Tech Fanboys, Workarounds, and Lay Users

Is it too much to expect things to work correctly? I’m often aggravated to no end over technology that’s almost there, but not quite. I blow my lid when I visit support forums, where people are cool with the bugs and where people offer workarounds as solutions.

Case in point… For over a year I had Google alerts set up to search for terms, then e-mail my Gmail, which I had set up a filter to send to my work e-mail. I had the rule for said alerts set so it forwarded the e-mail, then deleted it. Nice and clean. Then suddenly in November or so, it stopped working. I didn’t find this out for a while until I noticed I stopped getting the alerts. So I visit Goolge’s help forums. Many others had the same problem and were as frustrated with this as I was. This is where the tech Google fanboys dismissed this as not a bug (working correctly). And the “solution” is to take out the delete part of the rule. Um, NO, this is not a solution. It WAS working. Now it’s NOT working.

I see this more and more. Which brings me to the lay user, which is me. I’m not going to hack into registry files and what not to fix stuff that shouldn’t be broken. The SOLUTION is never a workaround. Especially complicated ones. If the thing isn’t working right, fix the damn thing.

That concludes my rant of the day.

Thoughts on Producing and Marketing Complex Products

Lately I’ve been perusing message boards and blogs on the G1 phone. There is a tremendous debate among users as to their satisfaction levels. This, along with my own dissatisfaction with Microsoft Vista, led me to do some thinking. I think it might be impossible for companies with complicated products to produce products that will satisfy every one of their customers.

Take for example Vista. I hate it. Why? Because XP was easy to navigate and find files, folders, programs, etc. So why mess with it? I think, and I might be wrong, that Microsoft modeled Vista and produced it with a heavy slant towards users who want a {buzzword alert} rich multimedia experience. I think the casual user, like me, was left out. And my frustrations are some very basic things, like folder structure. Suddenly I had to click 3 times where it used to take me one click.

Now take the G1. I’m a Google addict. I use almost every one of their products and services. So going with the G1 was a no brainer. In my opinion, Is the G1 perfect? No. But it met my basic expectations.

This brings me to the message boards and blogs. It seems G1 users are divided into pretty distinct camps that range from the extremely technical to the very casual. You have Android fans that don’t mind using the phone with a beta mindset to more casual users who demand a finished product.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? Can Google/HTC/Tmobile produce something to satisfy everyone? Consider the phone is being judged by the following:

1) Phone service
2) Text messaging
3) E-mail client
4) Web Browser
5) MP3 Player
6) Camera
7) Everything else from GPS maps to games, the list is endless.

I do take exception to a few notions. The phone is/was marketed to the general public, so the notion that customers should put up with bugs/annoyances to me is an unreasonable response to complaints. Also, a LOT of advice on both the G1 and Vista require technical modifications. This does not suit a less technically savvy user or those who don’t have the time or desire to tinker.

How does a company take all of these considerations and produce a product that’ll be widely accepted? Do they just aim for the middle?

Target: A Store I Like

I was just reading through my previous posts. I notice I do a lot of nitpicking. So I’m going to devote some time posting about things I like as well.

That brings me to Target. I’m not price conscious as much as I am convenience conscious. I’d rather spend more if my whole shopping experience is positive. I’m not saying Target is more expensive than other stores. I’m just saying price (as long as it’s not outrageous) is not a major consideration. I wouldn’t want to wait on longer lines if it meant saving a few dollars.

I’ve been to a handful of Target stores. The most frequent is the one right by my house in Levittown, NY. It seems they all are the same wherever they are.

So, here is why I like Target:

  • They have a wide variety of products.
  • Their aisles are always clean and clear.
  • There is always staff around to ask for help.
  • The staff is helpful when needed. Both in the store and at the pharmacy.
  • And no matter how crowded the store gets, the lines at the registers are never long.

So, bravo Target for winning a loyal shopper (an otherwise grumpy shopper to boot).

My Jotter Notebook Hack

When I first wrote about Getting Things Done, I mentioned that I carry a small Cross jotter around to “capture” any ideas/thoughts/notes on the fly.

Just thought I’d share how I “hacked” mine so now I use better, and cheaper, notepad refills. I hope to soon be welcomed into geekhood now that I used the word hack for something.

First here is a snapshot of it closed. It fits into my pocket pretty easily. It has a holder for a small pen on the side.

The pad it came with stinks because the pages easily tear off and it made for writing on both sides difficult. It took me a while to find, but a standard Mead notepad with the spiral on top fits perfectly if you cut about 1/4 inch off both sides of the back. It doesn’t make it too cumbersome.


Here it is in action. Yes, I have the handwriting of a 3 year old.

There you have it.

Google Chrome, thanks but no thanks

I posted this in their suggestion forum as well.

So Google announced today that Chrome is out of beta. And it includes better bookmark management. Um, nope. I don’t think so. Nor do a ton of others commenting on forums about Chrome’s lack of integration of either Google Bookmarks or Google Toolbar.

I use Google Bookmarks to capture and bookmark sites (duh!), which I access from multiple computers throughout the day. It seems Google is dead-set and convinced their users use one computer all day. Otherwise this is a no brainer.

So I, and many others, don’t need to import bookmarks from Firefox, IE and other browers into Chrome. Especially since we use Google Bookmarks on those browsers anyway. We need Chrome to work with Bookmarks!

Sorry Chrome. I’m not using you.

Favorite G1 Apps

I get a kick out of ratings and comments in the Android Market. It’s funny how people’s perceptions differ when ranking apps. For me, I rank it based on how well it does what it says. I don’t rank on the wow factor. Quite frankly, none of the apps have really wowed me. But some come in handy. Now I’m talking about apps in the Android Market, not the ones that come preprogrammed on the G1–they are:

The Weather Channel – Quickly gives me the weather in my location (programmed in home Zip code or with GPS setting) with right now, hourly, 36 hour, and 10 day forecasts. Nice clean display.
Toggle Settings – Lets me quickly see and toggle on and off setting I’m not using (gps, wifi, silent mode, etc). Good for preserving battery charge and for changing ring tone mode for work, movies, etc. Also good for not having to navigate through the phone setting to make these changes.
QSearch – Turns the screen into a touchpad to run google searches without having to type on the keypad. It also changes to landscape when you rotate the phone. I’d rather not have to flip open the keypad to do quick Google searches.
Quickpedia – Basically wikipedia reformatted for the screensize.
BistroMath – Nice tip calculator. Great when splitting a check.
imeem – Streaming music based on favorites. I like it so far, I just need to play with it more and add more favorites.
Pictorial – Nice integration with Picasa, where I have a lot of my pics.
Pro Football Live – Gives updated football scores and stats. This would be more useful if I was away from the games on Sundays.
Yellowbook – Search listings based on GPS location, then one touch to call or plot on map. This comes in handy when looking for services in the area.

I give the following a “meh:”
AK Notepad – A simple notepad.
Voice Recorder – A voice recorder, which can then be saved and/or e-mailed.

These have potential:
Gmote – Lets me access and play media files on my PC through the G1 through my wireless connection at home. Essentially turning the G1 into a remote control for the media on the PC. The UI stinks, but I see potential here.
StreamFurious – Can play streaming media from content providers. It’s great, but the station selection is very limited.

I see these have rave reviews. I’ve installed them, but haven’t kicked the tires yet:
ShopSavvy – Lets you scan a barcode of a product, then gives you comparitive pricing in the area.
Shazam – Identifies music playing, then lets you tag it, buy it, and look up artist.

Stay tuned. For my next post, I’m putting together a wishlist.

G1 Review Redux – Month 1 Review

Last I wrote on the G1, I was a week in. Now I’m over a month in, so some of my first opinions have changed.

As I mentioned in my first post, the G1 was my first venture into any sort of smart phone / pda, so I don’t know how other devices compare.

I still love the device. It’s incredibly easy to use and navigate. I have a strong pet peeve with usability issues, and so far I haven’t been agitated by the G1.

I haven’t reversed my opinion on anything other than the camera. I last said it was ok. Well it’s flat out terrible. I’ve yet to take a non-blurry picture. And the autofocus makes taking a quick shot up to 5-6 seconds to take. I’m no photo-taking expert, but something’s wrong here. Judging by complaints on the web, I’m not alone. I have a digital camera, and I know how to snap a pic. I’m not looking for great pics, just fast and non blurry ones will do.

Also, I’ve found some bugs. I’ve tried to post them here and there. Google and/or T-Mobile should really have a central spot to submit bugs. Anyway here are some:

  • The gmail app has a tendency to open up the last conversation (even deleted e-mails) rather than going straight to the inbox. When this happens, sometimes the new e-mail notification does not pop up. It kind of stinks to keep having to open up the gmail app instead of trusting the notification.
  • The google calendar app crashes if you try to make changes to a recurring event.

Ok, not many bugs uncovered on my end. Still love it overall. Still hate that you can’t write to google notes, docs, or speadsheets.

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