QuikTeks V4

  • 1367739444_clockTwo words…Fax Machines!  How are they still remotely relevant?
  • Got stuck in line behind a lady trying to pay for her already bought Groupon deal!  I think there should be some state administered exam people must pass prior to first purchasing a smartphone.  Nah that will never work; they’d make it a written exam and then fax the results to the wireless carrier of your choice who would charge you an administrative fee because you didn’t go paperless.
  • (Apple) I get the spirit of competition but not putting Google in your auto-correct dictionary?  I thought you prided yourself on making things just work.  Google is your default search engine (for now) so this makes no sense.
  • Why does my Walgreens app not recognize their own bar code nor their RX number I enter in its place but will send my Instagram photos to their 1 hour print lab effortlessly?
  • Why am I not asked anything when deleting something but am asked twice whether I want to resume viewing a video after I already selected ‘resume’? (Amazon Instant Video)
  • One word…Routers!
  • The problem with cable companies is they farm their equipment to the lowest bidder and we can’t do anything about it.  I’m on my fourth cable box (identical model, all hard drive failures); need I say more.
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CANCEL FOR CREDIT

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I visited Salesforce.com today to find out what the hub bub I’ve been hearing recently was all about.  I come across at least one mention a day about the workforce service company and my own employer recently instituted it for it’s sales and marketing folks.  Working in engineering I was left out so I decided to hop over to the site for an in depth looksy maybe see if I can find some usable tools for my team.  On the home screen was a link to the obligatory demo videos you usually find for enterprise sites so naturally I clicked on it.  What it took me to precisely sums up everything that companies so easily miss about providing a good consumer/customer experience – a form.  Oh yes, it wanted to know my name company, address, email, and phone number before it promised to give me unfettered access to their products’ demo videos.  Folks this is like saying you have to fill out a form before you can watch the next Apple commercial!  It’s getting so that every site you go, every place you shop wants you to fill something out.  For crying out loud I came to you to shop, let me shop already!!!!  There aren’t enough exclamation marks for that last statement!

Some marketing guru decides they need to gather as many metrics as possible to market effectively that they’ve forgotten one basic metric – what turns off their customers?  Why did they walk out of the store empty handed or clicked that ‘X’ to your site without emptying their virtual cart?  Forms aren’t going to give you that metric because your customer is gone the second you thrust one at them.  The only information you need is my credit card number when I pay and that’s ALL that should matter!  Asking me twenty questions on the card swipe screen feels an awful lot like entrapment!  Have you ever thought to yourself “Well I’ve already swiped my card so they’ve got my information so I guess I better answer all these stupid questions?”  As long as we’re talking about swiping credit cards why on earth don’t they just say CREDIT; why must I press CANCEL  for credit (it’s a rhetorical question of course, it’s because of the difference in fees banks charge between debit and credit transactions but that’s beside the point I’m making)?  Why does paying have to be so complicated (self checkout stations)?  I’ve already shopped with you, I’ve placed goods on your sales counter, I’m now handing you my payment now stop selling me something and say “Thank You!”  That would be good customer service right?  Finally use some common sense already because I’m not going to open up Target Red Card to save 5% on a $4.32 purchase!  I could go on and will soon in an upcoming look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of customer service.  Stay tuned.

Happy Hanuka…I Think?

Credit:  Fantastical

Credit: Fantastical

As long as we are gracing the topic of calendars (see previous post) why is it that not one single digital calendar I access shows any holidays?  Not even my favorite by Fantastical.  It must be because app developers wish to remain universally neutral which I guess makes sense but why not build in the option for country holidays or religious holidays to be shown that can be turned on or off at will?  Doesn’t this just make so much sense?  I found an app that will add holidays based on nationality and/or religion to your native phone calendar called US Holidays 2013-2015 but it costs $0.99.  It seems just silly that if I want to figure out when to wear green for the next St. Patty’s Day I either have to Google it or…gasp…find a printed calendar.  By the way have you ever seen a printed calendar that didn’t list most holidays?

“The Trouble With Tribbles” – Facebook Birthday Notifications Run Amuck

Credit: ThinkGeek.com

I hereby dub this Tek | Angst Day!  Time to rant!  I hate that word and I vowed not be an angry blogger who just uses his site as a virtual soapbox to rant.  I’m in the midst of a crummy week and I just can’t help myself so I’ve decided rare exceptions must be allowed to rant.  Just know that this is as bad as it gets with my posts and being able to vent frustrations on this forum is truly therapeutic but I promise to make this a rare thing.  So here it goes; below is the first of three or four posts today that will tackle a few things that just set me off:

Happy Friggin’ Birthday!

Facebook is barely tolerable most days but one thing that for me rises above all other cannon fodder I could lob its way concerns its birthday notifications.  They’re like that episode of Star Trek with the cute little Tribbles that multiplied at exponential rates!  I’m sure at some point I inadvertently said ok to some oblique pop up that allowed the flood of birthday notifications to enter my digital world.  They’ve literally thrown up all over every screen I turn on and like Tribbles they’re multiplying exponentially now with a flood of related notifications like wanting to know if I want to purchase the birthday boy or girl a gift right after asking if I want to poke them!  If I haven’t seen you since high school it was likely because I picked on you or you picked on me so frankly I don’t care that it’s your birthday.  I probably accepted your friend request in a moment of curiosity to see what kind of train wreck you became or because I felt guilty for successfully blaming that particularly foul silent-but-deadly-one on you during chemistry class.  Trust me for those who I genuinely care about I don’t need a FB reminder for your birthday.  Those same people know that my penchant for numbers would never allow me to fail to remember such an important date.

Nevertheless when I groggily checking my iPhone’s lock screen first thing in the morning, or am at my Windows 8 login screen, or flicking through my great Fantastical calendar app, my email, my notifications bar, or last but not least opening Facebook I must be reminded of some practical stranger’s birthday nearly every day.  Why gripe, was it not my fault in the first place to accept their silly friend request or somehow say yes to the notifications in the first place?  I gripe because I can’t seem to stop the flood.  I’m pretty tech savy and with some instances I have been able to remove those notifications but there are still many places where I have been completely unsuccessful.  My notifications bar on my iPhone is the worst offender because it will not let me clear it.  I must stare at it all day!  For those of you who share my disdain for these very intrusive notifications I vow to find all the secret formulas for ridding your world of Facebook’s birthday notifications and devote a whole post someday to what I will dubiously call “The Great Purge”.

P.S  Notification:  Today is my Unbirthday!  I will freely accept gifts but please poke someone else by sharing this post.

Locate Your Favorite Pizza Joint and Order In App

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Credit: Yelp

I’ve never been a big fan of Yelp (partial to Foursquare for social aspect) but Yelp’s latest feature has me taking a second look.  Today it’s iOS app was updated to include the ability to order food and pick it up or have it delivered directly from restaurants all within the app.  Their blog describes this ability at select locations is provided now through partnerships with sites like delivery.com and Eat24.  This is not a new idea as I can order Pizza Hut directly through my XBox and other native apps but to have the ability to use a popular location search service like Yelp and place your order at the same time I gotta say I like.  I can’t stand calling orders in; it’s a weird pet peeve of mine.  I usually volunteer to pick up carry-out just so long as I don’t have to call it in.  I just don’t like dealing with people on the phone and I know I’m not alone in this.  It’s this sort of no hassle formula that makes services like Groupon so successful.  What if you could also schedule a yoga or dentist appointment once you’ve located the office?  Yelp claims that ability is coming also.

App Discover | The Bible App To Hit Huge Milestone

The YouVersion Bible App

The YouVersion Bible App

Regardless of religion or lack thereof one thing nobody can deny is the Holy Bible is a historical document translated thousands of times over that has stood the test of time.  5 years ago a network of churches, Bible societies, and individuals teamed up their resources and created a Bible App.  It brings the Bible and hundreds of translations and versions that continue to grow to most anyone in digital form on the web or through app form for free.  It continues to rank high in most apps stores for popularity and in about an hour it is expected to eclipse 100 million downloads.  Quite a milestone, congratulations!  Maybe you can be lucky number 100 million, download it here.

How to stop AT&T from selling your private data to advertisers

BGR

Reports from earlier this week suggested that AT&T is ready to follow in its rivals’ footsteps and begin selling the private usage data it collects from its subscribers’ phones to advertisers. The data in question is anonymized, according to AT&T, but it includes very sensitive information such as customers’ locations, Web browsing history, mobile app usage and more. Privacy is something of a hot button issue right now, so it is likely that a number of AT&T subscribers would prefer to not have their private data sold to advertisers. Luckily, there is a fast and easy way to opt out of AT&T’s “External Marketing and Analytics Reporting” program, and complete instructions follow below.

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I Just Can’t Get It To Zip Up!

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I have many fond memories of going camping with my family every summer.  Most memorable is the eager anticipation as we drove there, the agonizing wait to set up our tents before we could hit the water, the lazy days that followed, and then the more agonizing task of packing up.  Let’s face it there’s just no joy in packing up particularly at the end of 10 days with your entire family that by now needs another year off from each other.  No camping trip would be complete without the dreaded process of taking down and packing up the tent.  Queue the ominous music “Da da dun”!  Specifically the rolling and putting away of the tent.  This was always a grudge match full of grunting, stretching, and straining the fabric to get it into the tightest bunch we could muster just so we could get it to fit in the tent bag which was clearly designed to fit the tent only if it was precisely folded or rolled just like it was by some automated machine at the factory.  My mom would undoubtedly end up going off on an obscenity laced tirade because we would of course forget the tent poles or rain flap after fussing for ten minutes with the zipper of the bulging bag.  (Thank goodness my mom lives in the technological dark age and will likely never read this or else I would be the recipient of one of her famous obscenity laced tirades).

Did the engineer or designer not ever try to unpack and repack the tent as part of the design process?  Sounds like such a reasonable question right?  I tire of so many things that just don’t fit the container they come in once unpacked.  If it comes with a reusable bag or case it’s a guarantee it is undersized by at least a third.  This goes for the aforementioned tent bags, sleeping bag bags, and headphone bags just to name a few.  Even the almighty product design prowess of Apple is not immune to this.  This is evident in the recently updated Apple earphones.  They come with a case to wrap the cords that like all the other examples I mentioned barely fit unless the headphones are perfectly wound tight.  I struggle to close the lid every time and have even cracked it as well as rubbed some of the jacket off of the cables trying to close it.  I expected more of them honestly.

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What’s My Favorite Gadget?

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Credit: Apple

Kindle Paperwhite

Credit: Amazon

If you asked four years ago, three years ago, even one year ago my answer to this question would have been one and the same – my Kindle eReader.  Really?  Yes, I’ll get to why soon but to answer that question today is a bit of a conundrum.  First you need to know that I’m a voracious reader and naturally by reading this you must know that writing is a passion of mine so it might make some sense that the Kindle was my choice for so long but that’s not the main reason.  I’m a big fan of things that focus on doing only one thing and not things that try to be all things to all people.  I’ve owned a Kindle ever since I pre-ordered the 2nd generation Kindle back in 2009.  I”m referring specifically to the Kindle with an E Ink screen, not the Kindle Fire tablets that get so much attention.  Next to paper E Ink is still the best way to go for pure reading.  I pretty much ditched print from the get go allowing exceptions for only a couple of my favorite authors.  I won’t even attempt to knock print form because I actually morn its decline with many of you but I stop short of feeling guilty.  Let me tell you why.  Amazon’s Whispersync cloud technology means that I can go anywhere with my entire library of books and just like how iTunes and the iPod freed most of us from those giant cd albums once you go paperless so to speak you’ll never go back.  Amazon’s controversial low pricing practices don’t hurt either. Read More

App Discovery | Timehop

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Welcome to my new series that I will called App Discovery.  I will provide posts like these periodically and they will differ from App Reviews by their depth.  In this series I will try to highlight apps I feel worthwhile for fellow Tekkies to check out so it is presumed that I offer at least a TekYa rating on apps showcased here.

To start I would like to showcase an app I’ve found to be at least novel if not timely.  Timehop available only on iOS serves one purpose and that is to serve you up daily doses of precisely what you did exactly one, two, three years ago and so on.  It does this by tapping into all of your social network feeds and regurgitating what you were doing, where you were doing it, what you were saying, and pictorially what you were sharing years past on the same date.  It can tap into all the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram.  It goes deep on the photo front by syncing with Dropbox Photos, Photo Sync, Flickr, and even your iPhone camera.  Syncing with all services is as simple as signing in and okaying the usual obligatory do-you-really-want-to-give-all-access questions and for me synced flawlessly.

I love the reminders of all things past.  A couple days ago I was reminded that my son started crawling for the first time three years ago which is fantastic considering next year on the same date it’ll be displaying this year’s Instagram reminder of my son taking his first jumps into the pool and swimming.  One of the toughest things for apps to do is to garner at least once daily usage.  This app’s formula is perfect for such success.  I look forward to finding out what surprises await me each day since there’s no way to either look forward or backwards in the app unless, of course, if you want to methodically dig down each individual social feed.  The last morsel of history the app gives you is a snippet of news from years past via USA Today such as the six year anniversary of the first iPhone launch.

I will say the app isn’t very old and thereby is a bit buggy in its infancy.  I’ve waited for an update before going ahead and recommending it.  The latest update seems to have brought some stability however I am still unable to share to Facebook which seems silly anyways since I would likely just be resharing an already shared moment.  Nevertheless if you are fairly active on social networks I highly recommend the app.  It does one thing and does it simply and well and that almost always garners a TekYa rating in my book.