Nature Does Require Her Times Of Preservation

I’m never off-grid.  I like it that way, and won’t change for a long time.  The internet is full of laments of how constant connection is wearing thin.  Strange, really, considering that without the internet one would never have that forum for their lamentations.  Look around you for a minute.  The internet’s not the problem (it is the answer, but I’ll get to that in a minute).  The problem is those stacks of paper on your desk; the drawers full of software; boxes in the basement stuffed with old books, pictures and music CD’s; magazines piled on a shelf; and DVD’s and Blu-rays cluttering your family room.  Every Christmas and every birthday, it just gets worse.

No, the problem isn’t about being connected.  The problem lies in the piles of shit we surround ourselves with, so it’s not really any wonder we feel shitty a lot of the time.  I wanted to write a post to get you thinking about your environment (both at a micro and macro level), and how employing technology can actually help it… And your mood.

  • Go Digital – For everything… Period.  Buy (or steal) all your music and movies online.  Pretty obvious, I know, but here’s a few others you need to consider.  First is digitized magazines.  There’s the popular Apple Newsstand, but you can always subscribe via coverleaf as well.  You get access to the pdf the moment it’s off the press, and can download a copy and store them right on your computer.  Secondly, don’t develop any more pictures.  Ever.  Keep them digital.  Digital albums are easier to search; take a fraction of the storage space and cost, and with digital frames, portable to anywhere in the house.
  • Mobility & Tablets –  When I first got my iPad, I actually had trouble incorporating it into my daily routine, but now I find it’s with me all the time (that I’m not in front of my PC).  If you don’t have a tablet, just go get one.  Blogging about iPad’s and Android’s has been done to death.  There’s a reason we’re moving into the post-PC era…  If you’re going to really go digital, you need a tablet.
  • Cloud Storage – You can get to your content anytime and anywhere you’re connected.  You either need to subscribe to a cloud service, like iCloud; or buy a NAS device that allows you to setup your own cloud service.  I’ve done both, so I’m pretty much set, although I use my own NAS much more heavily than iCloud.  Bottom-line: digitally storing your media is cheaper; easier to index and search; and doesn’t even take up any physical space.

Digitizing media is far greener than manfacturing, shipping/distributing and storing physical copies.  I used to think that to own something, it needed to be physical.  Over time, I’ve opened my eyes, and actually enjoy the freedom that comes with digitial content much more than stacks of CD’s, etc.  It’s the new year.  Think about a simple change or two to help your environment.  Maybe switch all your bills to e-post, or buy an e-reader, or rip all your CD’s and move them to the cloud (then sell them).  For me, all those stacks of paper are gone from my desk now, and the boxes and shelves slowly getting emptier.  It feels amazing.

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Technology In 2010 – What To Watch

I won’t for a minute profess to having any special insights about what will become the most prolific technology in 2010 or what will end-up failing miserably.  What I can say is I’m watching a few companies and technologies in 2010, and I will be happy to share some things to watch out for with you.

  1. Microsoft’s Project Natal – Will probably ship near the end of 2010.  While it makes some lofty assertions about how it will change the face of gaming forever, whether it actually works well remains to be seen (and is the topic of much discussion already on the internet).  Still, it does have serious implications to the future of home computing and Human Computer Interaction (HCI).  A great example of this is Milo and Claire.
  2. Tablets – I think the tablet form factor is going to really explode in 2010, as wireless networking continues to improve with 802.11n and more and more Operating Systems and applications considering mobility as a key vector.  In particular, keep tabs on the JooJoo (Picture embedded below).  Its sales performance could impact whether the widely-speculated Microsoft and Apple tablets actually get launched in the coming year.
  3. Microsoft Office 2010 – If you’re not already using Office 2007, might as well hold-off on that upgrade because Office 2010 is already in beta, and we can safely assume its launch in the sometime in the next twelve months.  While Office 2007 introduced a new (and vastly improved) UI, Office 2010 is set to build on the Ribbon functionality, while also providing Microsoft Office Web Applications for both home and business users.
  4. Aggregation – This point is highly speculative, but I just don’t think the killer app is out there yet for aggregating and managing social media for end users (or corporations for that matter).  There are many aggregation services, but I don’t see one that offers a scalable and tailored UX, depending on your social media objectives.  I think 2010 is the year this service will materialize.

2009 was a crazy year in technology with an explosion in mobility and mobile applications; 3 major OS’ released – Windows 7, Snow Leopard and Chrome OS; and an immense proliferation of cloud services for both consumers and the enterprise.  There will be numerous surprises I’m sure in 2010, and you can count on me to blog about them.  Any of your own predictions?  Leave a comment, and let’s start a conversation.

The Mobile Imperative

I have one request of anyone taking the time to read this blog; go buy a smartphone, if you haven’t bought one already.  Last year, I had the good fortune to get invited to RIM‘s Toronto launch party of the Blackberry Bold 9000.  The event itself was pretty cool.  There were free booze and salsa dancers.  But the product… Even a year later, I still have a tough time harnessing the true power of this device.  It’s amazing.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like Blackberry’s.  While somewhat of an anomoly, you’re more than entitled to that totally lame opinion.  Checkout the iPhone, the Pre or the new Droid instead.  

My simple point is that the smartphone market is burgeoning, and innovation in this space is absolutely staggering.  In North America, mobility is no longer an option.  It’s an imperative.  I managed mobility solutions for several years at my current employer, and I wanted to share some simple tips and advice for you, the soon-to-be-consumer, of the smartphone.

  • Avoid long-term commitment.  I realize contracts are often a requirement to get a decent price on the phone, but don’t go beyond a 24-month maximum term.  The technology advances are just too rapid in the mobile space, and you’ll be left with a choice between antiquated hardware or pricey cancellation fees.
  • Identify what you want to decommission or converge.  Smartphones can really do it all, but do you want yours to?  For example, you may decide you will also use your phone as your portable media player, but you will continue to use your GPS, despite the fact your phone has that feature as well.  Often, you will find that while the smartphone provides that option, the features and functionality are not as robust as devices specialized in a given vector.
  • It all about the applications.  Make sure the phone’s Operating System has a vibrant and active development community.  Obviously, the iPhone has a ton of development already completed, but the Pre does not have as many options.  Be aware that Apple’s review practices are beginning to frustrate some developers, and many are moving towards the Blackberry SDK or the new Google Android
  • Hardware matters.  Your phone goes everywhere with you, so get one that feels durable and rugged.  Remember, don’t cheap-out.  The cost of the smartphone pales quickly when compared to what the carriers are going to charge for your monthly plan.  Don’t get sucked in to a lower-end phone because it’s free with a given plan.  Buy the one you want, and that you think will provide value for the (not-to-exceed-24-month) term.
  • The network effect.  So while EVDO may be the more advanced technology, it’s losing to HSDPA in terms of pervasiveness, and international availability.  In the US, both technologies are near ubiquitous, but AT&T’s network is really hammered.  In Canada, all carriers are moving to HSDPA, so do not buy a EVDO or CDMA phone.

So, there you have it.  A bit of advice in time for the holidays.  I have to say, these are only my opinions based on my exposure both as a consumer and as a technology manager at work.  I’m happy to hear any of your views, so please feel free to leave your feedback!