It’s Not That I Don’t Trust Facebook… OK, I Don’t

I’m not talking about posts in bad taste, but scams and links to viruses which pop up on my wall like dandelions in the spring! Facebook seems slow in stopping these

Facebook announced their new messaging plan yesterday. On the face of it it sounds great. Unified messaging without regard to platform.

That’s my clumsy way of saying what Facebook’s Joel Seligstein wrote:

Today I’m excited to announce the next evolution of Messages. You decide how you want to talk to your friends: via SMS, chat, email or Messages. They will receive your message through whatever medium or device is convenient for them, and you can both have a conversation in real time. You shouldn’t have to remember who prefers IM over email or worry about which technology to use. Simply choose their name and type a message.

Great, except I don’t trust Facebook.

I think Facebook does a terrible job of policing what its members post. I’m not talking about posts in bad taste, but scams and links to viruses which pop up on my wall like dandelions in the spring! Facebook seems slow in stopping these. With Facebook mail that problem will only get worse.

Facebook also drops the ball in policing the apps that run on its platform. Clicking a Facebook link shouldn’t lead to a scam, but it often does.

Beyond that Facebook has played fast-and-loose with privacy. Their money is made by selling your eyeballs! You are not Facebook’s customer and your concerns will always fall behind those who send cash Facebook’s way.

With a half billion members Facebook could become the Internet equivalent of too big to fail! We might be forced to put up with their shortcomings.

At the moment I will look warily at making Facebook the gatekeeper for my messages.

IM Is Dead… Isn’t It?

At one point people were complaining there were limits to how many IM accounts you could follow. No more. IM has been hit hard.

Any time I’m on the computer I’ve got IM running. It used to be a great way to chat quickly and briefly with friends. Nowadays there are fewer than a handful of people I IM with!

At one point people were complaining there were limits to how many IM accounts you could follow. No more. IM has been hit hard.

On the phone with Stef a few nights ago I mentioned I’d downloaded the MEEBO messaging app on my iPhone. She wasn’t impressed. She said Helaine and I were the only people she gets instant messages from.

Mostly she chats with her friends via BlackBerry BBM and SMS. Even when she IMs with me it’s often just to pass a link while we’re talking on the phone.

How sad for IM. At one time AOL had such a stranglehold on keyboard-to-keyboard comms. Is there any business AOL is still doing well at?

Apple And HTC: Let The Suits Begin

By keeping programs like Dragon Dictation separated from other functions Apple has made a powerful feature nearly worthless. I love the app. I never use it!

apple-iphone-3g.jpgAs a geek these are exciting times. Smart phones like the iPhone, Androids and Microsoft’s still-to-be-seen efforts are putting major computing in your pocket. They’re powerful enough that I’ve sometimes been guilty of disregarding my dinner companions as I work the phone (actually everything but the phone).

Of course nothing like this happens in a vacuum. Everyone tries to protect their territory. There’s so much my iPhone can do, if only Steve Jobs would say yes!

Seriously, my phone is purposely crippled in many ways.

An example is the Dragon Dictation app. It does an amazing job of translating spoken words to text. Unfortunately Apple says it can’t speak directly to the email or SMS programs. In order to use DD you have to cut and paste.

Though approved by Apple this applet is hidden from the iPhone’s most powerful features. It’s not that the software can’t perform this task, it’s been prohibited from performing it!

By keeping programs like Dragon Dictation separated from other functions Apple has made a powerful feature nearly worthless. I love the app. I never use it!

This is totally Apple’s choice. They could let it happen tomorrow and I’m sure Dragon would have the updated software waiting.
This is just one in a series of arbitrary or puzzling decisions.

Some friends say I should just ‘jailbreak’ the phone–remove Apple’s grip with a simple unauthorized software download. Good idea, though jailbreaking alone will not make this particular software work as it should.

Maybe I own the iPhone, but only under a strict license which says what I can and can’t do, what I can and can’t load into it. It’s as if your Ford was only allowed to use Ford gasoline and could only be repaired with Ford parts. Maybe you should only be able to chill GE water in your GE refrigerator.

Don’t get me wrong, this phone is killer. I love it. I am frustrated though because I can see what is being done to keep Apple as gatekeeper.

Now Apple is reaching out to keep competitors from competing. Yesterday they sued HTC, who makes smartphones under their own name and for others. This has to do with HTC’s phone that use Google’s Android operating system.

“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” – Steve Jobs

Apple is enforcing its software patents. That itself is pretty controversial as software patents are a recent ‘innovation’ seemingly granted broadly and with little scrutiny. A software patent case is on its way to the Supreme Court right now.
Though companies with these patents say they are (and probably are) just protecting their investments in research and development, others say patents on software limit innovation.

It’s interesting to hear organizations perceived as liberal, like the Electronic Freedom Foundation use concepts normally reserved for the right.

Software innovation happens without government intervention. Virtually all of the technologies you use now were developed before software was widely viewed as patentable. The Web, email, your word processor and spreadsheet program, instant messaging, or even more technical features like the psychoacoustic encoding and Huffman compression underlying the MP3 standard—all of it was originally developed by enthusiastic programmers, many of whom have formed successful business around such software, none of whom asked the government for a monopoly. So if software authors have a proven track-record of innovation without patents, why force them to use patents? What is the gain from billions of dollars in patent litigation? –

None of this seems to be happening for our (my) benefit.

This Or This? Time For New Glasses

I looked at the price. Why do frames cost so much? Seriously, is there any relationship between manufacturing cost and retail price?

lots of eyeglass frames.jpgMy eyeglasses are a few years old. Earlier this winter I noticed a small chunk had been chipped from one of the lenses. Though it’s out of my sight line the writing’s on the wall. I need new glasses.

We headed to a local mall where the optical center has a doctor I’d seen before and trusted. That’s how I found out the eyeglass business is busier early in the year when many people discover insurance coverage has kicked in.

They were running behind. We took a walk.

There’s nothing at the mall for guys. Right?

There must have been a dozen cellphone businesses. Each of the major carrier had a kiosk or two plus a full walk-in store. All were busy.

“Complaints, not purchases,” I told Helaine.

The examination was pretty straightforward. As Mary, the optometrist, flipped the lenses there was actually a difference between “A” and “B ” OK–there was most of the time… enough of the time I was pretty sure she got my prescription right.

My prescription has remained reasonably constant the past few years. No cataracts. No signs of glaucoma. That’s all good news.

Better than that my eyes are corrected to 20/15, meaning I see at 20 feet what most people see at 15 feet.

“Get plastic frames,” Stef had advised via phone when I told her what we were doing today.

Plastic frames? I don’t think so. I can’t come back on TV with a jarring (radically different) look.

I began trying on frames as Helaine watched. I was pretty useless here. Seriously, when you’re trying new frames you must take off your glasses! How exactly can you judge?

We finally settled on frames that look very much like my old ones. I pulled out my iPhone and sent Stef a photo via SMS.

She did not approve. Unavoidable. Not unexpected. Hopefully she’ll forgive my fashion fears over time.

Then there’s the price.

Why do frames cost so much? Seriously, is there any relationship between manufacturing cost and retail price?

In a few weeks the new glasses will arrive along with a tester set of contact lenses. I’ve tried contacts before. You don’t want to know! I was not a good candidate. I’m trying again anyway.

Yeah–It’s A Crackberry

I was so foolish. Stefanie was so right. I have a Blackberry now… a Crackberry… and the experience is magical

blackjack-w250.jpgFor the last year and a half I’ve been using a Samsung Blackjack. i wanted to be digitally complete. When I got it the word was it was a pretty good smartphone.

I was so foolish. Stefanie was so right. I have a Blackberry now… a Crackberry… and the experience is magical&#185. The Samsung was so clunky in comparison.

Transitioning from one phone to another isn’t easy. Here’s where Google gets involved. I set up a new email account I then sync’ed the Blackjack with Gmail. My phonebook flew through the air and into the Googleplex. Next I re-sync’ed, this time sending my contacts from Gmail to the Blackbery. Painless!

I wanted to continue to keep a calendar, but now I had a problem. The calendar and contacts had to be associated with the same email address. A little mumbo jumbo and the new Gmail account was incorporating the calendar from my main account (if there can be such a thing for someone who truly has around 2-dozen email addresses!).

Everything seems to be working fine. The email/SMS setup on the Blackberry is quite well thought out. In fact everything seems quite well thought out. I can’t get Pandora to work–a problem they admit is theirs. Shozu is also a little recalcitrant at the moment.

I pulled the micro-SD card from the Blackjack and inserted it into the Blackberry. How can a billion bytes of data get squeezed into a space so small?

The Blackjack is now, sadly, on the table top upside down, battery, SIM and mini-SD card removed. It’s like the carcass of an old subway car getting ready to be dumped in the Atlantic as an artificial reef. It’s sad really.

On Twitter Jim Heem said, “I’m really surprised this is your first blackberry.” Coolmoomama chimed, “.i REALLY want a blackberry.” Stef is just gloating.

A few days ago my friend Peter said researchers who’d asked about the iPhone and Blackberry got surprisingly different responses. iPhone users talked about the coolness while the Blackberry crowd kept mentioning utility and usefulness.

I’d like to say it’s not that big a deal, but I think it is.

&#185 – I have added Crackberry to the spell checker in my browser. It is now officially a word for me.

Hooked On Phone-ics

During our vacation out west, Helaine threatened to kill me – using my new cellphone as the weapon! OK, maybe I’m a little obsessed.

If you didn’t follow my earlier travails, I have moved to a Samsung Blackjack “Smartphone.” It’s a Swiss Army Knife phone that takes snapshots and video, browses the Internet, retrieves email, chats on IM and SMS… oh, and it’s also a phone.

The first thing I did was buy a skin for it. A skin is a hard plastic, form fitting, case. When I drop the phone, and I will drop it, it now has some protection. The skin is a rich deep red, giving the phone a metrosexual look.

The problem/fun presented by a phone like this is how much of it is customizable. I’ve already downloaded some programs which automatically send my photos to Picasaweb and my videos to Youtube (both automatically flagged as ‘private’ ). There’s also an Instant Messenger client (which routes all my text messages through India).

The real customization is saved for the homescreen. With a little rudimentary programming, it’s possible to make the homescreen look almost any way you want and display all sorts of cool (read: nerdy) data.

I’m working on that now, putting Google through a major test as I try and find more and more sites that have inside tidbits. There are lots of fans for this type of phone and many do have websites.

I really like the phone, though it is by no means perfect. The keyboard is incredibly small. My fingers are not. I often hit two keys at once, or move off a page because I’ve pressed the wrong part of the round navigation control.

Two of the phone’s most useful controls are built for right handed people. I’m a lefty.

There more I use the phone, the more I understand why people get hooked on them. Having this additional access to the Internet and messaging is an amazing thing.

When Steffie called me, looking for subway directions from Penn Station to Lincoln Center, I was able to figure it out, even though I was standing in the MGM Grand Poker Room in Las Vegas at the time.

I give it another week or two of obsessive behavior before I’m able to move this phone into the normal rhythm of life. Until then, I’ll try and use it when Helaine’s not watching.