When retail locations come out with a rewards / loyalty / we are going to send you all kinds of junk mail card my first instinct is to try and buck the system, turn it down or grab a new one each time and say I’ll fill it out at home. Now days it seems like every store you go to has one. Especially with everyone paying with a debit card these days, they don’t really need you to have “loyalty” card to track your purchases so why have them. Walking into kmart a few months back it wasn’t too surprising to learn they to had started a rewards program. I passed it up the first few times as usual, then finally got one and registered it to my phone and email address. The idea is they can send you targeted coupons and offers. I can get into that. The real shocker came when I got back to the office after stocking up on diet soda at lunch. There was an email from Kmart with a copy of my receipt. I logged into my account to see that I can now generate reports on the types of products I buy, etc. It was pretty creepy at first. They had taken the “loyalty” card to a new level. A few more purchases later and I started thinking about it on the way home, knowing that email would be waiting for me. They have me hooked on that feature now and I’m wishing more retailers would start doing this. Maybe even take it a step further and let me import it in to Quicken/Quickbooks, etc. My office is covered in small piles of receipts and this seem like a great way to get rid of them. No one wants to take the time to scan their receipts, but this idea of having an electronic purchase history has a lot of potential.
I moved in to a new office recently and will be using my MacBook Pro as my primary computer. I have it hooked up to a second monitor and thought it would be a good idea to get a keyboard and mouse to complete the setup. I was pretty curious about using the Apple TrackPad in addition to or as a replacement for a traditional mouse. So I went out to buy the Apple wireless keyboard, a magic mouse and the magic trackpad. They were out of stock on the magic mouse, so I just got the trackpad. After playing round with it over the weekend I knew it had potential, but after a couple weeks of using it at work I am completely sold. There are still times when a traditional would be nice to have, but for my day-to-day programming the trackpad works great.
The Apple wireless keyboard is nice too, but I struggle with the compact form factor a little. Really I struggle on most non-ergonomic keyboards. I went searching for alternatives and found out that Microsoft actually makes their ergonomic “Natural” keyboard in a Mac version. This seems like the perfect combo as I have been using different versions of the Natural keyboards since 1994. They are a little hard to find, but there was one seller in the Amazon Marketplace who had “new” ones. I ordered one as a test unit, thinking I would order a couple more if it worked out good. We setup the first one on my wife’s Mac mini. She has been using it for a couple days and found the native Apple keyboard layout to be easier to work with, so I ordered up a couple more for the office and my home work station. It comes with a mouse too, so we can use that for those times when you need a real mouse instead of the trackpad.
At my new office we also have a lounge/group work area with a big TV, couch, etc. We have a Mac mini hooked up to the TV and bought the same wireless keyboard and trackpad I have for my desk. Quickly realized that the trackpad needs a hard surface to be able to click. We are planning to get a nice work table back there anyway and figured that would be fine. Then started thinking there has to be some kind of tray that is specially built for the wireless keyboard and trackpad. Sure enough there are a few products to fit that need. This Black Walnut Keyboard Tray seems like it would work great and is quite stylish as well. Little spendy though at $125 with shipping. Later on I found another alternative on kickstarter.com. Was too funny that I would come across that by accident on the same day I went looking for a product just like it.
A few months back I picked up an Android phone the HTC Hero through Alltel. The switch to AT&T wasn’t suppose to happen until mid-January and I thought it would still be worth the $99 upgrade to give an Android phone a try. I knew from the start that the Hero was one of the weakest Android phones available, but the only one that Alltel had at the time. Initial thoughts were good. Comparing it to my iPod touch it felt a little lacking, but way beyond my previous “smart phone” the Samsung Delv.
About a month after having the Hero I started getting more eager to try out all the apps available (besides Facebook, Twitter, etc) and it was a huge let down. The Hero just didn’t have the processing power to run them. Also as the number of contacts and text messages grew. The phone starting having issue just functioning like a phone. I would have to shut it down and restart a few times a day just to make calls. We also received notice that the AT&T switch over had been pushed out a couple months. So now I was starting to wonder if I should try and clear out my phone or get another one. Maybe even go back to the old Delv because first and fore most it needs to work as a phone.
After complaining about it all the time my wife thought I should try and renew her phone contract, get a new phone, then swap it out for me and she would keep her current one. So I called Alltel and they said it could be done. So tonight I stopped by Alltel and picked up the HTC Desire. It’s like night and day compared to the Hero. A lot of the little issues I had thought were Android quirks were actually just the old phone not having enough processing power. Typing on the keyboard, answering a call waiting call are all much smoother with the Desire. I’m still looking forward to my iPhone in March or whenever they make the switch, but at least now I can still get my internet fix on the go in the meantime.
I have never really been much of a book reader. Mostly because I have a hard time setting aside quality time to read. So when I would read, I knew I was putting off something I should be working on and have a hard time just letting go and focusing on the book. Or the types of book I would read are technical programming books, etc. They are not really readers, more like summary and reference. Knowing that I would enjoy reading more I recently bought “The Facebook Effect“. Figured it’s still something internet/tech related but enough of a reader that it would be a good way to get started reading more. And I was right. Not sure how much of it is fact, but really enjoying the book and reading in general. The side effect now is that I have started reading a few books and have a queue of other books that look interesting.
Being a gadget lover, this renewed interest in reading has sparked my curiosity in the Kindle from Amazon. I have always agreed with the fact that it’s not a competitor to the Apple iPad. Even though you can read books on both devices and they have a similar design. Certain types of books will be amazing on an iPad, but for just reading the kindle looks like the perfect way to do it digitally.
Next week I am scheduled to have a consultation with a company that specialized in website speed optimization (think fast loading pages). As an incentive to meet with them they are offering a free kindle. I jumped on the opportunity for both the in-depth demo of the service they provide and of course the chance to receive a free kindle. I’m sure I’ll offer a review after/if I actually get one.
In the mean time however my rekindled (yea i said it) desire to read more books continues to grow. After listening to this interview Robert Scoble did with Tim Ferriss about his upcoming book “The 4-Hour Body“, I decided to purchase his very popular book “The 4-Hour Workweek” for the kindle. I have read bits and pieces of it in the past and have followed him on the web over the last couple years and figured I just just go for it. I knew I could read the book on my computer even if I don’t get the kindle. After reading a bit I remembered that I have the kindle app on my iPod touch. So I gave it a try there and have really found it to be very readable. Even with the small screen it’s easy to read and with only one or two sentences displayed at a time. Keeps me focused. I don’t get lost in the page, etc.
The past summer I purchased a second wireless router with the thought to upgrade my current home network to the fastest N speed. I was planning to use the older G router I had when traveling or as a backup. Summer passed and one of our family members was asking about what to get for a wireless router. So being the nice guy I am I volunteered to give them our old one. I setup the new router at the house and got them all setup. Good to go right? Wrong… We have had nothing but trouble with the new wireless router. I’ve spent countless sessions with the Linksys support staff trying to get it working, hoping they would just send me a replacement. After each support session it always appears to work for a while, but eventually it stops working again.
At first it was just inconvenient. The iPod touch became more of a music player again and I relied on my new HTC Hero Android phone for checking email, twitter, etc. After I won the Apple TV however, I was more determined than ever to get the wireless up and running reliably again. A few more tech support sessions later I finally just gave in and ran a couple cat5 network cables up to the living room. Needed to do it anyway for our DirecTV receiver and hopefully a new blu-ray player.
It’s not that the Linksys tech support people don’t try. But it’s frustrating to start the process over each time, even though I provide them with my previous case numbers. Hopefully they will just replace it. I came up with a solution in the meantime. Sharing the Internet off our Mac mini (which is completely easy todo with a Mac by the way).
I was browsing the top selling electronics on Amazon.com today and noticed the Apple TV (#13), Boxee Box (#18) and the Roku (#19) internet connected TV devices are selling really well. I have wanted a Roku for a long time, but just haven’t made the purchase yet. When the NHL Game Center service is available on Roku it will probably push me over the edge. The NHL is available on the Boxee Box but it’s odd design holds me back. I was fortunate to win an Apple TV a few weeks ago while in San Francisco for the PayPal developers convention. At first I only found it to be useful for watching Netflix movies, but we have discovered that it also works really well for all of the movies we have in our iTunes account. As more and more Blu-Ray/DVD movies include a digital copy, I can see this becoming our preferred method of watching movies.