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HTC EVO vs iPhone 4

You may want to start with iPhone vs HTC EVO first…

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I’m Lucky To Have Bet on Mint vs. Wesabe…

I’m sure as hell lucky to have bet on Mint when Microsoft Money died… but to be honest it was a flip of a coin decision, Wesabe, the other web-based personal finance management program looked just as attractive.   Good product, perfect pedigre, strong VC funding.   Now Wesabe is in the deadpool while Mint essentially became Quicken Online.

A comparative analysis of the two, and why one died why the other thrives would be a very educational startup story – if somebody close enough to the fire has the facts.

Wesabe users have until July 31st to export their data (a rather short period, if you ask me, given the importance of such data.).  I certainly hope Mint (Intuit) will step up the plate and offer streamlined migration.

In the meantime, I’m just lucky having bet on Mint. :-)

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Generations

IMG_0142

  • HP 17” monster (good desktop workhorse)
  • Dell Vostro 13”
  • iPad
  • HTC EVO
  • ?

Of course it did not really started with the 17 incher… but rather around here. Smile

P.S.  You’ve probably heard that the Kin
got Kanned

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Know When Your Server Will Fail Before it Actually Happens

Image credit: BreadwigWhen your server goes down, it’s bad enough –even worse if you have to keep on trying to reach support in vain, then if you finally get through, you’ll have to convince them there’s trouble.  If you have such a host, run! (and I can even tell you where to).  So whenever I ran into trouble with online services, I feel relieved to see the auto-email saying support got notified.  At least they know!

But what if you know when your server will fail before it actually happens? I’ve just had an accidental peek into as-yet-unreleased technology:  today’s Zoho Blog post about Customer Support Community linked to another post, which simply did not load. Oops – the URL was in error, it pointed to an internal site, something like predict.zohocorp.longmumbojumbo.etc.  I got excited: can they predict future lottery numbers?  The World Cup results? (referee errors aside…)

I quickly asked Zoho what it was all about: it’s their predictive monitoring technology, which crunches a lot of data, is already delivering lightning fast notifications of failures after the fact, and also predictions – for now with false positives.  They certainly have to keep on tuning the technology, but it’s reassuring they are working on it.

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Simple Phone (for Seniors): when Less is More

motofoneThere’s hardly a week without a major superphone announcement. Yes, smartphones are so last year, with the iPhone 4, HTC EVO, Samsung Galaxy S..etc we are now in the era of superphones.  I just wonder what’s next?

Could it be … simple phones?   The official terminology for these is feature-phones, but they are anything but…  in fact their key feature is being feature-less. Simple, easy, just providing robust voice calls and long battery life.   Different demographies have different reasons to carry a simple phone:

The Digerati – where’s you’d least expect it.  They like to get the shiniest, coolest gadget.  But these toys have miserable battery life.  Even TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington carries a basic prepaid phone to make reliable voice calls, when his latest toy is out of battery juice, or just outside the coverage area.

The sleek types who’d consider “geek” a stigma. Yes, I know, geek is “in” in Silicon Valley. But elsewhere size still matters.  At least for he type that cannot be seen with a toy that would enable them to actually work… they just bark orders on the phone.  And it better be slim enough to fit a shirt pocket. Smile

Developing countries:

From Kenya to Columbia to South Africa – the kind of places that have built cellphone towers precisely to leapfrog past the expense of building wired networks, which have linked Americans for a century…cellphones are becoming the truly universal technology. The number of mobile subscriptions in the world is expected to pass five billion this year, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a trade group. That would mean more human beings today have access to a cellphone than the United Nations says have access to a clean toilet.

The Elderly.  This is where I have some personal experience. I spent hours and hours of research trying to find the right ‘senior phone’ for my Dad (you know, the 84-year old Google Apps guy:).  It should have good voice clarity without complicated functions. Anything with a touch screen, navigation panels.. etc is out of question.    My Motorola Startac a good 10 years ago would have been perfect – had I not thrown it away thinking it was an jitterbugobsolete piece of junk.  Now the industry would love to sell me $200+ devices, like the dominant Jitterbug which is simple, has big buttons, and of course requires it’s own service. Ridiculous. A rip-off.  But I almost gave in –- when I found a perfect solution for $20.

The Motorola F3 (Motofone, pictured at the top) was originally developed for third world countries, but it’s also the perfect senior phone for this part of the world.  Simple, only allows voice calls (technically it supports texting, but it’s such a nightmare, better forget it) , works with my Dad’s prepaid SIM card, and instead of an LCD it has an e-ink display, which is perfectly visible in the sunshine and saves battery life.  It even has better sound quality and shows stronger signal than my previous, more expensive T-Mobile phone. Oh, and it’s fairly stylish, too.

Sometimes less is more.  A lot more. Smile

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About that Second “S” in SaaS – Awesome Service

pressharbor ”There is an app for that” – say the Apple commercials.  “There is a plugin for that” – was my conclusion, while lookin for the rigth tools to move the Enterprise Irregulars blog to WordPress a few months ago.  Seriously.  The WordPress ecosystem is simply amazing, things that a few years ago required messing with code are now a click away: – modern themes are no longer just pretty layouts, but perform quite a bit of processing, and whatever they don’t have – well, there is a plugin for that.:-)

Such is the power of Open Source and a thriving ecosystem. But all this openness and richness of choice comes with a price: it takes a lot of digging, testing, and even more luck to find the right ones that actually deliver what they claim without messing up your theme and other plugins.  And even if you find the right ones, they all come out with new releases from time to time, and every single update, be it WordPress itself, the theme, the plugins is a hidden trap. Things can stop mysteriously overnight – as they did over @ Enterprise Irregulars a week ago, when I was alerted that our feed was all blank. The EI blog is based on the powerful but rather complex Hybrid News Theme with 21 active plugins which work in concert to aggregate the writing of 40+ authors.  And sometimes one little wheel gets stuck – what happens next is what separates good hosts from poor ones.  Or should I say, separates simple hosts from service providers. Service, as the second S in SaaS. :-)

Normally the choice is simple: you either use WordPress.com – free, powerful, great platform, with preset choices for themes, widgets..etc – or opt for self-hosting in the Open World – with all the power to install whatever you want, but also out in the wild alone in a complex world.  (Geez, where did I hear that last… ahh, the great  iPhone vs. Android debate, perhaps? :-) )   Now, back to hosts: I’ve been blessed with a smaller, but amazingly good host providing extraordinary, personalized service for five years now. Owner and jack-of-all-trades John Keegan helped my with the old (dying) Blogware platform, then through the migration of my personal blog to WordPress, and ever since – so moving EI to Pressharbor was a no-brainer.

So last Sunday (yes, a SUNDAY) I turned to John again… he dug into the problem, and soon found that a rogue plugin attached custom enclosure fields to some posts, with garbled content that Feedburner choked on, wiping out our RSS feed. John then got on Skype and held my hand step by step removing the erroneous fields, until the feed got cleared up.  Sounds easy enough… in hindsight.   It would have taken me hours / days of research and frustration to restore the lost functionality.   It’s not the first time and likely not the last I received support way beyond what can be expected of a regular web hosting company.  Help with security, performance, database tuning should be standard (is it?)  but detailed plugin-level help?  No way.  How about WordPress upgrades?  I don’t even  know what they are.  In fact I got upgraded to WP 3.0 while writing this post. Not amongst the first .. only after thorough testing did  Pressharbor upgrade all of us, centrally.  I’m lucky enough to have the best of both world – the power of Open Source and great, personalized support.  A big, capital S – the second S in Software as a Service.

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iPhone 4 vs HTC EVO

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Your Own (Almost) Ad-Hoc HotSpot

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’re likely better off buying a MiFi or using your late-model cell-phone’s HotSpot capability than paying those outrageous hotel surcharges.  If you’re a frequent conference-goer, you’ve already learned they all fail to provide reliable connection(Web 2.0, LeWeb, Gnomedex, Microsoft PDC, Google I/O, just to name a few recent examples), so the only solution is BYOW – Bring Your Own WiFi (and the chaos it creates.)

But what if you rarely venture to un-connected areas, say a few times a year?  Paying $30-$60 a month does not look like a great value..  Now you can (almost) have your own ad-hoc service, without the monthly subscription plan – after you plunk down $149 for Virgin Mobile’s new MiFi device.  You can pay anywhere between $10 for 100MB to $60 for 5G of usage.

There’s only one problem with the plan – spot it yourself:

virgin plans

Yes, all these plans expire in an unreasonably short time.  Given the these limitations, if I were an infrequent user (less then once a month), I would probably buy the $10 plan just a few days in preparation for specific events. But let’s be real, this s*cks.  The proper solution for the ad-hoc user would be consumption-based plans with no expiry, with fill-up option.

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Only in California: Electronic License Plates May Turn Your Car Into a Billboard

hiding license plate Here’s proof that  Governments’ creativity in finding new revenue sources is unlimited, reports The Merc:

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the state to begin researching the use of electronic license plates for vehicles. The move is intended as a moneymaker for a state facing a $19 billion deficit.

The device would mimic a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some section of the screen.

Note: the bill is not passed yet, and it’s only about a feasibility study. And guess who would fund the research: the company that would make such licence plates, San Francisco-based Smart Plate.

Forgetting all technical details, visibility and driver distraction issues, a few questions that naturally come to mind: just whose car is it?  ( yeah, I thought so…) Who gets to decide what ads to display or not, and more importantly, who receives the revenue?

accenture Of course once the license plate is electronic, new opportunities about – just look at this research by Accenture, the global Consulting firm:

  • RFID
  • Toll Plazas
  • Parking
  • Fleet management
  • Police monitoring..etc.

The last point raises the possibility of another arms race, just like what we’ve seen with radar detectors, between those wishing to hack the system to fake/shield  their license information and law enforcement…

And here’s the business that would certainly benefit: body shops.  Bumper repair prices would sky-rocket, and so would the number of low-speed, bumper-to-bumper accidents.  You know, when the driver behind you has the urge to click the ad you’re displaying. :-)

Oh, well … while you wait for the 2-year research to conclude, you may wish to implement your own solution. (hint: iPad + velcro)

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What if Doctors were Treated Like Web Developers?

Details at Agent-X