Decade Technology Roundup

Ever since the beginning this blog was about technology. Only recently did I change it to cover first marketing, then small business as a whole. But almost all the posts of past decade are one way or another are about technology and its applications. So here’s my own little list of technologies – tools, services and gadgets that I loved using in that past decade and still using to this day.

Gmail – beats everything I have been using so far. So much so that I am slowly abandoning Outlook and converting to 100% Gmail user. In fact, any work related e-mail I send from Outlook gets CC-ed to Gmail account.

WordPress – again, slowly but surely this becomes the platform of choice for blogs I write for, as well as web sites we are still building from time to time. One of the main reasons is the automatic upgrade feature – when you take care of number of web sites, manual upgrading is too cumbersome.

Joomla – an excellent choice for content management system for any medium to large size web sites. Was our platform of choice before WordPress. Still works the best when paired with VirtueMart e-Commerce system.

HTC – as a provider of smartphones’ hardware. I’ve been using HTC devices for almost 5 years now, if not more. Starting from HTC’s BlueAngel to TyTN every single piece of hardware was awesome.

IBM / Lenovo ThinkPad T series line – my first two laptops were from Compaq and they were both horrible. So horrible, that I stopped using laptops for some time. At some point later I tried IBM’s ThinkPad T line and never looked back. Lenovo, after IBM shrugged their laptop manufacturing off their shoulders, aren’t dropping the ball with T line either, so I am looking forward to my next purchase of their T510 that’s due some time in February.

iPhone – as an entertainment center that allows you to make and receive phone calls it beats anything else. The phone part is still stuck somewhere back in 90s, but with the help of either Google Voice or Ribbit I am sure one day I’ll be able to sort it out.

Google Reader – my first source of news. Honestly, I am subscribed to a bit more feeds than I have time to read, but still it does a great job of keeping me up with anything I might want to know.

Pandora – hands down the best online radio you could imagine. I remember how much I was upset when Pandora was only working on iPhone of all the AT&T handsets. I also remember how pleased my wife was when I showed her how it works and how she can listen to the music of her choice and never get bored again.

Firefox – remains my primary browser since version 1.0.3, if not earlier. I am using Chrome or Flock (which is also based on Firefox code) as secondary browsers when I need to be logged into two Gmail accounts simultaneously, but main tool always was the Firefox.

UltraEdit – the default text editor for anything text or web related. Syntax highlighting, tabbed windows and anything you might ever want. Been using it for way too many years, each time I tried to use some kind of alternative I just kept coming back to UE.

Photoshop – it’s the only tool that still makes me feel like I have no idea on what I am doing. The more I learn it the more I discover things that just seem alien to me. Yet, it’s the only image editing software that does all I need to do – from photo editing to overly complex 100+ layers PSD files with custom web design we give to our clients.

Trillian – the all-in-one messenger solution. I used Trillian since their version 2, then moved on to Miranda (which is like Lego for messengers), but once Astra was out I switched to it immediately. For some reason this piece of software is so pleasing aesthetically that it makes me want to work more.

Skype – I purchased phone number in my area code, and using it for any conversation that is longer than 15 minutes. Just a note – between 12:15am and 12:45am this New Year AT&T’s network wasn’t letting me place any calls at all (I actually had zero bars on my iPhone at that moment). At the same time, calls placed through Skype went through just fine. Simply indispensable tool for both business and personal use.

RoboForm – an excellent password keeping tool. Unfortunately since I am using too many computers, keeping RoboForm gets prohibitively expensive, so I moved on to LastPass recently. It’s a bit more annoying than RoboForm, but does the job and is free.

Nikon D70s – I own this camera since it was released and just can’t force myself to upgrade to anything else. It just feels right. As of right now I probably shot over hundred thousand images with it – and that is given the fact that I am not a professional photographer.

Canon A series cameras – the love started with Canon A95 and carried over to A720IS I currently own. It fits in any pocket perfectly and is pretty good for the cases when full DSLR is an overkill. I am yet to see a better camera line that’s both affordable, portable and gives results of such quality.

Netflix – I’ve been a member for a few years and it’s been another great source of entertainment. Their shipping times have greatly improved recently, sometimes I am able to fit two shipments within a week.

Google Docs – I was a slow adopter mainly due to other people not getting the concept. But once I started using Docs with internet savvy business owners, they proved to be one of the most valuable tools.

Let’s see how many of these will survive in 2010.


Verizon Wireless Data Tests From Florida

As I was returning the Storm after a little test run (I talked about it in the previous post), I decided instead of ditching Verizon altogether to try out their data plan. I got UM175 USB wireless modem and Verizon’s “unlimited” 5GB data plan for $59.99. But testing all that from the middle of New York City isn’t as much fun as taking the set to vacation.

So here I am, in one of Orlando, FL resorts, checking the quality of the service. There’s no problem with connectivity, my question is – just how good the internet connection is for an advanced user like me. All tests were conducted through, so that you can enjoy the pretty graphic fonts instead of boring tables.

The most important criteria to look at are latency (how fast the signal travels from point A to point B and back) and upload speed. Big latency is what will kill your IP phone conversation, your online meeting or your live webcast. Download speeds are usually more than adequate, but when you’re trying to upload a bunch of pictures from vacation, a huge Excel spreadsheet or heavy PDF, the podcast or videoblog post – that’s when little upload speed is starting to hurt. Besides, slow upload speeds will also have their say in making your online meeting or IP phone conversation useless.

annoyances technology

Web Site Usability – Why Should You Care?

Everyone is talking about usability, it seemed to be a hot topic recently, but thanks to the crisis everybody seem not to care. I have covered some usability ideas in the past, but it just turned around and bit me in the back – again!

Yesterday I was paying my bills. By the way, just imagine how much of on open market is paying bills – banks play there, credit card operators play there, ISPs play there and still it isn’t a single way of doing things. But I digress. I headed to Banana Republic’s web site since I didn’t have a direct link to credit cards account login page. Click on Credit Card all the way at the bottom of the site. Redirected to a secure portion of Banana Republic’s site. Good. Now let me see where’s my account. Click on the big button with “HAVE A CARD?” question next to GET A CARD button (BTW, did you notice that it’s all ONE IMAGE MAP? With another huge image map below?). Imagine this – a new pop-up window opens, with totally random URL in it. The seem to be the flavor du jour, courtesy of GE Money Bank (has anyone heard about GE Water Bank? GE Blood Bank? GE Sperm bank?). Alright – no questions for GAP brands, let’s bash look at GE.

Aside from modern and very inconvenient way to log in the user (first you have to provide login only, then either answer two personal questions or provide password and identify an image), the whole idea of opening a new window with new URL seems strange. We seem to fight phishing wich partially based on deceiving the unsuspecting user that this new URL is the one he needs to visit – and you get something like this? No wonder banks keep being hit. And why do I need to provide a login only?

To protect your security, we ask for only your User ID to initiate access to your account. Then we show you the Personalized Image you selected before asking you to enter your Password. We do this to help prevent phishing, and to ensure your confidence that you have accessed the correct website for your account.

Right. With the proliferation of social networks it’s much easier to gather personal information about someone rather then guess somebody’s password. But nobody seem to care anyway.

But the turning point (and the reason for this blog post) occured a bit later. After filling all the fields to make a payment and clicking MAKE PAYMENT button, script found that I’ve made a mistake entering a date. Turned out I typed 2008 instead of 2009. Alright, I am not asking to fix such an obvious mistake for me, but WHY DID YOU JUST RESET ALL THE ENTERED INFORMATION? Instead of paying full amount I just made a minimum payment. And no – you can’t reverse it or make another payment today.

Now back to initial question – why would you care? It’s simple – because things like this matter in your personal and business life. It used to be 30 minutes to pay all of my bills – utilities, credit cards, etc. I use special software that opens login links for me, types in my passwords for me and submits it for me. The advantage is that I use one VERY complicated password to manage other VERY complicated passwords to my accounts – instead of remembering a bunch of simple ones). So with a single mouse click I can get right into account information screen. With modern ways to log in (that are just as prone to phishing as old ones) I spend over 2 hours for same amount of activities. An impact is kind of obvious.

The time is not the only concern here. It would take a really small distraction for the difference in amounts paid to go unnoticed. Next thing you know – you think the credit card is paid in full while it’s not. And we all know what a credit card company can do if you missed a payment.

Usability isn’t some form of useless science. It’s something that directly affects us in everyday life. The way we pay our bills. The way we interact with things. The way we achieve our goals.