The Google Chromebook Sells Out!

Google’s latest iteration of ChromeOS hardware has very impressively sold-out almost as soon as it went on sale.

The new hardware is attractive for a number of reasons: it’s thin, it’s light, it features a lot of the latest technology like Bluetooth 3.0, USB 3, and dual-antenna a/b/g/n wi-fi (and we know there’s a mobile-wireless version coming soon too).

The coolest feature though is that it does not run on an Intel processor, but rather the Samsung Exynos 5 – an ARM A-15 processor like the kind found in smartphones and tablets! The A-15 is the latest iteration of the ARM design; and the Exynos 5 is a powerful chip with minimal power consumption – so no fans and longer battery life on a thinner, lighter battery.

About 90% of what I do my computers is web-based, such as e-mail, news, blogging, and even working with documents and spreadsheets on Google Drive. So a Chromebook would fill just about all my requirements. The only thing I’d be scared to try is managing my photo & video library or touching up my photos. There’s certainly no reason why a Chromebook couldn’t handle that and software like Aviary proves it possible but I think it will be awhile before we see digiKam ported to a Chrome App and there’s a truly comparable option.

What I can’t wrap my head-around though is why?! I have nothing against ARM-based computers or living my life on-line. But what I don’t understand is why we need another platform? At this point Android is a viable option for a netbook operating system. Chrome (the browser at the heart of ChromeOS) even runs on Android. An Asus Transformer is basically a Netbook running Android. Any Android tablet matched up with a Bluetooth keyboard is basically a netbook.

Even Microsoft with the launch of their Surface tablet and it’s choice of keyboard covers has basically said the netbook market was killed by the tablet market!

I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep repeating it as long as I have to: WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER PLATFORM!

Apple offers developers the burden of iOS and OS X. Google offers the burden of Android and Chrome. Microsoft offers the burden of Windows (in it’s many iterations) and Windows 8 new paradigm and Windows RT (all of which multiplied by the burden of traditional libraries or newer .NET libraries). And then of course there’s the waffling RIM that burdens us with the old Blackberry and the promise of BB10; and a flurry of other platforms like Firefox OS, Sailfish, and Tizen.

It’s not surprising that RIM and Microsoft are having trouble attracting developers to their app stores – developers are all sick and tired having new platforms dropped on them like a ton of bricks and being told “if it doesn’t succeed it’s your fault because you didn’t write any killer apps for it!

So why didn’t Google put Android on this hardware and call it a Nexus NB (for netbook) or Nexus K (for keyboard) or Nexus RT (for Kiss-our-ass-Microsoft)?

As a Chromebook my only interest in purchasing one would be to wipe-out ChromeOS and install ARMedSlack. If it was running Android though I’d be perfectly happy to leave it as is!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

What The Hell Just Happened At Google?

If you read the actual SEC filing of Google’s third quarter you realise this entire non-event was created by bloggers who apparently had nothing better to report.

SEC filings don’t make for very interesting blog posts though.

So, meh.

Source: SEC

Via: Read Write Web

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

CRTC announces Proceeding to establish a mandatory code for mobile wireless services

The CRTC has just announced a Proceeding to establish a mandatory code for mobile wireless services. In theory this is a great move. In reality this is lip-service to a disillusioned and misguided public.

The reality is that his will not lead to any meaningful change in Canada’s wireless landscape, because:

  1. The telcos will voluntarily implement some of the codes prior to the establishment of the official code;
  2. There are provincial consumer protection laws that already require some of the things the public is demanding; and
  3. Most consumers (or at least the ones who post comments and in forums) are dumber than a sack of cabbages and just don’t understand how our nearly-but-not-really free-market works.

If you haven’t already done so you should post your comment on the CRTC web site (since they can’t really admit they read this blog).

Here’s what I had to say to the CRTC on this issue…

Code of conduct should include:
– decreasing cancellation fee proportional to remaining contract
– reasonable cost to unlock mobile phone once subsidy is paid off
– ability to remove unwanted software (apps) from the phone upon demand (not all smartphones have the capacity to handle the software installed by the carrier; but carriers do not test every model of every phone in every possible situation)
– individual service feature add-ons should be available at reasonable cost relative to feature bundles that include the individual features (i.e.: the sum of the individual prices should be more than the bundle price unless there is an obvious efficiency in having the two features simultaneously)

Let’s take a look at each one of those.

Cancellation fees

Many provinces, soon to be all I’m sure, already have clauses in their consumer protection laws that correlate your cancellation fee with the number of months you have left on your contract. It’s a moot point if the CRTC requires this since it’s already available to the majority of consumers but it would be nice to have a national standard.

Perhaps a more controversial addendum to this would be requiring the service providers to indicate what amount of your bill represents the subsidy and how much you can expect to save once your subsidy is paid off. Even going so far as allowing early pay-off so you can trigger the monthly savings ahead of time.

Unlocking

Unlocking is a more reasonable alternative to carrier’s feeble trade-in programs. Allowing consumers to sell or gift their phones and trade-up. You would have to pay off your subsidy first, but I think that’s totally reasonable.

Of course someone who expects to travel with their phone would simply have to purchase the phone outright and have it unlocked immediately upon purchase. If you know you’ll need an unlocked phone then pony-up the dough and buy one! Just because you decide to travel doesn’t mean the telcos have to give you special treatment.

Unwanted software

Okay, this might be a pet-peeve, but two things are certain: carrier software is often crap-tastic; and just because it isn’t branded spy warez r uz doesn’t mean it ain’t!

Most of the apps carriers put on your phone are simply white-label apps that have been re-branded and pointed to your carrier’s servers or data-sources. Not much design or development goes into these apps; hardly any testing; and definitely no support. So if you don’t use something you should be able to get it off your phone – especially if it’s something that feels it has to run in the background (and worse if it feels it has to always remind of this wonderful opportunity you’re missing out on).

We learned a lot from the Carrier IQ scandal a while back and so did the carriers: they now hide that functionality in apps that you actually want and seem genuinely useful. If you don’t want this stuff running in the background you should be able to remove it from your phone.

NOTE: I’m not a conspiracy-theory nut-job, but it’s fun to play one sometimes.

The other thing is, and this goes for OEM’s apps too, is that not every apps is tested in every possible way, and sometimes an app or OS upgrade is too much for a phone to handle, particularly an older phone. So once again, if you don’t use it you should be able to get the CPU/memory/bandwidth hogging app off your phone.

Individual Service Features

Okay, now this really is a pet peeve. Why is a bundle of un-related features cheaper than sum of the individual features? Remember, they’re un-related. Caller ID and Voice Mail and text messaging have nothing to do with each other. So why is it cheaper for me to get a bundle with all three than to just add Caller ID to my plan!?

I can understand why carriers would offer bundles of bandwidth and internet based services (like Mobile TV or sports broadcasts). But I don’t understand why they have to bundle everything!? It’s like every new junior marketing hire has to come up with a new bundle during his probation period if he wants to keep this job?!

Competition

And finally for all you twits whining about lack of competition in comments and forums. Competition does not mean the government will order Robelus to give you an iPhone 5 and unlimited internet. Competition means they try and sucker you for all the money they can while you try and sucker them for all the product and services you can – when you meet in the middle that’s the result of competition.

The new entrants, such as Wind, Public, and Videotron, will bring more choices to a certain segment of consumers. But they are not a choice for everyone – either because of their limited AWS handsets, their limited coverage, or their inability to bundle other services such as residential phone, internet, or television.

Increasing foreign investment is not going to make things any cheaper either. If someone invests millions or even billions of dollars it is because they want as much of the incredibly high margins Canadian telcos are making – not because they feel sorry for you and want to hand-out iPhones and unlimited internet like the Easter Bunny!

Don’t forget to post your comment on the CRTC web site and leave a little note saying “hello” here (I know you’re lurking there Chaiman Katz, c’mon – say hi!).

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

What will replace iGoogle?

In just over a year – on November 1st, 2013 – Google will pull the plug on another service. This time it won’t be some obscure 20% project that only handful of people ever heard about, let alone used. This time it will be iGoogle!

iGoogle is the start page for a lot of internet browsers around the globe. It’s the place where many of us go first thing in the morning to see our new e-mails, our agenda, read the news, and access our Google Drive.

Google seems to think the web has evolved to the point where iGoogle is no longer necessary. And they suggest that mobile apps and Chrome extensions will fill the void. Which I can believe on my phone – I’ve never used the mobile iGoogle homepage on my smartphone. But for my desktop and laptop I have not yet found a Chrome app that satisfactorily replaces iGoogle. And ofcourse you can’t take a Chrome Extension with you when you log in from another computer, or even a different browser.

There are a couple other alternatives too: NetVibes and Protopage. We’ll see if Google changes their mind if the drive to either of these two dashboards heats-up.

NetVibes is the more mature and feature rich platform, while Protopage still has some work to do to smooth things out and fill in the gaps.

Both are based on the idea of feed reading; and NetVibes has a beautiful reader mode that is worth it to make the switch from Google Reader. There are a few quirks to get used to:

  • you can’t easily share, e-mail, or mark an item while viewing the full item – you have to check the item and then access the action menu at the top right – but you there are quick-access icons for this in both compressed header and tiled mosaic views;
  • share options are limited to Facebook and Twitter, whereas Google Reader offered many more options and the ability to define your own; and
  • there’s no starring or tagging, which admitted was of limited usefulness in Google Reader since it became subservient to Google+ but it would be nice if NetVibes offered it.

Hopefully NetVibes will get ambitious and challenge not just iGoogle but Google Reader too – the defacto king of feed reading.

Protopage only displays feeds in boxes as separate widgets, but it is possible to combine several feeds into one widget so you can compress it somewhat. But you can’t streamline it into one continuous feed.

The other thing a dashboard needs is active widgets. Not just the weather or the quote of the day; but e-mail, calendar, twitter and more. Widgets that you can interact with and manipulate the contents of.

In this case NetVibes definitely has the lead over Protopage with a well documented API and easy to use widget showcase. Unfortunately since NetVibes (or Protopage) isn’t hosting any of this data (unlike iGoogle that was hosted by the same people who host your GMail, GCalendar, GTasks, etc.) you need to authorize the dashboard widget to access that data. The essential NetVibes widgets seem to have this ability but the third-party widgets don’t – it’s not part of the API! So you can view your Google Calendar if you make it public but you can’t update it.

Hopefully we’ll see NetVibes and Protopage improve their API’s and either internally or with the help of independent third-party developers build widgets that let us re-create our iGoogle dashboard without having to abandon all the other stuff we have with Google – at least until they discontinue it!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, part 5 of 5

It’s been a week since we last talked, and I bet you were waiting with tense anticipation for the final instalment! Well, it would seem that my birthday celebrations, mother’s day, and the fact my Bachelors of Arts degree left me with absolutely no artistic ability what-so-ever have come together against me.

So here, in all its glory – but without any cool infographics – is the conclusion. Enjoy!

To summarize what I’ve discussed over the past couple weeks I’ve put together the table below. Remember that on line portfolios are offered by portal sites, news outlet‘s web sites, financial web sites, and your broker‘s web site. There are different styles of portfolios: Full portfolios let you track holdings and even transactions; whereas Watchlists only let you list a stock. Most of these sites contain ads, but some are less intrusive and others are more.

The rating scale is out of 10 and is highly subjective and compounded by the fact it entirely my opinion, not anyone else’s or an average of several people’s. Data is an evaluation of the completeness of the data; Use is an evaluation of the ease of use; UI is a first impression of the look & feel of the web site; and Total is the sum of the previous parts, out of 30.

Type Style Ads Data Use UI Total
Google Finance Portal Full portfolio Bearable 7 10 10 27
MSN Portal Full portfolio Intrusive 4 5 5 14
Yahoo Finance Portal Full portfolio Bearable 5 7 7 19
Bloomberg News Outlet Full portfolio Excessive 9 6 4 19
Canadian Business News Outlet Full portfolio Excessive 6 3 3 12
Financial Post News Outlet Watchlist only Intrusive 7 6 4 17
Financial Times News Outlet Full portfolio Bearable 10 10 7 27
Globe Investor News Outlet Watchlist only Intrusive 9 4 8 21
MarketWatch News Outlet Watchlist only Intrusive 9 10 9 28
Barchart Financial Services Full portfolio Bearable 4 7 5 16
Morningstar Financial Services Full portfolio Bearable 6 4 8 18
TMX Money Financial Services Watchlist only Excessive 4 7 5 16
BMO Investor Line Broker Live portfolio None 10 5 5 20
Qtrade Broker Live portfolio None 10 8 7 25
RBC Direct Investing Broker Live portfolio None 10 5 5 20

You can also see this table in all it’s Google DocsDrive glory!

What’s clear from the table is that Google Finance, the Financial Times, and Market Watch have the best on-line portfolio managers. So if you’re going to spend the time to set one up and maintain it, then one of those three would be your best bet.

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Calculating Returns and The Portals
Part 3 – News Outlets
Part 4 – Financial Services and Brokerages
Part 5 – Comparison Table and Conclusion

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Disclaimer The material in this article does not constitute advice and you should not rely on any material in this article to make any decision or take any action.

Flipboard for Android leaks

So Flipboard for Android was supposed to be an exclusive on Samsung Galaxy S III but it didn’t take long for an intrepid S III owner to pluck the APK from it’s comfortable surroundings and throw out into the wild for all to enjoy!

So far I’m pretty impressed, Flipboard certainly looks beautiful and makes viewing media laden tweets a joy – although tweets who’s media host is not integrated are still relegated to second place. And those tweets that link to an article an get a very fancy look with media from the article.

My two main sources of reading though are Google Reader and Twitter. For both of those Flipboard is a mixed result. Flipboard works best when there’s media to display, it makes the article look so much cooler. I’ve added The Globe and Mail, The Economist, and Make Magazine, which are quite nice to flip through – but I have to admit I had trouble navigating around the app to find stuff.

If you want to give Flipboard a try on your Android phone, either buy yourself a Samsung Galaxy S III or head-on over to XDA Developers to download the APK and sideload it yourself.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Who won in Google vs. Oracle?

The headline over at Boy Genius Report is Jury says Google infringed on Oracle’s copyrights and over at Mobile Syrup it’s Jury reaches split decision in initial Google/Oracle case while at the Verge they say Jury finds Google infringed Oracle copyrights in partial verdict; Google moves for mistrial and over at Phone Area they have Jury renders partial verdict copyright infringement in Oracle v Google case and finally Reuters wrote Google infringed Oracle Java copyrights: jury.

What’s most interesting though is in other news about Google there’s plenty of stuff besides the lawsuit. But the Oracle news is all lawsuit all the time!

So whether they won or lost I don’t think Google really cares, they’ve already moved on! Oracle on the otherhand, doesn’t seem to have anything else to talk about.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Path vs. Instagram on Android

I recently went through the exercise of finding a replacement for Instagram, when they sold-out to Facebook. Path wasn’t on my list of replacements at the time because they didn’t offer filters or lenses like Instagram does – at least on Android, iOS users have had that feature for some time.

Now that Path has added that feature to Android, and because quite a few friends switched to Path after abandoning Instagram, I have given it another look.

The coolest feature of their lenses is they are applied while you are taking the picture! Not afterwards, so you can see live how the shot will look. You can always change the lens afterwards too.

Unfortunately Path doesn’t have all the editing features I’ve gotten used to now in Aviary – things like cropping the photo, rebalancing the colours, adding some mark-up, and more. And their lenses do not include the funky borders or other embellishments that Aviary (and Instagram) added to accentuate the effect.

So the question is, do I use Path as a Twitter client? Do I abandon Twitter (and it’s ecosystem) and live entirely on Path? Or is Path just not happening for me?

I don’t really have any compelling reason to be on Twitter over any other social network – I’m following a couple dozen people and the ones I interact most with I also see in-person or are on Path too. But my current workflow (snap a photo, edit & embellish with Aviary, and post to Twitter with hosting on TwitPic) works really well. Photos posted to Path and shared on Twitter are only visible if the viewer clicks through the tweet to Path (photos shared on Tumblr show-up on Tumblr but you have click through to Path to see the comment) – TwitPic photos show-up in the tweet.

For now at least, stay tuned to Twitter rather than Path.

Source: Path’s blog

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Instagram vs. Lightbox vs. PicPlz vs. Aviary and More…

Ever since the bombshell dropped, that Instagram had sold out to Facebook, a lot of us have been looking for an alternative.

Now the sell-out may not be the end of the world as we know it, but we expect in a very short time that Instagram will change their terms of service to read All yur pics iz mine! and we’ll be forced to share on Facebook primarily. That may not happen. Facebook might simply embed Instagram as the built-in camera on their smartphone apps and leave the rest of us who don’t Facebook to use a stand-alone Instagram like we do now. But is that really why they invested a billion dollars to acquire Instagram!?

Some of the alternatives that have been mentioned include: Aviary, Flickr, Hipster, Lightbox, Magic Hour, MOLOME, PicPlz, Pixlr-o-matic, Poctos, and StreamZoo.

A search on the Google Play store for “photo filters” or even just the Photography category reveals more than 1,000 results! Granted they aren’t all Instagram-like apps, but reading through the first few pages reveals that there are a lot of choices. More than we can possible review here, sorry.

So for your consideration, here are some alternatives to Instagram. Not an exhaustive list, but the list I am considering. They aren’t all drop-in replacements for Instagram, but the ultimate result is the same: sharing fun, quirky photos.

Lightbox

This was the first Instagram-on-Android app that I tried. It worked really well, and pretty much works like Instagram. The most interesting twist for Lightbox is the camera is interchangeable, so if you prefer another camera app you drop that in, or you can use Lightbox’s camera independently of Lightbox.

PicPlz

This is what I first switched to after the sell-out announcement. It too works pretty much like Instagram, in fact pre-dating Instagram in it’s creation. The interface is not as intuitive though – it sounds simple enough: one touch effects. But you end up with a long list of combinations when in fact having a few separate toggles and lists would probably be faster. The coolest thing about PicPlz is that it integrates the Aviary tools so you can go beyond effects and actually edit your photos on your phone.

Hipster

This one actually sounds cooler than Instagram and represents something I’ve done on family vacations: I use my phone to send personalized, custom e-mail post-cards. The Hipster app takes this simple idea, builds-in a camera, filters & effects, and makes an entire community out of it. You can flip your post cards over and see more information about the photo.

Flickr

Perhaps not one you’d expected to see in this list, the Flickr app actually works perfectly as an Instagram replacement – it even has a built-in camera to go with the filters & effects and sharing. And it has the added benefit of the power of Flickr once you’re back at your computer. So everything you share ends-up in your Flickr account, the same place you share the photos you take with that hefty DSLR – no integrating multiple sites into your workflow or directing your followers all over the intertubes.

Aviary

This is another odd member in the list. Aviary revolutionized online media editing (not just photos) and has a suite of tools anyone can integrate into their apps (either mobile or web based). But this isn’t an app, in fact this is a sharing plug-in that allows you to add filters & effects (and a whole lot more) to your photos before the final step of sharing them via your favourite service (ex.: TwitPic for Twitter). Even though Aviary is free, there are add-ons (filters, lenses, stickers, etc.) available for purchase.

Pixlr-o-matic

This is the big-daddy of filters and effects. There are so many it would overwhelming, but they’ve thoughtfully included an effects manager so you can decide which ones show up as your initial choices. Obviously the coolest thing about Pixlr how much you can do with your photos (84 effects, 287 overlays, and 193 borders), and their interface is solid and well thought-out so it doesn’t have be overwhelming. This is app will have you playing with the same photo for hours if you’re perfectionist.

What’s missing? Something Native!

Especially from Google, that has PicasaWeb, I would have expected something like the Flickr app. Between Google+, PicasaWeb, Google Docs, Blogger, and the upcoming GDrive they offer at least four ways to store and share your photos. But the mobile experience is horrid (PicasaWeb synchronization is either all or nothing, Google+ auto-uploading is unreliable, third-parties filling the gap aren’t really an integrated solution).

And Apple too, known for their outstanding media software, should be leading the way rather than leaving the way for others to build a billion-dollar enterprise!

In conclusion

After trying all the aforementioned apps on my phone, a few more in an emulator, and visiting a few web sites (but the apps didn’t make the cut) I can say one thing for sure: there are a lot of choices!

My current, likely final, solution is using my built-in camera and embellishing the shots I want to share on Twitter (via TwitPic) using Aviary. The Aviary tools are very powerful, though typically I’ll just crop and add a filter, if I need to there’s a lot more I can do. And I’m really tempted to buy the Viewfinder effects.

The other thing I’m adding to my workflow, that I discovered while researching this article is QuickPic. This replaces the default gallery and makes working with the photos (and videos) on my photo much easier, including opening them in Aviary and sharing them.

Happy snapping!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads