No, your cable and mobile companies aren’t looking out for you (and why you should be)

Here’s the thing about recurring charges for ongoing services, like mobile telephone service, cable television service, internet service, and so on: The companies that provide those services are quite happy to keep charging existing customers more than they do for new customers, and keep providing lesser service than they do to new customers. Of course, I knew that on some level, which is why I periodically look go to my mobile carrier’s web site (AT&T) and click the convenient “change plan” link to see what I might pay, and for what, compared to my current plan. And considering that mobile carriers change their offerings constantly, I’ve often discovered I can save some money and get the same level of service (or better service in many cases over the years). You just have to check.

Well, I discovered today that I’ve been an idiot not to do the same with my internet provider.

Continue reading No, your cable and mobile companies aren’t looking out for you (and why you should be)

The limits of software testing spectacularly revealed by Apple

When the news hit this week that Apple’s new FaceTime group chat feature had a flaw that allowed someone to briefly eavesdrop on someone else, the tech (and mainstream) press was quick to jump on the story, with some mentioning it in the same breath as the nothing-even-remotely-like-it story about Facebook’s egregious privacy destroying, data vacuuming “research” app that flagrantly violated Apple’s enterprise program rules.

To me, the most disturbing piece of this story is what it reveals about the limits of software testing, and what it means for our ever-increasingly tech-driven world.

Continue reading The limits of software testing spectacularly revealed by Apple

The down side of digital: Ephemerality

Over the years, I’ve brushed-up against something about our increasingly digital lifestyles: Digital “stuff” can, and often does disappear in an instant. I suppose the same could be said of physical objects (anyone who’s lost it all in a house fire, tornado, hurricane, etc. knows this of course). But with digital, connections with our past, our own sense of place, manifestations of our memories… They’re all so temporary. And there are lessons to be learned here.

Continue reading The down side of digital: Ephemerality

DuckDuckGo… away

It’s been quite a year for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, among others. They’ve been in the news almost constantly it seems — and for all the wrong reasons. I honestly share a lot of the concerns tech writer Farhad Manjoo has with what he refers to as The Frightful Five, and I recently tried… Truly tried… To use one of the Frightful Five a lot less: Google. It didn’t go well.

Continue reading DuckDuckGo… away

Microsoft: Not the company it used to be

When you’ve been around technology as long as I have, it can be interesting to reflect on where we’ve come from, and how things have changed. Watching Apple go from scrappiness and near bankruptcy to a public company with a trillion dollar valuation, for example.

Then, there’s Microsoft, the company everyone loved to hate. The company that didn’t really innovate because it didn’t have to. The company who played well — with itself. My, but how times have changed.

Continue reading Microsoft: Not the company it used to be

Task management: Taking care of things (or Things)

I’ll confess this right up-front: I am not, by nature, the very most organized person on the planet. My mother used to call me the absent-minded professor (she was from the Jerry Lewis era*), and indeed, I tend to forget anything that’s not on my most immediate radar.

Over the years, I’ve tried quite literally every task management approach under the sun (or it feels that way), and I’ve had trouble sticking with anything very long, either because I forget to use it (that’s a joke), or more often because the task management system simply doesn’t work the way my brain does.

Continue reading Task management: Taking care of things (or Things)

Microsoft Office for iOS: Almost great

It has been roughly four years since Microsoft finally embraced iOS as a platform for their Office suite. And after countless revisions, the rollout of unique capabilities for iPad users, and more, it seems clear that Microsoft has successfully achieved the creation of an Office ecosystem that allows users to seamlessly view and author documents across platforms, and across Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Even Outlook has joined the cross-platform party.

How well does it work? Well, therein lies Microsoft’s continuing challenge.

Continue reading Microsoft Office for iOS: Almost great

Goodbye, Evernote

Since 2010, I’ve been a subscriber to cloud-based note taking and storage service Evernote. Back then, it was hard to beat Evernote’s value proposition: easy, multi-platform note taking and storage, delivering access to your information from virtually anywhere, on any device. With its support for embedded assets, like PDF files, it was a great place not just for note taking as such, but for storing documents that you might want to refer to later. My account has (well, had) hundreds of notes, from to-do lists, to random stuff I don’t want to forget, to meeting minutes, to PDF owner’s manuals for cameras and cars and printers and home appliances — all easily searchable. But this week, I pulled the plug for good, just ahead of my account’s annual renewal.

Continue reading Goodbye, Evernote

OneNote vs. Evernote

Since December 2010, I’ve been a paying customer of Evernote. Cloud-based notes were a revelation for me at the time; anywhere accessibility to the stuff I put there has, over the years, proved invaluable. For me, Evernote was my container of choice for meeting notes, song ideas, PDFs of owner’s manuals, photos of wine labels I didn’t want to forget, and all manner of other things I just wanted to put someplace other than on a piece of paper or a in a notebook.

But my friendship with Evernote, like friendships can, has become strained. We just don’t click the way we used to; we don’t see things the same way. In short, I’ve moved on.

Continue reading OneNote vs. Evernote

Spotify’s music recommendations

Since May 2014, I’ve been dutifully paying for a Spotify subscription, and quite frankly, it’s some of the best money I spend each month. On a dollar-for-dollar basis, I get more enjoyment and utility out of it than I do from my satellite television subscription. Having access to virtually any music, virtually anywhere, is the sort of musical nirvana that I could only have dreamed of a decade ago.

One of the things that was lacking for so long in Spotify was any meaningful music discovery or recommendation engine. That was resolved (at least partially, anyway) a few months back with the introduction of their Discover Weekly playlists. How does it work?

Continue reading Spotify’s music recommendations