EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Smartphone | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'Smartphone'

Fun With FourSquare

foursquare-logo-iphoneI decided to have a little fun this weekend with one of San Francisco’s tech companies, FourSquare. The family decided to take a run out to In-N-Out burger in Daly City and as usual, daughter and I sat in the car while wife scoped out the place to put our order in and see if there was a table available. I had some time on my hands, so I pulled out my iPhone and started tapping away.

I pulled up FourSquare to allow me to check into In-N-Out burger. I’m not really sure why I do this. I don’t get anything for it and FourSquare gets lots of data from me and everyone else who uses it just to give me a badge-like picture for checking in at a lot of places. I at least got an Apple TV from Viggle, so today it was time to have fun with them.

As I was checking in I noticed the picture icon where you could take a picture of the place you’re checking into which gets added to the list of pictures for that particular place. I happened to notice something really fun. It was so fun that I had to make the Dr. Evil face. It gave me a choice to add a picture from my library. Oh dear, what have they done now. So I can add a picture of anything I want to the place I’m checking into. Me being the rebellious type decided to choose a picture of a taco that I had on my camera. I know. It’s not the most rebellious thing to do, but it was a start.

I could see something that was at our disposal where you could make a statement with your check in. You could get a picture of drunk fails and post that to a bar you frequent. A herd of cows would be appropriate for a check-in at Costco. Come to think of it a herd of cows would be fun to post at a gym. PETA [People for the Edible Ethical Treatment of Animals] would have a field day posting pics of slaughterhouses at meat friendly places. I posted a picture of my old roomate’s dog Bear licking her lips with a beer in front of her looking like she’s about ready to pass out to my check-in at Krispy Kreme doughnuts because when you look like that what kind of food sounds really good.

These are places that I like. Imagine what I could do if I was given bad service at a place I checked in to? Pictures are worth a thousand words and I think there are many ways that FourSquare can now beat out Yelp.

Autism vs. The iPad

As I’m sure you remember we were able to get an iPad for our daughter during a time when we didn’t have much money [which is a fate we still share today]. She loves the iPad a lot and I thank again all of my readers who help us get it for her. Then my wife came running into my workspace all white face with a look of horror and my daughter running behind quickly screaming and crying — I think we just lost the iPad.

WHAT!? She handed it to me and it looked fine until she peeled back the case and showed me the dent. The dent happened to come right where the volume up and down keys were and while it still worked we couldn’t get any volume out of it. I quickly got an appointment at the Genius Bar to have them take a look and then started doing some research.

I was seeing everything from a few people who got it replaced free to most people who had to pay $299 or buy a new one. My heart sunk. This is my daughter’s baby. She treats it like a puppy hugging it and petting it. She never throws it or drops it unlike many of her other toys. She knows this is something special for her.

For any parent of a child whether they have autism or not I would highly suggest an iPad. My daughter has improved so much since we got it for her. She couldn’t point at things before, but now points to things that she doesn’t know the name of. She’s learned how to say words she never said a year ago and now she can even write. Sure she has therapists that help her out, but a lot of this even the therapists say comes from the iPad. It has helped her immensely and I was pretty devastated to learn that this great tool we had for her might be gone and we don’t have the money or credit to afford to get it fixed or buy a new one.

I went into the Apple store thinking to myself well, maybe I could ask for donations again, but I don’t really like begging. If you like the blog and want to make a donation feel free to do so, but I refuse to sit out there on the internet with a cup in hand asking spare change from everyone who comes to my blog. I’ve been getting enough work from TaskRabbit to help us get by until I can get a real job again so I figured I could find a way to make it work out.

So my Genius is guy named Tony. I told him the story and how this is our autistic daughter’s best friend [yes, I played the autism card, but it was important because of what she’s got from it.] Tony took a look and said, well, it’s only a little dent and no screen damage so we’ll replace it for you right now.

DUDE!! AWWWWWESOME!

So the crisis has been averted and we’re in the process right now of getting the back up reinstalled on the iPad. Tony suggested that we get an Otterbox case for it which my wife and I have been talking about for a while. Now it’s obviously a definite buy item. I think I’ll have to take on a few more tasks to get the money to cover this one, but it’ll be worth it in the long run if it’s something that is helping our daughter improve herself.

Tony, thanks for helping a brother out.

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Muni Needs WiFi

For a short period of time I had to take the 48 Quintara down to the Mission on a daily basis. I found it actually a relaxing and interesting trip that I wrote about previously as I could sit there with my iPhone and read my email and get constant updates on what was going on along with all the other riders because of the 3G access we all had, but if you like the other thousands of riders who have to take the metro downtown you’re out of luck.

There’s no signal in the tunnels at all. Granted, traveling from West Portal to Embarcadero can be rather quick, but it leaves you with unproductive downtime where if there was an emergency at home I couldn’t even get a phone call in most cases for 45 minutes. On the other hand, BART when I got on one day politely asked me if I’d like to connect to their free wifi service. Hell even going through the bay tunnel I could make cell phone calls. Why isn’t San Francisco looking into this?

There was a time a couple of years ago where I saw buses in San Francisco touting free wifi service they were testing out. You don’t see those today. In a city that says it’s so tech friendly I would expect wifi to be everywhere and available. Well, it is pretty much everywhere, but not always available.  There was a plan at one time to make wifi available throughout San Francisco, but it never took hold. Couldn’t we at least find a way to first make wifi available in the metro tunnel running downtown and then making it available on the buses? It would make the need for 3g/4g data plans almost superfluous and give everyone with a smartphone/tablet computer access to the internet while they have to sit during their commute. Most people complain about how slow Muni is, but if you had something to do during the time you were waiting you wouldn’t notice it so much.

Hell, if I could watch Indiana Jones while I was stuck in the tunnels for two hours I wouldn’t mind the wait as much.

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Forgive Me Apple, For I Have Sinned

I try to talk about San Francisco things during the week, but with the release of Apple’s iOS 5 yesterday I learned a few things that Apple doesn’t tell you so I have to give them a smack today.

My wife is not an early adopter. She is still using Tiger just as my workplace is using. I knew iOS 5 was to be released yesterday and was notified yesterday morning that there was an update to iTunes. I figured this was a tie in with iOS 5 since you went through iTunes to update your iOS devices previously. At work, we have a strict IT department so that wasn’t possible, but when I heard the announcement that iOS 5 was finally released I tried to update, but had to wait until I got home.

I get home and plug in the iPhone and try to update and was informed that it was having trouble contacting the update server. So I tried again, and again, and again with no luck. I figured everyone was doing it so that was the problem. I did check the suggestions to get around this and finally checked for new software updates and low and behold there was an update to OSX 10.7.2. After installing that I found out that I could update my iPhone to iOS 5. The only problem is that my wife’s iPad is hooked up with her computer and she is wary of updating because for some reason she always finds something that goes wrong. Well, it turns out that she can’t update to iOS 5 until she upgrades to Lion. Now I also have friends with mac’s that can’t upgrade to Lion because they’re computers don’t meet the specs who also have an iPhone or iPad. They’re out of luck completely.

On the plus side I have to say that both Lion and iOS 5 are nice, but there isn’t much shockingly different at first look. I say this to people who aren’t early adopters that feel like they’re missing out, you’re not really. There are a few new cool things, but nothing majorly WOW. I have noticed a few problems also, well one problem and that’s with the move from MobileMe to iCloud. First when you try to transition to iCloud you’re told to log into me.com to start the transition. This is wrong. You go to iCloud.com and enter your MobileMe user name and password and that is what starts the transition. After I transitioned I’ve found that while iCloud gets the mail it keeps telling me that my password is wrong and I need to re-enter it. This could be from the fact that many people are changing over to iOS 5 that it’s putting a strain on their new server farm. Also as I am typing this for some reason Safari has started to automatically hide itself under 10.7.2.

While I don’t totally understand the #OccupyWallStreet phenomena that’s going on, if you’re not an early adopter of Lion I suggest it’s time to go down to your Apple store and #OccupyApple and make them fix the problem. Yes, I know you need to have Lion installed in order to use iCloud, but if you have a mac that doesn’t meet the specs for Lion and you’ve been using MobileMe as of June next year it will all disappear on you. Which means that in moving forward you’ll have to get a new mac and switch to iCloud to continue to use your mac.com or me.com email address and all the other new features. You will be as useless as a Newton in a short time.

Apps I’ve come to appreciate

Seeing it’s a wild weekend I’ll go off base again. I’ve come across a couple of iOS apps that I’ve found to be very useful to me and a bit of a game changer in many ways. These are two apps one for commerce and one for pleasure that have changed the way I think in many ways.

The first is Square. It is a free app which is always a bonus. When you download the app it pushes you to register to receive a card reader, also for free. The card reader plugs into the headphone jack of your iPhone or iPad and then lets you scan a credit card for payment that is directly deposited to your bank.

Now I remember back to the days when I had a credit card account for a business I was running. I had to pay $35/month plus 35¢ per transaction plus 3.25% for every charge plus there was the charge for the software which was somewhere in the $500 range. This was rather expensive and I didn’t like it. It made me understand why some places were cash only. If you’re a small business or a seasonal business you’re kind of screwed having to shell out money each month for a service you aren’t using that much. Square is different. They don’t charge you anything up front, they give it to you for free. They don’t charge you a monthly fee. They only charge you 2.75% per charge. This comes in handy to me. It’s less of a charge than PayPal which you already know I don’t like. It is a spontaneous way to obtain money. I frequently tutor people and I was at a computer lab one day and when I was finished with the person I was working with I was approached by another person who asked me about my services. When I was finished I pulled out my phone and swiped their credit card to bill them and they were sent an email with my contact info for future business.

Sure, it costs you a little bit, but to me it’s worth it. Overall it costs you less than regular credit card services and that was the point when Square started up. They wanted to reach out to small businesses and entrepreneurs who wanted the ability to charge credit cards on a mobile basis or at the very least wirelessly at a low cost. Now they have taken it a step further. Now small businesses when they charge your card if you have a smartphone it will send you a message asking you to download the app. Once you do it will let you open a tab with the business you’ve visited so that the next time you visit the business you can tap on the tab and it will connect with their device in an encrypted format so that you don’t even need to pull out your credit card. This is the type of NFD [Near Field Device] technology that people are trying to work into the hardware of their phones that now can be worked in with the software.  The iPad version is a bit richer in that you can program in a list of services or offerings so that it acts more like a cash register itemizing a persons order and emailing them the details. I really think that Square will be a game changer in the near future. You’ll see it popping up in numerous places in San Francisco now along with other major metropolitan cities.

The second app is called Flipboard. This is an app aimed at the iPad and it is a really nice app for repurposing content from social networks and news sites into a consistently similar format. You can browse through your facebook, twitter and news sites of your choice in a format that looks like a condensed magazine format. The nice part for twitter and facebook accounts is that if you post links it follows the links and brings in a synopsis of the article and adds it to the link. Tapping on the link takes you to the full article formatted for the app so it always gives you the same familiar look and feel.

I find the biggest thing I like about Flipboard is the facebook and twitter integration. It makes it much easier to follow what people are talking about instead of seeing just text and links. Now you get to see the pictures and videos people post instead of just seeing the text. It is a more visual form of social networking than textual version. Yes, it’s a bit of a pretty toy, but it works. I can fully understand why Apple has it listed as an essential iPad starter app. It also is free.

Appnation: Boy are my dogs tired.

My legs are sore from standing for a couple days at one of the weirdest conferences I’ve ever worked. Over the past two days I represented the company I work for at Appnation. It was at Moscone Center and was a convention for mobile app developers to learn ways to make money as app developers. They say it’s a mash-up of developers, venture capitalists and people who do stuff that could benefit developers [more on that later].

This was a show that compared to MacWorld was an oversized garage type of event. There were maybe about 100 people hawking their wares and the people that would come by the booth I was working were a mix of end users, VC people, but mostly people who were too cheap to purchase a booth and were coming by to try and sell their product to me to include in my app even if it had nothing to do with or was of no use to my app. In other words, in my opinion the show was a bust for the company I work for.

There was lots of talk about how to get venture capital funding for your app, but in reality most of these hip app writers live out of virtual spaces that don’t have anything a real office has. Imagine working for a company that is based in a eggshell of an industrial workspace. They have no landline phone, no printers, cheap Office Depot tables and chairs, no form of interior design what so ever, mail never gets delivered because, well snail mail is so 10 minutes ago and after all, in a month or two we’ll be moving to an even better eggshell to work out of!

Eggshelled companies are not what a Venture Capital firm has much interest in because once they give you the money they want to be able to keep track of you by something other than email and a cell phone call, neither of which they can find a real person to shake down to get the money back.

I was able to meet some interesting people there though. Steve and Reed from appMobi were right across from me and put on a good show. Steve incidentally speaks 8 languages and was happy to demonstrate that fact even though it had nothing to do with his product. AppMobi is a web-based product that lets you write mobile apps using web design skills not programming languages and then deploy your product not just to one platform, but to several. This sounded pretty cool and they’re demo showed how cool it was. Then there was Chris and Cherie from Technomadia. These were a couple of Burning Man people who actually live out of a trailer and because of that wrote an app called State Lines. This is a fun app for travelers that tells you the speed limits, smoking rules, alcohol laws in every state. Very useful if you’re a frequent traveler and only $2.99. I asked them if the app paid them well and they told me that, “It keeps them in lunch and sometimes dinner.” OK, while I can’t exactly say I’d be able to live off that, at least I know I’d be getting a couple a meals a day from it.

Probably the best thing I learned from the show was that geek girls with iPads can be hot. These girls weren’t icing on the cake like you have at car shows, but they were spouting off about objective-C, equity investors, marketing throughput, etc and their eyes weren’t all glossed over like they were just repeating what they were told to say. I’d also have to say that most of the people there were talking more about the free after parties than the products people were trying to sell, so that should tell you something about the overall effectiveness of the show.

Smartphones for Dummies: San Francisco

There’s something about smartphones that no one wants you to know. Now that I have my brand new iPhone 4 I am an expert and will share with you my font of knowledge.

Well, maybe at least what I’ve learned so far…First off, these are phones that connect to the internet. What they don’t tell you is that they try to access Wi-Fi first, then fall back to 3g, then Edge, then GPRS as the last resort. Everything after Wi-FI is where your monthly data charges come in. Now if you’re like me and the millions of other hipsters who got an iPhone to be cool and only make a few phone calls you can find a way to save yourself the $15-$25/month as soon as that’s not a part of your contract [looking into that tomorrow].

I’ve found there are tons of free Wi-Fi out there and there’s even a free app for the iPhone called of course, Free Wi-Fi Finder. While this works pretty good, I’ve found that if you see the #G or E or ° on your iPhone that you should go into your settings and try and turn on Wi-Fi. Chances are you’ll find an open system. I was wandering around my local Safeway and happened to remember this and turned it on and found that Safeway offers free Wi-Fi. So I connected and now because it’s a smartphone it remembered it and every time I’m in that Safeway it will automatically hook up. This is good because the cell phone reception is nil inside so I can run Skype if I need to make a call and call out over Wi-Fi and be a VoIP geek for a bit.

This secret has kept me from getting a Smartphone even when I could have afforded one because it was the data plan that pushed me back. I already pay less per month for much better Wi-Fi at home, why should I pay more for a slower connection outside the house?

So I think this weekend I’ll go fishing, but I’ll leave the pole at home and go around my neighborhood and as soon as I find I don’t have a Wi-Fi signal I’ll see who’s I can latch onto. I’ll also do that at the pizza place by where I work since I know they offer free Wi-Fi and they have good pizza considering they aren’t in New York.

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