Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Technology revamp

It's almost a new year, and it appears that all-of-a-sudden I have this need - almost a compulsion - to revamp some of my most highly entrenched tech habits.

Firstly, I've used Firefox since it was called Phoenix/Firebird.  What a great browser!  I'm typing in it right now.  One of the main things I use Firefox for is my RSS reader.  But lately, I've become dissatisfied with that feature.  I found myself expanding each feed individually 10+ times a day just to check and see if I could get my "what's new on the 'net?" fix.  Any idle moment caused me to be drawn to my bookmarks toolbar.  I finally said, "enough" and succumbed to Google reader.  I'm still not entirely thrilled with the whole "read/unread" e-mail metaphor for RSS feeds, but it solved my problem - now I only check my feeds once a day, and no longer get pulled away from Visual Studio by the need for a quick-fix-link-fest.  And for low volume blogs, I don't even have to click through to see if I've seen everything.  For the high volume stuff, I mark huge swaths of uninteresting junk as "read" while clicking on the occasional nugget here or there.

But then - something strange started happening.  Without the draw of the Firefox Bookmarks bar, I started getting interested in Google's Chrome browser.  And things have snowballed from there.  So, in honor of a new year I've decided to enumerate my top 10 major tech swings of late - really more for my benefit than yours - so here they are in no particular order:

  1. Switched from Firefox to Google Reader for RSS feeds - outcome: Satisfied
  2. Started using Chrome more since Firefox isn't my RSS reader - outcome: Scared of Google's continued hold on me
  3. Switched from Zune to iPod nano 5th gen for my tunes/podcasts - outcome: LOVE IT
  4. Switched from Windows Media Player to iTunes because of the need to manage my iPod - outcome:  iPod == good... iTunes == evil.  I miss WMP, but since not even my Zune let me use it, I'd given up on it long ago...
  5. Switched from OpenOffice back to MS Office - with the home edition being sold for only $100, it finally seemed worth it to me to use Office - outcome: Satisfied
  6. Received a Garmin for Christmas - switched from old fashioned hand-written directions and Google maps printouts.  Amazed at how much I really like it despite my previously mixed feelings from last summer's trip.  - outcome: Strangely addicted to it, and slightly happy to reduce Google's hold on my life in one small area
  7. Switched from buying mostly paper tech books to buying mostly PDFs for tech books.  Uploaded them to a private Google docs account  outcome: Meh.  I don't read the PDFs as thoroughly.  But being searchable, readable on my phone, accessible anywhere (yeah... there's Google again), and taking up no physical room in my house are big wins for me.
  8. All family contacts are now managed via our family GMail account, which should make it easier to keep up-to-date and do our Christmas cards next year.  outcome: Why didn't I do this before!?
  9. We finally are going to get a texting plan for our cell phones.  outcome: Yet to be determined.
  10. Strongly considering ditching the land-line and getting an iPhone or Android phone this Summer. Especially after reading  this news and this news which came out today.  outcome:  Still deciding
And here are some tech trends I've managed to avoid this year:
  1. Facebook - (mostly)
  2. Twitter - I've no desire what-so-ever
  3. Craigslist



truist said...

I'm in very similar places on all those items, with a few exceptions:

* I'm also using Google Reader, but not quite totally happy with it, because it doesn't handle authenticated feeds. But I found a way around that.

* I'm also trending back toward MS Office; I keep finding limitations or quirks in OpenOffice that push me away.

* Don't need a GPS because of the iPhone.

* Texting is overdue :)

* The new Android phone looks interesting to me, especially since my iPhone battery seems to be dying, and I like T-Mobile.

* Twitter is nice :)

* Craigslist is also nice - it saved me about $800 on baby stuff!

mattmc3 said...

The only thing texting is overdue for is obsolescence. It's a technology that already has a significantly better and cheaper solution - IM/e-mail. Of course, the only way to actually make it obsolete is for everyone to have a data plan. The thing I find most offensive about texting (other than teens doing it while driving) is that I get charged for every unsolicited text I received. Now that those charges are reaching close to the $5.00 mark, I might as well pay that officially and get 250 of them a month to do with as I want.

truist said...

I agree that SMS as a technology could / should be replaced - but "texting" as a communication medium has its uses. No other medium provides instant send, instant receipt, instant notification to the recipient, near-guaranteed delivery, but no confirmation to the sender that the recipient actually got the message. IM and email don't provide all those factors, so texting has its niche (that I frequently take advantage of).

mattmc3 said...

Not sure why you think that IM doesn't provide those features. As one example, assuming everyone has a data plan with their phone, I'm thinking of a simple Google Talk style IM client on the phone that sends an IM. I can be on my phone or at my computer or wherever and access the conversation. If I'm not online and my phone is off, Google just queues the IM. The IM client could even read SMS messages off your phone if you needed it to in order to handle those weirdos who still send you a plain old legacy SMS, and you could set up your contacts or even your specific conversation to send an SMS in tandem with the IM. And, there's no character limit. The only thing it doesn't exactly solve is your read receipt issue. Until all phones are internet enabled, it isn't easy to do yet, but with proper integration with SMS, I think it's doable with a good IM client on the phone. Of course, it's a money maker for the phone companies, so good luck getting them to lead the charge for progress in this area.

truist said...

But Google Talk is a good example of exactly what I don't want - with Google Talk, it doesn't matter which device I'm using - computer, phone, web browser, etc. - I'm online with Google Talk. And any messages sent to me are sent to that device. So if my home computer has Google Talk running (which it nearly always does) the message will go to that home computer, but not to my phone, if it doesn't have Google Talk running at the moment. So maybe that's another feature of texting that I forgot to mention - messages are device-specific, and there's a strong assumption that the device is with the person.

Also, Google Talk broadcasts the user's online state (i.e. "Active" or "Away" or "Offline") which hurts the idea of no-consequence ignoring an inbound message, because the sender can see that you are online, and knows (or believes!) that you are ignoring them.

mattmc3 said...

What you're talking about is the current design of Google Talk - what I'm talking about is a v-next implementation. Google conversations go through their servers, so there's no reason that multiple devices couldn't send and receive at the same time, meaning that you could be logged in anywhere and from multiple sources. And, online presence information wouldn't need to be shown when logged in from the mobile IM app.

I think we just use our devices differently, which is really my point - SMS/Texting is too limiting for my needs, and I think that's there's a way to keep the simplicity of it for those who like that about texting while expanding it to be a significantly more useful medium for those who view their mobile devices a little differently.