Sunday, October 18, 2009

Android on Verizon to take on AT&T, Apple

Last night during the ALCS, Verizon launched a new marketing blitz to promote its much lauded Android handest 'Droid' (A moniker oddly enough owned by none other than George Lucas). Its a ballsy campaign to take one of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers in the world, especially after taking jabs at poor AT&T 3G coverage with the 'There's a Map For That' ad launched earlier this month. Let's dissect the main takeaways from this, shall we?

A Powerful Ad
Apple ads have always been effective, and Microsoft's lame attempts to respond to them prove that as marketing tools, they're simply too mighty to topple. Instead, the Droid commercial brings you in through parody, mimicking the same trendy format with plain black text. As you get bombarded with a series of 'iDon't' statements, you begin to realize that this is no Apple commercial. One by one, they disect the lack of iPhone features and flaws that have been safely protected behind Apple's marketing veil. The final scene tears through the white, symbolically pulling the veil down. is the only call to action, with no evidence of Verizon branding. That last point is an interesting one, and almost serves as an acknowledgment that consumers may not perceive Verizon as an open company that can make solid hardware and software.

No iPhone on Verizon Anytime Soon
Those of you iPhone holdouts waiting for its arrival to Verizon should stop holding your breaths. This commercial calls Apple out directly for its closed platform, trendy indie advertising, and other lacking phone features (keyboard, low res camera, etc).  This is somewhat counter intuitive to a strategy that would cultivate and strengthen an eventual business partnership between the two giants.

As the number one wireless company in the US of A, it seems that Verizon would be eventually forced into this direction. The iPhone has made an undeniable impact on the consumer smartphone market, and with AT&T iPhone exclusivity showing no end in sight, it seems that they're looking to Google to show them how to actually make a UI that isn't completely terrible. What a great segway to the next point....

Verizon and Open Connectivity in the Same Sentence
I was on the Big V for 5 years, and my greatest frustration with their platforms were the flurry of GET IT NOW, VCAST MUSIC, MY PIX, MY FLIX, etc programs which ultimately result in the dishing out of money. It was poor execution of a user interface that worked less and less for the user and more and more for the bottom line of Verizon. When Apple and AT&T showed me that I could make my existing music, pictures, and video easily manageable, I made the jump, and haven't looked back.

And now there's Android. Since Google announced its open-source mobile platform in 2007, consumers and developers have rejoiced at the prospect of crowd-sourced application development open to all carriers. Being somewhat at the mercy of their customers as second rate carriers with spottier coverage, T-Mobile and Sprint understood that this affordable path to an innovative UI could give them an advantage over the big guys and adopted first.  Since then, they've enjoyed commercial success with the Palm Pre and MyTouch 3G.

Verizon is now stepping up to the open-source plate, and I think its a big victory for consumers.  Its a company that has traditionally been quite eager to sell content, but not really all that keen to help customers manage their existing content. I only hope that its an acknowledgment that Verizon is a great wireless carrier, but an awful content vendor, hardware maker, and software developer. I'm still somewhat skeptical in the execution, anticipating exclusive compatibility with software and hardware accessories only sold through Verizon channels, but its a great move towards the mythical dichotomy that I dreamed about as a young lad: A great, affordable phone that can actually make phone calls everywhere.


Friday, September 18, 2009

A Sports Cynic’s Preview: The NFL

Well, since the season has already started and the Week 1 Headlines are already worn out… It’s about time for a preview right? Sorry, I’m known for procrastinating, get used to it, I am. I’ll make this quick, because I’m writing it at work and don’t feel like being punished for writing a really crappy preview anyway.

We’ll take it division by division, some I know a lot about, others… I’ll probably just make stuff up.

1. New England Patriots
2. New York Jets
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills
Brady’s back and that pretty much sums up this division. It’s the Pats’ to lose, I just don’t think any of the other teams are strong enough to take it away from them. Golden boy Mark Sanchez could pull off something ridiculous and win the division for the Jets, which would send the New York media and ESPN into such a love-fest I might actually forgive him for going to USC.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Baltimore Ravens*(WC)
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Cleveland Browns
This one is going to be even worse than the East. Big Ben and the Steelers have no competition here, really. This leads to me having to hear Pittsburgh fans rallying for title number seven for 6 months (I live in Central PA, I get both sides unfortunately). I’ve read stuff about Carson Palmer being back to form, and OchoCinco not sucking this year… I’ll believe it when I see it. And Flacco’s cute and all… but he’s not Ben.
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Houston Texans*(WC)

3. Tennessee Titans
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Little bit of a shocker here, I know. I just don’t see Kerry Collins pulling off what he did last year, love him or not, he’s kinda old!! Peyton will need to be great this year with the new coach and a little different personnel… I believe he will. Some think Houston is still one year away, I’m going out on a limb and thinking they can pull it off this year (I’m gonna read this in 6 weeks and think I was retarded, just to let you know)
1. San Diego Chargers
2. Denver Broncos
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Rivers and the Chargers are the best team here. I think the Broncos will be better than most people do, Cutler couldn’t cut it, maybe Kyle Orton can. I’m not sure Matt Cassel will produce like he did last year, and he alone certainly cannot save the Chiefs. But good news people, Oakland will still be bad! I knew you were worried.

1. New York Giants
2. Dallas Cowboys*(WC)
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Washington Redskins
Plaxico Burress and Eli Manning will continue to be one of the most dangerous threats in profess…. Oh, he shot himself? Uhm… Eli will have to be pretty good with the loss of Burress, but guess what, he will be, young receivers aside. Dallas is going to bounce back with the departure of T.O. and Jessica Simpson and the addition of 80 yards of 1080p. Vick, is well, playing again, and looks to stay out of Andy Reid’s doghouse to get some playing time… Bad joke? Too soon?
1. Minnesota Vikings
2. Green Bay Packers*(WC)
3. Chicago Bears
4. Detroit Lions
BRETT FAVRE!!! BRETT FAVRE!!! BRETT FAVRE!!! Ok, seriously, this division may actually turn out to be a really good one. His Wrangler-ness only really needs to hand off the ball to Peterson. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack are gonna have a hell of a year. Cutler, could be great, I think he’ll just be good, maybe cry a bit. And PREDICTION OF THE YEAR… the Lions might win one game!
1. Atlanta Falcons
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another dece division here. Matt Ryan is the real deal, and could lead this Falcons team to a division title. Drew Brees is ridiculous and makes fantasy owners change their pants after every Sunday. The Bucs are on the rise, and well Delhomme may actually not be that great. But Tony Gonzalez is in Atlanta now!! Welcome back to 2002 ATL!
1. Seattle Seahawks
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. St. Louis Rams
Yeah, the dream is over for the Cards. Yes, Fitz is still good, he’s not God though, and Warner is old… this is becoming a theme in this post, being old. Seattle gets back to form and plays better than last year. The ‘Niners make kids from the mid-90’s happy again and the Rams… well they don’t make many people happy anymore.

And now my incompetent playoff predictions that I feel compelled to do just so I can come back and laugh…
Wild Card Round-
Colts def. Ravens
Chargers def. Texans
NFC- Packers def. Falcons
Cowboys def. Seahawks
Divisional Round-
Patriots def. Colts
Steelers def. Chargers
NFC- Giants def. Packers
Cowboys def. Vikings
Conference Championships
Patriots def. Steelers
NFC- Giants def. Cowboys
Super Bowl XXLIV
Patriots def. Giants

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Free Cars For Life: An Intriguing Proposition

Dave Ramsey is a Tennessee-based financial adviser and radio host of the creatively named Dave Ramsey Show. Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of him, but I came across a presentation that offered some interesting insights on car buying, and revealed how damaging a car loan can be to your financial health.

His arguments are a stretch (18% ROI on a mutual fund? Where?), but certainly the logic is sound. Automobiles are indeed one of the worst assets that you can invest in. And when you sign up for a big car loan, you become pulled from both ends. Over time, the value of the car trickles down, and the interest paid to the bank rises.

I decided to bite on the podcast version of his show, and I was somewhat disappointed. Although he gives solid, financial advice in laymen terms, the call-answer format of the show leads to Jerry Springer-esqe callers from the Tennessee area complaining about losing their job at Spencer Gifts. It ends up being a lot more problem solving and not much wholesome planning.

Still, I did learn some valuable lessons from his website, advice that seems to echo the general consensus from the world's analysts. Your income is indeed the most powerful financial asset that you have, and if you're careful when telling your money where to go, your smart decisions will pay off tenfold in the future.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Sports Cynic’s Preview: College Football

Ah, the first blog post. What’s going to happen in these here posts are a collection of my somewhat put-together thoughts on my favorite subject: Sports. Let me say, I’m a true fan at heart. The beginning of each sport’s season inspires hope and realistic dreams that are tailor-made for an overly cheesy sport film that I usually end up seeing and cursing the minute it ends. But then, something always happens that sends me crashing back to reality and conjures up the cynic inside of me. (A special thanks to the 2008 Iowa Hawkeyes, the 2009 Mets, and my right wrist in the 8th grade) It’s bound to happen this year, it happens every year. So, call me the sports cynic and here’s what I got.

Let’s get rolling with this season’s College Football Preview. I’ll take it conference by conference, focusing on the ones with the BCS Auto-bids, because the BCS is cool right?

My Pick to be Champs: VIRGINIA TECH

Why? They’re ranked pretty high. I don’t know, it’s the ACC, does anyone even notice these guys? Bowden’s still coaching right?
My Pick to be Dark Horse: GEORGIA TECH
They’re in the Hokie’s same division, so it’d be tough but if they can get into the ACC Title Game, they’ll probably see Florida State, who has yet to reclaim any national glamour. Bowden though, right?

My Pick to be Champs: TEXAS

They can’t get screwed two years in a row, right? Right!? Seriously though, they’re gonna be good and the game of the year in this conference is gonna be the Horns vs. the Sooners. I think they get the bid this year.
My Pick to be Dark Horse: OKLAHOMA
Speaking of the Sooners. You can’t not pick these two teams. There won’t be that crazy third team this year like there was with Texas Tech, it’ll be these two teams beating the crap outta each other. I just think McCoy gets the nod over Bradford this time.

My Pick to be Champs: PENN STATE/OHIO STATE
Ok, this is cheap, I know. But with no Conference Championship, it usually ends in co-champions. Now, I will say that I think Penn State is better, will beat OSU, and that Terrelle Pryor is a glorified Troy Smith rehash without the Heisman. The Big Ten elsewhere is just bad, so I gotta say tie.
My Pick to be Dark Horse: ILLINOIS
They’ve had recent success and I think they may surprise people this year. Some people are talking Iowa, I’m talking Illinois. Juice Williams, well, I just wanted to type Juice.

My Pick to be Champs: PITTSBURGH

Wow, the fact that Pitt is even the pick shows this conference is crap, crap, crap. The ‘Stache should be able to turn his program around and get it done in this pathetic excuse for a football conference.
My Pick to be Dark Horse: WEST VIRGINIA
No more Pat White but they do have “Country Roads”. I basically just needed to pick someone. Ugh.

My Pick to be Champs: USC

Well, they’re gonna be starting a true freshman at QB. But DUDES! It’s the Trojans! We’re always good and stuff… Sad, but true. The Pac-10 can’t compete. They’ll nab ‘em for one loss, that’s it.
My Pick to be Dark Horse: CALIFORNIA
I’ve always like Cal. The Golden Bears. The Play. The band is on the field. But hey, they’re ranked, and could provide USC with that one loss.

My Pick to be Champs: FLORIDA
Many are calling Florida the team of the decade and Tim Tebow the next coming of Christ and another title this season may force me to agree.
My Pick to be Dark Horse: ALABAMA
If anyone is gonna shut down Florida’s chances this season, it would probably have to be in the SEC Championship Game. Who do I think can do this? Mr. I have too much pride to stop wearing those ridiculous straw hats you buy on vacation himself, Nick Saban.

And now, my very early and probably way off because I’m too lazy to look up all the tie-ins and rules…
2009 BCS Bowl Predictions-
Rose Bowl- PENN STATE vs USC
National Championship- FLORIDA vs TEXAS

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

5 Dang-Worthy iPhone Apps

USAA (Free)

Although its great to get paid, how frustrating is it when you need money and someone gives you a check? During the limited window of bank availability, you've got to drive out, login to the ATM, fill out a deposit slip, and fill out a bank envelope in order to get dough into your account. Frankly, it's just not the 80's anymore, (although this man might believe otherwise) and there's a bank out there that recognizes that. USAA's free iPhone application comes with a feature (for customers with a good credit history) that allows you to take a picture of both sides of a check and upload it for instant deposit. Finally, I can deposit grandma's birthday checks with no pants on!

Shazam (Free)

The music in Old Navy is terrible, but every once in a while, you're going to hear something vaguely familiar and want to know what it is. We've all been there. Then, you're going to get into an argument with your girlfriend about whether its a song Sting or Phil Collins (who, to this day, I still believe are actually the same person). The free Shazam app allows you to instantly identify a song by automatically analyzing 10-15 second clips and submitting it to their database. For me out in the field, its worked only about 65% of the time, but when it does work, its been consistently accurate every time, even in a noisy bar or crowded room. What's more, Shazam also provides links to Youtube videos, iTunes pages, and artist info. Not too bad if you want to do a back-to-back listen of Fields of Gold and Sussudio.

Peggle ($4.99)

After I got the iPhone, one part of my life will never be the same: the bathroom. No longer will I be impatient and bored whilst upon the golden throne. In fact, I think Apple should completely reposition their marketing strategy to bowel-based benefits. ('There's a crap for that') When searching for a great casual video game, you want something that's fun, easy to pick up and put down, and addicting. Now, the developers of the award-winning game Peggle have brought quirky pinball style action to the iPhone that's reminiscent of the ever popular computer game Snood. Just make sure you mute it, or the guy in the next stall might hear its zany noises and think that you're giving birth to an NES console.

Snatch ($3.99)

Ever since the speculation began for what next-generation technology might come in Apple's latest lines of MacBook, there's one concept that has always intrigued me. Imagine a MacBook that incorporated the touch display technology of the iPhone into its trackpad. Every application could theoretically produce its own dedicated set of custom buttons designed for a specific purpose. Well unfortunately for me, Apple went in a different direction so I'm stuck trying to find the damned spellcheck in Office 2007's 'innovative' ribbon menu. Snatch has been developed in order to change the way we interact with programs. By syncing to your computer and downloading program 'remotes', you can display a full page of program specific commands or even design your own. Initiatives like this will certainly shape the face of computer input in the future, or at the very least, tide me over until I can check email like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

Sex Offenders

The future is a weird place huh? The marriage of pocket computing and the National Sex Offender Registry has brought forth a disturbing new tool which will inevitably trigger the following conversation in homes across America.

Wife: Honey, did you know we lived near a child molester?
Husband: Oh yeah? What degree?
Wife: Third.
Husband: Gee, only 3rd? What an amateur. Guess it looks like we're not moving!

That's right folks. For only $1.99, you can get a detailed map of your perfect little neighborhood with pins that show the household locations of every registered sex offender in the area. And if that wasn't enough to get you to hide your daughters and lock your doors, the app even allows you to select each pin for a detailed description of the crime and view a charming photo of the offender. The biggest use I've gotten out of this thus far is scaring women at local bars in an attempt to convince them not to sleep alone. Unfortunately, my eyes just can't take the pepper spray anymore.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why Socialized Internet Would Be Good For America

The Issue

When the United States began laying the first power lines around the turn of the 20th century, lawmakers identified several problems with the idea of private utility companies. City streets and neighborhoods would have competing lines of power traveling above and underground and would consume twice as much real estate for the same purpose. Not only would it be aesthetically messy, but it would become terribly inefficient. Companies would charge higher, sometimes unaffordable rates to rural customers because of their longer distances from power stations. It is because of this that there are several government-sanctioned utility services which provide most if not all power to all areas of a state at flat rates which are closely monitored and controlled.

Now, American homes and businesses have many additional utilities to pay. Cable TV. Landline Phone. Mobile Phone. Broadband Internet. I pay over $150 a month for these services. It seems strange to me that now, over a century later, my money is funding the construction of several different multi-million dollar networks of cables and towers that are all competing with each other to do what is essentially the same thing: transmit information.

How It Could Work

Amidst the ongoing debate with Net Neutrality, the one true option that could guarantee unrestricted access for all Americans would be federal, state, and local government cooperation. It could be constructed, maintained, and regulated in the same tiered fashion as our state highways, county routes, and city streets. With emerging Wimax technologies, which allow for wireless transmission of data at broadband speed, its becoming easier and more affordable than ever to build a high-speed network that can accommodate our nation's data services.

Why It Would Be Good For America

The American crisis in the automotive sector speaks volumes about why the United States must move past a manufacturing economy. For every single new car that GM sells, $1500 directly pays for the medical bills of retirees. This one example of many staggering overhead costs squeezed out of the company by auto unions that has made it almost impossible for GM to maintain a competitive advantage. With increased global competition from developing nations, it seems that the American way of life is becoming simply unsustainable with manufacturing. Like Apple and computers, perhaps we shouldn't be building these products anymore but designing them.

As the country who invented the internet, we only rank 15th in the world in average broadband speed, and you have to wonder how well we're positioned to continue as a global superpower in an information-based economy. In the last century, the construction, maintenance, and regulation of our nation's highways and roads were the critical backbone of our goods-based economy. Conventional wisdom has argued that a short-term investment in that physical infrastructure would result in a stronger long-term economy. Now, as the nation continues to transform into a service and information economy, the quality, speed, and access to our information network may in fact determine our economic strength in the future. Instead of the industrial revolutions which shaped nations at different times in world history, a much larger shift is occurring today throughout the world, and if we intend on maintaining relevance in the information economy of the future, the United States has to embrace change unilaterally and unconditionally.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Preview: 5 Movies That Could Kick Ass This Fall

District 9 (August 14th)

What is it: A new, documentary-style take on the classic invasion story, where mysterious beings from unknown origins begin to suck resources from an impoverished South African community. These 'illegal' aliens show no initial signs of aggression, but the tension grows as humanity struggles to understand their motives.

Why it could kick ass: With what began as a project to make a big screen adaptation of the 'Halo' series, executive producer Peter Jackson struggled to get the studio, Bungee, and Microsoft to see eye to eye, especially after handpicking a relatively unknown South African filmmaker named Neill Blomkamp to direct. After hopelessly trying to please the many vested parties, Jackson and Blomkamp decided to abandon the project, and make a feature-length version of his 2005 short film Alive In Joburg. The talent and concept seem to be all lined up for this project, and after viewing some promising initial reviews, a solid execution has this film coming full (crop?) circle.

Update: It looks like the critics aren't the only ones raving. Just saw the movie last week and loved it. Definitely Dang-Worthy. Full review coming soon.

9 (September 9th)

What is it: In an alternate version of Earth, a scientist creates 9 sentient rag dolls to help protect the legacy of humanity from the very machines that have helped to destroy them. Each of unique merit, the so-called 'stitch punks' (sadly, I'm not making this up) hope to mercilessly hunt down the last of the machines.

Why it could kick ass: Although Tim Burton's name is being thrown around on this one, he's only signed to produce, with Lord of the Rings animator Shane Acker making his big directorial debut. There are certainly reasons to be skeptical, but with Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reily, and weirdest guy alive Crispin Glover on board for character voices, this movie could deliver a memorable adventure. And hey, a movie called 9 coming out on 9/9/09 when Hugh Grant turns 49 has to be a big deal.

Where The Wild Things Are (October 19th)

What is it: In this ambitious adaptation of Maurice Sendak's beloved bestselling children's book by the same name, a young boy named Max escapes a crumbling domestic life to an imaginary world of monsters who decide to crown him as their ruler.

Why it could kick ass: Director Spike Jonze doesn't have the kind of blockbuster notoriety of some of the other October releases, but anyone who has seen the 1999 best picture nominated Being John Malkovich knows that Jonze knows how to do weird. I'd also like to add that the title song Wake Up by Canadian indie-rockers Arcade Fire is one of the best songs I've heard in the year 2009, and is getting a special remake version for the film. Just avoid eye contact with their somewhat busted female singer.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox (November 13th)

What is it: The classic 1970 novel by Roald Dahl about a sly fox who pushes farmers to their wits end by stealing their poultry is brought to life in a full-length stop motion animated adventure.

Why it could kick ass: American director Wes Andersen, the creative mind behind the hysterically smart Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, is rejoined by actors Bill Murray and Merryl Streep for voice support. To boot, the film's casting hits one out of the barnyard as the slick and sleek Mr. Fox is played by George Clooney. Expect a solid mix of quick witted adult comedy and fast-paced agricultural adventure (agriventure?) that the whole foxhole can enjoy.

Sherlock Holmes (December 25th)

What is it: The first film featuring Arthur Conan Doyle's original super sleuth in over two decades, Sherlock Holmes must foil an underground conspiracy to destroy Britain. The film opens with a promise of revenge from the grave by an insane cult leader (Mark Strong) as he is lead off to the gallows.

Why it could kick ass: Isn't it great to have Robert Downey Junior back from the brink of alcoholism? Although I've got my qualms with Guy Richie (the man behind the Jason Statham movies that you find in every frat boy DVD rack. You know, the ones where everyone is English and the dialogue is relentless), I'm still anxious to see a recharged RBJ as he joins Jude Law (Dr. Watson) for a much more raw interpretation of the classic character. Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler might make it worth the 10 bucks too. I'm just sayin.