram, Madison Holleran’s life looked ideal: Star athlete, bright student, beloved friend. But the photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on.

It’s a startling reminder that the “reality” presented on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is not always what it seems and that the so called perfection is often marred by pain or struggles.

Today while using Google Chrome I made some kind of user error and whatever it was wiped out my bookmarks, my browsing history, and my tabs. Usually if I have to close the browser for an update or other change there is a function that brings up “Recent Tabs” and all is well. Not today. Everything is gone and I have not found anything that will help me bring it back. But maybe that’s a good thing…

I am a tab hoarder. I will keep tabs open for weeks while I think about whether I need it or not. Rather than bookmark it or perform an action around it, I’ll just keep it open. You can believe that I had a ton of tabs open before this happened. This clean-up while it hurts, I am still trying to remember what I had open that was important or urgent, maybe it’s just the wake-up I needed to get my digital house in order. Time to make a big backup of everything and put it aside and organize what I am working on now.

Spring cleaning is beginning.

One of the best reviews of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus takes place at Disneyland. Matthew Panzarino takes the phone with him on the visit and spends a few days putting the phones through what could easily fill in for a normal day, browsing the internet, playing a game for a bit, taking pictures, etc.

One of the more impressive bits:

The phase detection autofocus is extremely quick, and the continuous autofocus while video recording is active is absolutely fantastic. The leap in quality over even dedicated cameras can’t be overstated. The image quality is off the charts and the (software driven) “Cinematic Stabilization” is amazing.

Having a piece of equipment that fits in your pocket and takes amazing pictures and videos is one of the iPhone’s killer selling points. The fact that Apple continues to make improvements in the camera, the processing power of it and the quality, is what makes me keep coming back to it.

Recently, Amazon Prime increased in price from $79/year to $99/year, even for existing members. Of course, there was the usual gnashing of teeth and complaining that usually comes with these types of announcements, but I took it in stride.

Prime has a lot of value for me, most of which centers around the free 2-day shipping and the Amazon Prime Instant Video features. With the recent announcement that a number of HBO shows would be coming to Prime Instant Video, the service increased in value even more for me.

The 2-day shipping feature though is where I really see the value, even at $99/year. When I am on the road and think of something we need around the house or if I forgot something over the weekend, I can open up the Amazon app on my iPhone, order what I need, and when I get home it is waiting for me. Sure, this creates the challenge of having impulse buys but if you have a little self-control, this should pose no problem. It removes the headache of having to fight traffic for something you do not need right away and let’s you focus on other things.

There are a few downsides to using Prime though. For one, you are not always going to get the cheapest price. We were hoping to be able to buy dog food via Amazon Prime but the price is much higher than what we can get the food for in the store. I am sure there are other items out there that are very similar. Secondly, you do have to wait. Next day shipping still costs extra (as it should) so in the cases where you need something really fast, you may be better off picking it up directly from a store. My last qualm is that Amazon Prime Instant Video adds/removes available free content on somewhat of a whim. There are a few shows that I really want to watch (Mind of a Chef) that recently left Prime Instant Video and don’t look like they are going to return anytime soon. It would be nice if Amazon would make users aware of what content would be leaving the free video selection in the near future so that people could watch if they wanted to do so.

Anyway, there is still a lot of value in Amazon Prime for me, even at $20 more a year. Free 2-day shipping is huge, even if you only buy a few items a year, plus the streaming video service has allowed me to get rid of cable and still keep up with the shows that I want to watch, saving me money in the process.

If you are interested in giving Amazon Prime a try, they have 30-day free trials available. This is an affiliate link and I do receive a small reward if you sign up for a trial.

I am a sucker for this kind of, in Jeopardy terms, potpourri. Priceonomics has a short piece on why UPS trucks do not make left turns. The most telling part:

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents.

UPS even has a page describing the practice of no left turns and they expand on the above idea.

What we found: A significant cause of idling time resulted from drivers making left turns, essentially going against the flow of traffic. From there we explored routes where these turns were cut out entirely, and then compared data.

The use of data to make a decision that goes against logic is what I love. UPS leadership was experimental enough to say “we are going to implement this and see if it works” and then study the results from that test. There are a number of very large companies that I have worked with that would immediately balk at this idea. They almost go through stages of grief (sans depression) with ideas like this.

  1. Denial – the companies claim the data is wrong or that it is flawed
  2. Anger – the workers who are responsible for causing the data become upset that someone found out about their poor work habits
  3. Bargaining – to get out of making a change, people start tossing out different ideas, none of them good
  4. Acceptance – “I guess we’ll just have to do it”

Then there are the companies who do the complete opposite. They implement a terrible idea based on bad data, or their understanding and interpretation of good data, and it blows up in their face. Once that happens, they become very adverse to ever trying a new idea again. We need new ideas backed by data and I think it’s awesome that UPS took their data and made some interesting choices that have paid off.

About six months ago I switched all of my office to airport transfers in New York City from different car services (Carmel, Dial 7, etc.) to Uber, a service that lets passengers use their smartphone to schedule a ride in real time and have a drive at their location in a short amount of time.

At first, I was skeptical. In fact, I was hesitant to even use the service based on the negative press I had read. But, I gave it a try and had a mediocre first experience. The price was a little higher than what I was originally quoted in the app and the driver did not take the roads I had recommended, leading to being stuck in traffic for forty five minutes.

But I gave it another shot and after the second ride, I was hooked. Then Uber announced lower flat rates between Manhattan and Newark and I was really hooked. Sure, I have received less than helpful service from drivers or had cars that were not really that clean, but the majority of my trips have been great. The cars are usually very clean and new and the drivers are very courteous. Last week the driver called me after I requested a ride at Newark and asked if I minded walking upstairs rather than him driving all the way out of the airport to come back around. He was at the departure level and him calling me probably saved 20 minutes of waiting.

For the next 10 days Uber is offering double referral credits. So, for every person who signs up using my link, they receive a $20 ride credit and so do I. So, if you are looking for a new car service to try, give my referral link a click, sign-up for Uber, and take a ride. You may really like it, you may not, but it is worth a try.

As you probably know by now, the FAA now allows use of personal electronic devices from gate to gate. Each airline has to come up with their own policy and implementation plan and a number of have started doing just that. JetBlue, Delta, American, United, and others now allow personal electronic devices during all stages of flight and more airlines are sure to follow.

My personal experience with the new policy has been solely with United. The airline took around a week and a half to implement the policy and I flew with them the first day it was in place. The flight attendants were very upbeat about it and stated that the only two caveats were that heavier devices, computers mostly, needed to be stored for takeoff and landing, and, that all devices needed to be in airplane mode during flight. The ability to use the device for the entire flight felt a little strange. I usually carry a physical book for takeoff and landing, now I just need my iPad mini or Kindle and I’m set. It is one less thing in my bag and that is always welcome. I would also say that it must be a relief for the flight attendants to not have to walk around and police people’s hand movements or worse, make those announcements, you know, “The captain has informed me that a sensor in the cockpit shows 10 devices still being used”. We can also stop policing each other. Passengers no longer have to hide that they are using a device to listen to music, receiving an ugly glare from their seatmate.

If you are flying soon realize that some carriers have not yet implemented gate-to-gate policies, the Express arm of United is one example. Also know that for international flights, most countries and FAA like bodies have not approved electronic device usage below 10,000 feet. Keep all of this in mind if asked to turn off your device. Sure the flight attendant may not have received the memo but they could also be correct when asking you for your cooperation.*

*As I wrote this there was a passenger arguing with a flight attendant about turning off her laptop.

I am thinking of having a summer cleaning fest. Not necessarily one of physical items, though I’m sure I could find plenty of knickknacks to throw out. No, I am talking about a purge and clean up of my digital stuff. There is tons of it. Photos, music, movies, documents, code, and a whole bunch of other stuff sits on my desktop and on my different hard drives. The behavior of letting my digital household go uncleaned has slipped into my browsing habits and my smartphone usage. I keep way too many tabs open in Chrome and the number of apps on my iPhone has become ridiculous.

Starting today, I’m purging all of the extraneous stuff that I don’t need. I will be looking at my different applications on my computers and the different apps on my phone and flat out deleting those things which I do not use on a regular basis. I know there are a few apps that I have not used in months and they need to go. The same applies to bookmarks in my browser and files/folders on my hard drive.

I do not think it is just me that struggles with this. I have written things before about how we are being inundated with information and it is hard to filter out what is important. I have yet to succeed at becoming really good at filtering things like Twitter and Facebook but my move to clean up my devices is an attempt to filter where I go for information. It is the start of really focusing on what’s important and ignoring what isn’t. We’ll see how well I can do, I am known for holding on to things (trinkets, papers, etc.) and deleting things in the digital realm is just as hard for me.