Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Content Network Disrupts the Cable Industry

I'm sure you've experienced something similar, you have a favorite show that you watch religiously, it gets numerous accolades, has a cult following, and then out of the blue gets canceled. It happens all the time. Great shows are often canceled in order to freshen up a schedule, make way for new "great" shows or sometimes they are canceled just for political reasons. It's a frustrating experience that makes you feel powerless.

The puppet masters here are the big media networks like NBC, Fox, and CBS who facilitate the content and then there are the distribution networks like Comcast and Cox who get the shows to the viewers. This is a system that has been in place since the early dawn of television so it's no surprise that anything to upset this model would ruffle some feathers. The internet has caused a tsunami of change effecting almost every part of our lives. No longer are we surfing the web to just pass the time but now soldiers are seeing their families face to face from the front lines, kids are playing games with other kids from across the globe, and now Leo Laporte is proving that broadcast networks are not needed to get your show to your viewers.

In 2004 one of my favorite channels called TechTV, formally ZDTV, was sold and essentially shut down. As a viewer I was very upset that I would no longer be able to watch The Screen Savers where Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton would keep fans up to date on technology and answer all sorts of geeky questions. The crew of The Screen Savers went their separate ways but they continued to stay in touch.

In January 2005 Leo was covering Macworld Expo in San Francisco and one evening had dinner with a few other people. As he was then working in radio he happened to have a recorder and microphone. He recorded the ensuing conversations about the expo and the tech world in general. Once he posted that recording on his website tens of thousands of people downloaded it within just a few days. TechTV fans wanted more and within a few months TWiT (This Week in Tech) was created.

What's great about this story is that there was no drawn out tale of someone proving themselves to an established entity to get air-time. It was one man with a microphone and a website. The cost for entry in this industry has become so inexpensive that there's not much of a barrier left. By directly delivering content to his fans Leo showed that if you have the talent all you need is the bare minimum to produce a hit.

This is called disintermediation, when a process of removing the middle-man (or any intermediary) happens to an industry. Blame Society Productions filmed a series called Chad Vader posting originally on Babelgum and Youtube. The series looks at what life would be like for Darth Vader if he was the night shift manager of a small grocery store. This idea would have scared any network executive and would have never have seen the light of day if it's only hope was network television. When content is directly accessible it's the viewers who give approval to shows and not those in ivory towers. Chad Vader's 73 million views is definitely a sign of approval.

Disintermediation of the cable industry is going to happen exponentially faster. TWiT gives credibility to the concept that you can create and run a professional content production company. At live.twit.tv you can access the live feed of what's happening at the TWiT cottage and when shows aren't in progress you will previously recorded shows ensuring full 24 hour streaming. Bringing in between 3 and 4 million dollars in revenue also adds to the legitimacy of TWiT being a contender to compete with the big three.

I look forward as more and more people become content creators. When there's no middle man you don't have to worry about the content that you're receiving being affected by ratings or corporate sponsorships. Shows like This Week in Tech represents what the future of our content consumption will look like.

Monday, May 30, 2011

This post originally appeared on Droid Portal.
I struggled at times in school. It was hard for me to stay engaged for such long periods of time. The teacher would be going over something new and I would get it but it always seemed like there was that one kid that couldn't grasp the concept no matter how it was explained. So while questions were being asked my mind would wander and then I would snap back to reality realizing that I had missed a few things and then I was completely lost.
It wasn't until college that I got to experience a class that seemed tailored to the way I learned. Advanced Calculus was available in "computer media." There was a teacher present but he was only there to answer questions. All of the learning was done through the computer. You would start each section seeing and hearing the concepts explained. Then you would work example problems with the aid of the computer until it dropped you into the final assessment. After the quiz you would get to see what you had gotten wrong and then it was explained how to solve these problems. What was also great about this was I could go at the exact pace that I wanted to. This class was perfect for me, it was the first time I had ever gotten an A in math.
Cengage has developedMindTap, a program meant to effectively utilize technology to give students a personalized learning experience. The reason I wanted to write a post on this at droidportal.net is that it falls in line with how technology should flow. Please click on the MindTap link and check it out.
How does this represent the future? We have all this great technology that is suppose to streamline our lives but it has really only added complexity. While everyone communicates through the web we don't all communicate the same way. So a professor who compiles a list of email addresses may not be as connected as they think when half of the class uses Facebook. MindTap would allow for effective communication not only because the entire class would be connected but also because the professor would have complete visibilty of what each student is comprehending.
Why was a computer able to reach me where others (some of which who were very talented teachers) failed? There are 3 ways people learn, by seeing, hearing, and doing. I'm a kinesthetic, so being able to do the math problems at my own pace every step of they drilled it into me. The computer had all the bases covered since it delivered the content in multiple fashions.
MindTap which is feature rich does more than just cover bases. Adding visibility for the instructor adds the ability for him or her to focus on the needs of the students more efficiently. Further, MindTap is device agnostic, giving students access to their experience anytime, anywhere - on their desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile phone, or even in print. All I can say is it's about time that multi-platform development starts taking hold. Imagine if I could have had an experience like this all throughout high school!
 MindTap was recently unveiled at TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) whose tagline is "Ideas worth spreading." I think a revamp in how we communicate when we teach is an idea worth spreading rather than just fighting over how we decide which schools get funding. 

Giving your employees a cell phone

This post first appeared on Droid Portal.
As a new business experiences growth new projects will become viable and providing cell phones to it's employees is a common goal small business owner want to accomplish. Before handing a cell phone to any employee a business owner should write policy to define the terms of use with the business phone. There should also be a strategy in place that focuses on keeping costs in check.

The first question a business owner should ask themselves is corporate liable or employee liable.

Corporate Liable - The wireless bill comes addressed to the business and is the responsibility of the business.
Employee Liable - The employee pays the wireless bill directly and is later reimbursed by their company.
There are benefits to both options mentioned above so first let's look at Corporate Liability.
The business is the complete owner and party responsible for payment of the bill. A company that goes with corporate liability is most likely looking for control, visibility, and security. In this case a corporation doesn't have to solely rely on their cellular use policy to govern how the service is used. A corporation retains ownership of the cell phone, has the right to put security software on the device, and can always look at the account in depth.

One of the negatives especially if you are dealing with a relatively new employee is lack of flexibility. If you purchase a phone and sign an agreement for a new employee and three months later they're gone then you are stuck with an extra phone. For a business that is implementing their first cellular use policy the corporate liable option may not be the best choice.

Employee Liable offers much freedom and flexibility.
Just because the employee is purchasing their own equipment and has service in their name doesn't mean that the corporation loses all control. This is what your Cellular Use policy is for. In this scenario your employee will sign a copy of your Cellular Use policy which entitles you to govern certain aspects of your employee's use of cell phones. In both instances you should have a well written CU Policy but here you rely more on your employee choosing to follow those policies. In your CU Policy clearly state what the ramifications are for not following parts of your policy. An employee could lose reimbursement for their cell phone or depending upon your policy could be terminated. Termination sounds extreme but placing it there gives you protection in the event an employee uses their cell phone negligently that could potentially harm your company.

One of the great benefits of employee liable is if you have to terminate an employee or they quit then you are not responsible for their wireless bill.

The corporate liable option gives more direct control over the cell phone. However that level of control may not be necessary and may be cumbersome at times. A strong Cellular Use policy will be more than sufficient in an employee liable case and will not have the same risks of overburdening your budget.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why you shouldn't buy the Samsung Droid Charge

There's a lot of exciting things happening in the world of Android right now. We have phones that will soon be coming out with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology so you can buy a soda with a pass of your phone. The Nexus has come to Sprint which means that it has CDMA technology which gives me hope that it could come to Verizon soon. We currently have multiple phones that will be able to run on 4G which is the next generation of wireless high speed data.

So why is it that a lackluster phone costs $299? Yes, the Charge has 4G capability but so does the LG Revolution and the HTC Thunderbolt but you don't see them asking for an arm and a leg! Since there's really nothing that sets it apart from the two fore mentioned phones the $299 forces me to look at all of the negatives.

It lacks a dual-core processor which is starting to be a standard on new devices. Even on a reasonably priced device I would want one of these chip sets. They are really only effective on Gingerbread and above but still you're phone is going to become obsolete faster without one.

It comes shipped with Froyo and not Gingerbread. It may be a little too soon to be expecting Gingerbread pre-installed but this is a huge sore spot for me with Samsung. It is up to the manufacturers to update the software on their devices and Samsung recently blocked updates to their user's phone to try and finagle money out of the carriers. This was just a poor move on their part, they didn't get any extra fees and the customers were the ones being hurt.

Another sore spot for me is "bloat-ware." Bloat-ware is software that comes pre-installed on the phone and cannot be deleted. What is really frustrating is that this crap is marketed as benefits of going with the device but in the end is only reason to stay away.Unfortunately bloat-ware is on every phone but with the Charge I couldn't help but feel that there was an above average amount of bloat-ware. One of the included apps is a video service app but rather than building one from the ground up they should just focus on getting Netflix and Hulu on the device.

The Droid Charge is Samsung's first LTE phone for Verizon but a long list of drawbacks makes one laugh at the $299 price tag. Samsung's poor track record in the world of Android, inclusion of many unwanted and uninstallable apps, and lack of a dual-core processor are just some of the reasons not to buy the device. There are currently much better choices and even more phones will be coming out this summer so don't even give this phone the time of day.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Comment of the month contest!

I am hosting a "Comment of the month" contest and it starts early! Starting today you can be entered into the contest. Simply comment on one of the postings and you will automatically be entered. Another way you can be entered is by following me on Twitter @TheCellularGuy. If you leave a comment here and follow me on twitter then you will have double the chance of winning!

When you follow me on Twitter please mention me and say "Enter me in the contest," exact wording is not needed.

Existing followers may also enter by mentioning my Twitter Handle and posting same message.

There is one main prize retailing $39.99 and five secondary prizes.

The secondary prizes are Sony Xperia Play Key Lanyards.

The main prize is a mystery prize but will not disappoint! It is something that will work with any cell phone regardless of Android, iPhone, or Blackberry.

The contest will run until the last day of June.

The Lanyards will be awarded throughout the month and winning one will not remove your name from the drawing on the main prize.

Thanks and good luck!

Save money with your smartphone!

I originally posted this on Droid Portal and since that site is dedicated to Android devices only Android is referred to. Google Shopper and Shop Savvy both are available on iPhone. Please don't forget to support me by visiting one of the ads.

Everyone's looking to save money these days. Next time you're out shopping utilize the tools that are available to you to make sure you're not spending more than you need to.
Google Shopper and Shop Savvy - Both of these are great apps available in the Android Market. You can either type in a search for a product or use your phone's camera to scan the UPC barcode to lookup prices. Google Shopper also allows you to read customer reviews.
As you're shopping use these apps to make sure that you're getting a good price. Also some stores have an awesome price match policy such as BestBuy.
Recently I used Google Shopper on a Compact Flash disk that was $50 at BestBuy. When I looked up the product I had found it at Sears for $25. The BestBuy employee made the call to the local sears to confirm the price and viola, I saved $25 dollars. 
Gas Buddy - This app has the potential to save you quite a bit. It helps you locate where gas is the cheapest. Although I recommend that you use this app before your tank reaches empty. I've never understood why some people will waste a couple of gallons of gas to save one penny but that's neither here nor there.
Knowledge is power!

Passionless IT guys

I have to admit that there's plenty in the world of IT that I'm not an expert on. I consider myself a jack of all trades in the world of technology. While I pride myself on having a broad understanding of technology I still become dumbstruck when I'm talking to an IT Director or an owner of a company that is technology based and they aren't up to date on news in their industry.

Fortunately I have met a good share of IT support people that truly enjoy what they do. Those are the guys that tell me that when they go home after work they're still playing with computers. I can relate, I talk about phones all day and go home to read about them on the internet. I feel that however that some of the tech guys out there just happened to get their degree in IT and they have pigeon holed themselves into something they don't have a passion for. While this may be an excuse to not be giddy about going into work it cannot be an excuse to be ignorant about your industry.

Recently I met with the owner of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to talk about cell phones. We were having a great conversation and I asked him about his thoughts on Net Neutrality. He stared at me blankly and asked what Net Neutrality was. Think of what it would be like to ask a GM dealership owner what he thought about GM having to get money from the government to just survive and he looks at you blankly. Not good.

In case you dont know net neutrality is a movement that ISP's can't put unfair stipulations on the internet you receive. It keeps ISP's from being able to throttle the speed of your internet connection just because you're taking advantage of your asterisked unlimited plan. Comcast, one of the largest ISP's, wants to be able to restrict access to Netflix because they're a competitor and any law pertaining to Net Neutrality will likely prevent that. Is it starting to seem like something the local ISP owner should at least be aware of?

That is the most recent case of ignorance or ambivalence. Seriously though, how many IT guys are just glorified support people because they're not staying involved. There's a plethera of innovation and companies are missing out because there is no one with that drive in their organization. Seriously guys, if you're not where you want to be then you only have yourselves to blame.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Advantage of E-Books

I have made the observation that reading e-books on my Motorola Droid has the same advantages as playing mobile games on the device. I recently wrote an article explaining why the PSP phone will fail and reading books on a mobile device parallels the same advantages as well a developed mobile game.
Games on mobile need to be easy to quickly engage and disengage from, thus games with a complex levels and long load times fail to become accessible when time is limited. This is why I believe it's better to keep console games away from the handheld market. It turns out that like an entertaining mobile game, e-readers allow for a quick flip through a book.
One of my good friends recommended a book to me one Saturday and I didn't want to make the trip out to Barnes & Noble so I decided to give it a shot downloading the book from the Amazon Kindle app on my Droid. I'm a very slow reader but to my surprise I almost finished this book in a week. What I realized was I didn't have to wait for that perfect opportunity to sit down and read to a "good stopping point." Whenever I had a minute or two I was able to pull out my phone and read through as far as time would allow without feeling that I was committing myself to a long read.
Now that I feel comfortable reading books on my phone I will visit the bookstore even less.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Getting paid made easy

Today I had a chance to use Square for the first time. Square is a personal payment company that makes credit card billing accessible to the average person. Head over to www.squareup.com for details and to sign up for free.
Signing up initially was very simple and painless and it didn't take long at all to link my personal bank account with my Square account. Less than a week later I received my free Square credit card reader that works on both iPhone and Android. The final step was to find someone willing to give me money via their credit card.
That opportunity came tonight when I sold a personal cellular device to a customer. After I typed up a receipt and we both agreed to a price she handed me her credit card. Knowing that it was not store inventory and was in my personal possesion she still expected to have the ability to pay by card. For the average sales rep this would be impossible but thanks to Square our transaction went through without hesitation.
I am currently using an iPhone (for testing purposes only) so after plugging in the card reader to my phone I went to the Square app. The first thing that was asked was the amount which after I typed it in I was asked to swipe the customer's card. I quickly got an approved message and the customer signed her signature on my phone with her finger.
I was a little nervous to use the app at first since I was having to go through everything without any practice but it couldn't have been any easier. Gone are the days of sending customers to ATM's to retrieve cash.

Hello World!

Welcome to my new blog! This is my first post on this site and is just a short introduction. My name is Keegan and on Twitter I am know as @TheCellularGuy. This iz my second blog and fourth internet venture. My main blog is www.droidportal.net, I will remain focused on it but sometimes I want to write about stuff that doesn't fit well on the site which brings us here.

I love connecting with my readers so please leave a comment or subscribe to both of my blogs. Follow me on Twitter and if you Facebook my page is at www.facebook.com/keeganvzw