The Data Doctor's Blog

My friends at Verizon allowed me to play with the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the first US based Android device to come pre-loaded with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwhich) and here’s what I think…

Why the .xxx porn domain is a useless scam

Last week we saw the launch of the much debated .xxx TLD (Top Level Domain) that was intended to be the home of all things pornographic on the Internet.
imageAs usual, what sounded good on paper to a bunch of tech retarded bureaucrats has become a pointless web signature that’s nothing more than an international money grab.

Why do I say this?

Look at the organizations that are buying .xxx domains: Pepsi, Nike, Indiana University, Illinois State University, the University of North Carolina, Penn State, NPR and just about every major brand that you can think of…

Why?  As a preemptive move to keep a third-party from using the brand as a porn site.

Now let’s look at the companies that have said ‘no thank you’ to buying .xxx domains: Hustler, Playboy and likely any major (dare I say, legitimate) adult content company on the Internet.

Why?

Because they don’t want to become part of what has been called a ‘digital porn ghetto’ that can be easily censored by companies, governments, parents and schools.  Creating websites that allow users to ‘accidentally’ trip across adult content is part of the current strategy for porn vendors; they aren’t about to cut out one of their primary traffic builders.

As a practical matter, most of the bigger adult content companies have thousands of web addresses that would cost a small fortune to replicate with .xxx sites (costing $60-$100 each) just to be mass censored…does that make business sense to you?

Part of the ‘sales pitch’ to the world  for .xxx domains was that it would make surfing porn safer…the owners of all .xxx sites have to agree to very stringent operating guidelines including a daily scan for malware to ensure the ‘highest standards’ of operation (LMAO) so visitors could be confident that the site was safe to use.

So let’s see who’s benefiting from this attempt to ‘sanitize’ the Internet: the .xxx domain registrars, McAfee (the official malware and virus scanning company for .xxx sites) and I suppose, anyone that is a hardcore online porn consumer that wants to feel safe.

I think we are seeing what could be the biggest sanctioned case of institutionalized extortion that the world had ever seen.

If you own a small business, don’t fall for this scam and register because someone scares you into thinking your customers would somehow confuse your company with a similar company that has the .xxx domain (think about it)!

My Favorite Software Find of 2011

Living (and working) in the world of tech for most of my adult life, I don’t often find new software that really gets me cranked up.

As a lover of digital content, I’ve had a myriad of apps that are designed to capture streaming content (music and video) from various sites.  Most of them work by capturing whatever you were watching or listening to in real-time which means that you have to watch or listen to whatever you want to capture in its entirety.

That is until a programmer from ‘down under’ created a handy little program called Jaksta that changed everything!

image



The first question I had after trying it out was ‘how can this be legal?’

Let me make sure you understand how different this program works; you simply start playing a song or video and it jumps into action and downloads the entire file in mere seconds eliminating the requirement that you watch or listen to the entire file!

You can save whatever you capture in a variety of file formats and have it automatically imported into iTunes so that it just shows up on your mobile device(s) with your next sync!
image
We  interviewed the company on our radio show because we were so taken by the simplicity and efficiency of the software and asked about the legality of using this type of software.

The response was that it fell under the same protection as VCRs, DVRs and is akin to us old timers that used to make cassette tapes from whatever was being played on the radio (wooooohooooo!)

Jaksta isn’t going to allow you to make copies of protected content from services like Spotify, Netflix or Hulu, but it does work great with YouTube, Pandora, Grooveshark and thousands of sites that have unprotected streaming content.

The Windows version has more capturing formats, but the Mac version is more than capable of getting the job done.  You can download the demo versions that allow you to try-it-before-you-buy-it to see if it thrills you as much as it did me.

BTW, I’ve uninstalled all the other programs that I used to use for capturing streaming content…

My Droid RAZR vs iPhone 4S Comparison

As a long time iPhone user, I’ve always found Android devices to be a bit too big and bulky until I got my hands on a Motorola Droid RAZR.

Since this is the first Android device that has ever gotten me to rethink my iPhone choice, I decided to do a comparison based on real-world usage instead of tech specs.

RAZR vs iPhone 4SSuddenly, size seemed to matter…

Display
When I first held the RAZR next to my iPhone 4S, it made the iPhone look old, dated and almost like a toy in comparison.

The 4.3” RAZR screen is impressive and provides a lot more real estate for surfing the web, reading e-mails or working on documents, but the iPhone’s Retina display is still noticeably sharper.  From a practical standpoint, either display is plenty big enough for typical usage, but if you use your smartphone to look at documents or especially spreadsheets, the extra real estate is handy.

  • Slight edge goes to the RAZR…

Form Factor
The iPhone’s size and weight have always made it a very functional device that can easily be used with one hand; the RAZR while sporting a large screen is thin and actually lighter than the iPhone 4S.  Extended one-handed usage is much more manageable than previous Android devices, but I still found myself using two hands more often than I do with my iPhone.

The RAZR has a Kevlar back with a stiff body that makes it very durable even though it’s very thin.  I wouldn’t feel the need to get a case for the RAZR, but I would with the iPhone 4S because of the beautiful (but somewhat fragile) glass on the front and back.

  • If you are a one-handed “smartphoner”, a slight edge goes to the iPhone 4S…but this is one that is very personal, so be sure to handle both yourself…

Camera
iPhone camera technology has always been far above the pack IMHO and Apple stepped it up significantly with the iPhone 4S.  I am a ‘pictureholic’ and can now leave my point-and-shoot digital camera at home with the quality of images that the iPhone 4S is generating.  Throw in the 1080p video capabilities, the quick response vs the sluggish RAZR optics  (and every other Android camera that I have ever tested for that matter) and this one was easy for a camera buff…

RAZR took the image on the left, iPhone 4S took the image on the right

I will say that the picture taking options of the RAZR (macro, exposure, etc.) are much more diverse than the iPhone 4S, but for those of us that want to capture the moment, fumbling around with settings means you could miss the shot.  The iPhone is much better at making automatic adjustments, especially in low lighting or when their is a contrast of light and dark in the subject.

  • The edge goes to the iPhone 4S if you care about photography…

Data Connectivity
There is simply no comparison of speed when it comes to Verizon’s 4G LTE on the RAZR and AT&T’s HPSA+ on the iPhone 4S… 4G LTE will win every time.  Having said that, if you live in an area that doesn’t have 4G LTE service just yet, the 3G speeds on AT&T will out perform Verizon, so you need to do your homework on this one.

  • The clear edge goes to the RAZR if 4G LTE is in your area, otherwise it’s based on who has the best signal where you live and work (AT&T’s HSPA+ is 2 to 5 times faster than 3G)

Navigation
If you want to use your smartphone for navigation, this is another no-contest as the Android platform in general wins this every time.  The turn-by-turn navigation on the RAZR makes the map-only navigation on the iPhone seem dangerous unless you have a passenger in the car to be the navigator.

  • The RAZR in a clear winner…

Voice Recognition
The Android platform has long had a better integration of voice recognition in the operating system and until Apple introduced Siri, this was another no-contest.  But Siri has taken voice commands to a different level with its ability to use ‘fuzzy logic’ to figure out what you might be asking.  For instance, asking Siri if you will need an umbrella tomorrow generates a response based on the weather forecast.  Siri combined with location-based reminders (remind me to call Brandon when I get to the office) is a game changer.

The '65 mph Siri text message with the top down' testing labThe ‘65 mph Siri text message with the top down’ testing lab

I’ve even tested it going 65 miles an hour with the top down on my old-school car and successfully sent my wife a text message that was perfectly translated!

  • In the voice recognition challenge, I gotta give it to the iPhone 4S…

Battery Life
The biggest problem that all of the feature-laden cutting-edge smartphones have is that features SUCK (battery power, that is).  Power management is critical with today’s smartphones.

4G LTE phones have been notorious for draining batteries so much so that often times the advice is to turn off the 4G radio unless you really need it (which kind of defeats the purpose of having a 4G device, doesn’t it?)

The RAZR has a new feature called ’Smart Actions’ that allows you to custom tailor battery usage depending upon the condition of the phone.  For instance, when the battery level reaches 20%, you can have the phone automatically turn off the GPS, 4G and lower the brightness to conserve power.  The phone actually monitors your usage and over time, suggests new actions to improve performance or you can manually create any number of your own actions.

This is a huge improvement for those that have constantly had to fiddle with their phones to manage the power usage.

  • Add the ability to easily see which tasks are using the most power and the RAZR has a clear advantage in power management…

Ease of Use
Setting aside my current bias towards iOS as an interface, if you hand an iPhone and an Android device to a person that has never used either, they will be more likely to figure out the iOS device quicker as it has a consistent rhythm in how things work.  The Android OS is infinitely more customize-able and as a result, has a larger learning curve.  Some of the simple tasks like going forward and backwards between web pages requires you to switch between the screen as an interface and the function keys at the bottom (especially to go forward).

And I come back to the one-handed use of the devices; it can be done on both, but the iPhone is certainly more suited to the average person’s hand.  Look no further than the unlock swipe process for both…between the wider screen and having the swipe bar in the middle instead of at the bottom, unlocking the RAZR with one hand is more prone to miscues.

  • I give the iPhone 4S the nod here (YMMV)… 

Remember, these are MY observations and opinions AND keep in mind my bias because I have been using an iPhone as my primary device for a number of years.

Having said that, hopefully some of my insights help you understand just how subtle the difference have become between these two platforms; I’ve never been as impressed by an Android device as I have been playing with the RAZR for the past couple of days!

What ‘beta’ means in the tech world

For all the new iPhone 4S owners that are screaming bloody murder because they can’t ask Siri “who’s on first” Siri: "Who's on first?"or “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck?”, you need to check yourselves!

Yes, Siri was touted as one of the biggest reasons to get the iPhone 4S and yes, when it works it’s pretty darn cool (and even helpful if you get past the joke commands) but there’s something that you might have missed in the fine print…

Siri is still in ‘beta’ as in ‘beta-testing’ as in it ain’t quite done yet!

Here’s the best explanation that I found on the interwebs:

"When used to refer to software, "Beta" is short for "Beta-test" - a period where the software is technically "feature complete" - meaning no new features will be added and presumably stable enough for most common usages to actually work. (Contrast with "Alpha Test" which happens earlier, and is often not feature complete and even more unstable.)

image One of the reasons that Siri is having service issues is that every time you speak into the mic, the Siri app on your phone sends what you said to a cluster of Apple’s computers that can process the meaning of your command much faster than your phone could (or at least that was the intention).

With 4 million units sold in the first weekend and more countries getting the phone every week, you can only imagine how much traffic the Siri computers are getting all at once.

The good news is, this should only get better over time as most folks settle into using Siri for productive tasks instead of the endless “watch what I can get Siri to say” that is going on right now.

The coolest thing that I have heard about the Siri technology is the rumor that one of Steve Jobs last wishes was to change the way we watch TV…and the speculation is that Siri will be the technology that will simplify what has been the road-block to true Internet television convergence: the remote control!

Imagine being able to say “I want to watch last Monday’s Sing Off” and up it comes!

Of course, if you are one of the early adopters of whatever comes next with Siri, please be sure to look at the fine print for the word ‘beta’ or you may be screaming at your flat panel TV next!

iPhone 4S: My first 10 days

I’ve had some time to play around with the iPhone 4S, in and around my daily activities and here are my first impressions:

It’s much faster as a device for just about everything, so the dual-core processor that separates it from the iPhone 4 is paying dividends.

As far as the new antenna technology, I’ve tested it side-by-side with an iPhone 3Gs and 4 at my house and at the office, and the 4S is always measurably faster (1.5 x– 5x) in both environments.

Internet Speed Test - iPhone 4S vs iPhone 3GsInternet Speed Test - iPhone 4S vs iPhone 3Gs

Since 4G service from any provider isn’t available in the area where I live, the faster 3G technology that is only supported by AT&T is working well for me.

Going from a 3Gs to the 4S, the Retina Display is noticeably clearer, although it would have been nice for the screen to be a little bigger.

Since I’m a picture and video junkie, the improvements in the camera lenses, resolution (8 Megapixel) and 1080p video have been among my favorite upgrades.

My point and shoot camera is dead to me now!

Sample iPhone 4S pic

Now that Siri’s novelty has worn off, I’m starting to figure out where and when to use it for actual productivity gains:

  • Reading my incoming text messages, especially in the car
  • Dictating text messages, especially longer ones
  • Setting Reminders, especially around the house
  • Setting appointments with people that are in my address book for a specific day and time and having the invitation sent automatically is awesome!

On the reminders front, the ability to set reminders based on location rather than time has been an amazing new tool as well. For instance, I can ask Siri to remind me to change the air filters when I get home and the phone’s location tracking system will know when I am pulling up to the house and remind me.

If I don’t clear the reminder, it will remind me every time I pull into the garage, so even if I blow it off, it will nag me (which I often need).

By default, it will prompt you to help it understand what home and work mean from a location standpoint, but you can actually get very creative with some other locations.

For instance, I added the Home Depot location near my house into my address book and was able to say “Remind me to pick up air filters at Home Depot” and it worked.

I then tried it with my neighborhood Bashas grocery store, but Siri couldn’t recognize Bashas even though it was in my address book with various attempts to change labeling, etc.

You can manually set location based reminders by using the Reminder app and going through the steps to add the physical address to the reminder, so it’s still a useful feature even though you can’t tell Siri to set it.

Battery life is taking a hit from all of the additional features but in time, I’ll figure out how to reduce consumption and post those tips on our Facebook page.

Some of the other improvements like Photostream that automatically pushes your pictures up to the iCloud service and back down to your home or office computers or your iPad are actually features that come with iOS 5, so if you have an older iPhone or iPad, get them updated!

Careful, your age is showing!

Change is hard…and gets even harder as we age.

Parent's just don't understand

Every generation had something that made their parents shake their heads and proclaim that the future of this country was in jeopardy (parent’s just don’t understand!)

The jitterbug, women getting to vote, television, Elvis, The Beatles, long-haired hippies (feel free to add yours in the comments section) were considered the beginning of the end by the older generation.

No period in the history of man has seen as much change in the fundamentals of communication then we are experiencing right now and it’s causing an older generation to act like their parents did when they didn’t quite ‘get it’.

I’ve had a great seat to experience the mobile/social revolution and learned a lot from observing the communication skills of my now 21 and 18 year old ‘sensei’ and balance that with a thorough understanding of how my fellow baby-boomers grew up.

The biggest misconception that I hear from the older generation is that ‘today’s kids don’t know how to have face-to-face conversations’ because of all the texting, tweeting and Facebooking.

Many assume that anyone that’s an avid social networker is lacking the people skills to be social in the off-line world.

IMHO, nothing could be further from the truth and apparently, minds much greater than mine have studied this relationship.

It isn’t that they aren’t capable of having those face-to-face conversations; it’s that they reserve those conversations for the precious few that they deem worthy (that sure seems pretty smart to me!)

All that texting and digital communication is a brilliant way to continue casual friendships and more importantly to filter out the meaningless small talk that us older folk considers social etiquette and our youth considers horribly inefficient.

Think about how much time we waste when we have a face-to-face conversation with casual friends; the first 15 minutes is general meaningless “How are you?” type conversations that are entrenched into our motor skills.

When our youth run into someone off-line, they generally go right to a meaningful discussion, because they are continuing what started as an on-line conversation (no small talk needed).

Text messaging was initially viewed as unsociable and erratic behavior by older folks because our kids were having multiple conversations at the same time… "why don’t you just pick up the phone and call them instead" most of us would ask!

Well today, virtually every adult sees the beauty of text messaging and we have learned how to use it to make communication more efficient in our own live.

The lesson was simple: they reserve phone conversations for the most important people in their lives (sounds like brilliant time management to me).

What else do our kids know that we still can’t get our heads around?  Time will tell…

Another curious observation is that older folks deride younger folks sitting at a coffee shop or restaurant across from each other, focused on their mobile devices and not talking to one another, but they don’t have the same perspective of two people reading the newspaper and equally ignoring each other.

I’m not suggesting that everything that is happening in today’s multi-tasking, multi-platform, electronically over-stimulated world is for the best, because clearly it isn’t.

I’m simply suggesting that us older folks stop judging what’s going on TODAY with YESTERDAY’S methods of measurement…it won’t line up and you’ll miss all the good stuff that’s happening!

Am I way off base with this line of thinking?