Hardware Freedom

Recently I saw one of my friends tweet that she was still debating on upgrading her 3GS to either the iPhone 4S or the iPhone 5.

Umm, duh! It's a NO BRAINER. iPhone 5 is twice as fast, offers 4G LTE, sports a better camera. And the thing just feels mind-boggling ability to look big but feel small in your hand.

But when I talked to her about it, she brought up a totally valid point: the iPhone 5's new Lightning dock connector will not work on any of her accessories. (Well, she could buy adapters but seriously, who wants to spend that much money?)

So if she gets an iPhone 4S, she'll essentially be getting an extra two years out of her accessories. Assuming she upgrades to the next iPhone in two years, she'll be faced with the same dilemma. But hey, she would've gotten an extra two years out of use out of her accessories.

I've been in this situation before and I've learned to protect myself.

When I'm looking at buying a new device, I don't simply think of it as a device — I look at it as an investment into a platform.

Back when I was still in college, before the modern smartphone, I was big on the Windows Pocket PCs. Specifically, I had the Compaq iPAQ. I loved the thing. It could play music, videos, games…and it developed a nice ecosystem of "sleeve" accessories that I could slide onto it for extra functionality (e.g. GPS).

At one point, on top of the $500 device, I had dropped another $500 on accessories.

And a year after, they changed the design of the next-gen iPAQ; just like that, my iPAQ and $500 worth of accessories were outdated.

From that point on, I vowed to never lock myself to a hardware platform like that again.

As of today, I'm running on my third iPhone. I've also had three iPod shuffles and three iPod classics. And the only accessories I've ever bought for any of these devices are:

  • cases
  • USB chargers
  • external battery
  • replacement headphones
  • iPod-enabled car stereo adapter

For the most part, these accessories are either under $30 or they can be used over the span of multiple generations. (The iPod-enabled car stereo adapter has an additional auxiliary port.)

As an early adopter that loves to stay on the cutting edge of devices, I've made a conscious effort to never commit myself too much to any one platform.

Even with my Mac, where I have spent a few hundred dollars on apps, I know that all of my data — music, photos, photoshop files, etc — can be liberated at any time and can be used on any other platform.

All of this forward thinking, in a sense, grants me a lot of freedom. So in times like this when Apple moves to a totally new Lightning dock connector, I know I can stay on the cutting edge without pissing away a few hundred dollars worth of accessories.

Why You Should Guard Your iCloud Account with Your Life →

TUAW summarizes Mat Honan's night:

They used that access to reset his iCloud password, reset his Gmail password, gain control of his Twitter account (which in turn gave them access to Gizmodo's Twitter feed and 400K followers) and generally wreak mayhem.

Unfortunately, Honan's iCloud account was tied to his iPhone and iPad, which both had Find my iPhone/iPad turned on. In the attackers' hands, the FMI utility was turned against Honan and both devices were remotely wiped. It got worse: his MacBook Air had Find My Mac enabled, which meant the hackers could erase his SSD... and they did.

Ouch.

I've always believed that your email should be they most secure password out of all your accounts. But man, it never occurred to me how much havoc can be caused when someone hacks your iCloud.

Lesson learned.

My Homescreen (July 2012) →

General Rules

  • Always keep one row empty to keep the screen uncluttered and give me a natural spot to swipe there when switching homescreens.

  • No bright wallpapers for the homescreen and especially not the lock screen. iOS keeps the lock screen at full brightness, regardless of your brightness settings. This takes a toll on the battery when push notifications come in throughout the day.

Apps

  • Calendar app is at the top-left and requires farthest reach for my right thumb. Its my least-used app on the homescreen, but I need it there to quickly see today's date.

  • Maps towards the top-right because I need them easily accessible while I'm driving. (Looking forward to the upcoming turn-by-turn feature in iOS6!)

  • Foursquare, Facebook, PostMate and Tweetbot are my most-used, most-accessible apps, placed strategically where my right thumb feels most comfortable tapping.

  • PostMate is an app I designed. I use it to quickly draft & post to my Twitter accounts, Facebook Profile/Pages, and Foursquare all in one shot.

  • ProCamera is on the dock because I take a lot of photos (of my food, lol). Its image stabilization mode is my favorite over all of the other camera apps out there.

What's Missing?

  • Phone — moved off-screen because I use Siri to initiate 95% of my outgoing calls and the lock screen for calling back missed calls.

  • Weather — moved off-screen, thanks to Siri and the Weather widget in Notification Center.

  • Mail, Facebook Messenger — I hardly initiate conversations on the iPhone so I just use Notification Center and the lock screen to stay up-to-date of new messages.

  • Google Voice — I have GV text messages forwarded to the Messages app; this saves me a LOT of battery compared to using the official GV app for text conversations.

  • Reminders - I use Siri to create tasks and location-based notifications to stay on top of them.

  • Music - moved off-screen because with Siri on iOS 6, I can launch this app, specific songs, and specific playlists by voice command. I mainly use this app while I'm driving anyway.

What does your homescreen look like?

Share on Homescreen.me

My Homescreen

It's ridiculous how much time I spend on organizing my homescreen, lol. But hey, the smartphone is the most personal computer we'll ever have. So it's only right that this much attention is spent on personalizing it.

Last night I got an invite for Homescreen.me and it's nice to see a community of iPhone users that believe in the same thing. Here's my first post on there:

General Rules

  • Always keep one row empty to keep the screen uncluttered and give me a natural spot to swipe there when switching homescreens.

  • No bright wallpapers for the homescreen and especially not the lock screen. iOS keeps the lock screen at full brightness, regardless of your brightness settings. This takes a toll on the battery when push notifications come in throughout the day.

Apps

  • Calendar app is at the top-left and requires farthest reach for my right thumb. Its my least-used app on the homescreen, but I need it there to quickly see today's date.

  • Maps and Music at the top-right because I need them easily accessible while I'm driving. (Looking forward to the upcoming turn-by-turn feature in iOS6!)

  • Foursquare, Facebook, PostMate and Tweetbot are my most-used, most-accessible apps, placed strategically where my right thumb feels most comfortable tapping.

  • **PostMate is an app I designed. I use it to quickly draft & post to my Twitter accounts, Facebook Profile/Pages, and Foursquare all in one shot.

  • ProCamera is on the dock because I take a lot of photos (of my food, lol). Its image stabilization mode is my favorite over all of the other camera apps out there.

  • Voxer is docked, keeping it handy for communicating with friends while I'm driving.

What's Missing?

  • Phone — moved off-screen because I use Siri to initiate 95% of my outgoing calls and the lock screen for calling back missed calls.

  • Weather — moved off-screen, thanks to Siri and the Weather widget in Notification Center.

  • Mail, Facebook Messenger — I hardly initiate conversations on the iPhone so I just use Notification Center and the lock screen to stay up-to-date of new messages.

  • Google Voice — I have GV text messages forwarded to the Messages app; this saves me a LOT of battery compared to using the official GV app for text conversations.

  • Reminders - I use Siri to create tasks and location-based notifications to stay on top of them.

Tech Products I Couldn't Live Without in 2011

Inspired by Michael Arrington's 2009: Products I Can't Live Without, here are my vital tech products of last year:

  • iPhone 4S — specifically the 8 megapixel camera, iCloud, and Siri. I take a LOT more pictures now. iCloud has saved me a couple times when I had to hard reset my iPhone while on the road. Siri has allowed me to move several apps off of my homescreen, including Phone, Find My Friends, Reminders, Notes, Clock, Weather.

  • iPad — to save money, I limited my traveling and stopped paying for the 3G data plan. The iPad became more of a household device that I'd use in bed or on the couch. I also started using it as I stretch before my morning runs to make the stretching routine more enjoyable.

  • Google — Chrome, Gmail, Reader, Voice

  • Flipboard for iPad/iPhone — still, by far, the best way to stay up-to-date with Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now Tumblr.

  • Trillian — Replaced Adium as my default chat client because of its seamless chat syncing and chat logging in the cloud. While chatting, I could easily switch to a different device and not worry about missing any IMs.

  • Instagram — started using this even more when I got the 4S (8 megapixels, baby!)

  • Tweetbot — the best Twitter iPhone app out there; its push notifications replaced my Boxcar app

  • Facebook

  • Instapaper — because I was overseas for 10 weeks in a country with spotty internet, I started downloading articles and blog posts to read offline. Also kept me amused on my 16 hour flight.

  • Tumblr

  • Skype — absolutely necessary for sharing intimate moments with someone that you can't be with physically.

  • Dropbox — came in really handy when I constantly needed to share large files with my friends.

Honorable Mentions: Backblaze, Find My Friends, PostMate for iPhone (shameless plug), Slingbox

Heating Up for 2012: bitcasa, iTunes Match, Siri, Voxer

Cooling Down: BlogTV, Foursquare, Path

Dismissed: Adium, Boxcar for iPhone, Mozy, TokBox, Twitter for iPad, Hootsuite

Multiple Social Graphs

Last year I attended two reunions -- one with my childhood friends and the other being my High School reunion. While I've done a pretty good job of keeping in touch with my childhood friends, most of my high school friends I hadn't talked to since graduation.

But if there is one thing that I have in common with both groups of friends, it's Facebook.

It came up several times in conversation. Friends would tell me how much they loved my status updates.

"Mel, I saw your status about a bee attacking you while you were peeing. HILARIOUS!"

"Mel, I love your food pics! Keep posting those!"

Sweet! I'm e-popular at my high school reunion, hahah. But not all of it was positive. One of my friends came up to me:

"Mel, I don't fucking understand half of your status updates. What the hell is 'RT'? And what's up with the '@' signs? And what are the #'s for?"

At the time I was pushing all of my Tweets from my personal account straight to my Facebook. I spent 15 minutes trying to explain to her the concepts of retweets, hashtags and @mentions...but she ended up even more confused and walked away.

So that's when it hit me. That is when I realized that even though most of my Twitter followers are my personal friends on Facebook, the two are very different audiences. Or rather, different social graphs.

The reality is we have a social network for just about every possible social graph these days:

  • Personal friends? Got "˜em on Facebook.

  • Colleagues and business contacts? Got "˜em on LinkedIn.

  • Friends that enjoy my food pics? Instagram (for me, anyway)

  • Local friends that wanna know where the party is at? Foursquare.

Even with Twitter, I have two very distinct accounts. One that is for professional topics and the other for personal tweeting"¦kinda like having a Facebook Profile for personal friends and a Facebook Page for fans.

It's something that I started doing because I realized that most of my personal friends don't have an interest in my professional/geek side. The few friends of mine that are interested? They'll follow both of my accounts. And the few times that a tweet overlaps both social graphs? I'll tweet it on one and retweet it on the other. Or I'll just tweet the same thing on both.

@AndyBudd once asked, "[is there a right way to tweet?](* http://www.andybudd.com/archives/2011/03/is_there_a_righ)"

My response? There is a time and a place for everything -- the wisdom comes from knowing when and where.

Before you start whipping me with "it's my Twitter account, I can tweet whatever I want!" ask yourself this:

Do my Facebook friends really care about #FollowFriday?

Do my Twitter followers really care if I check into a gas station to fill up gas?

Do my Twitter followers really care to click a non-descriptive "Photo: http://tumblr.com/asdfghj"?

There are so many damn social graphs, some of us don't know what to do with all of them. But, these graphs are separate for a reason, so we should treat them as such.

If a person is really interested in your location, they'll follow you on Foursquare. If they're really interested on your Tumblr posts, they'll follow you on Tumblr.

So disable all that cross-site auto-posting stuff. Be selective when cross-posting on Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and Tumblr. Realize the context of who are you talking to, why the follow you and what you are sharing with them. Or simply, before sharing anything on any social network, just ask yourself:

"Who would care about this?"

One Night Out with GroupMe

Karol: The show starts at 7pm, right?

Mel: Yeah. I'm heading there 5:45ish with Marlo.

Mel: Ness, are we supposed to save seats for you or you guys gonna be backstage the whole time?

Nessa: We're in the first act, so we'll sit with you guys after intermission.

Krystal: Save two seats for Karol.

That is a texting conversation I had with my friends on Saturday with the group texting app, GroupMe. We actually started playing with the app a couple nights before, but Saturday we finally saw its true value.

GroupMe as a Utility

As shown in the conversation above, GroupMe comes in super handy when going out with friends. Simple situations like, "Hey, I just got parked. Where are you guys?" can be easily addressed with GroupMe.

Without a group texting app, how would you solve this situation?

Twitter? You can, but you'll easily piss off your mutual followers because you're spamming their timelines with a private conversation that doesn't concern them.

Call/Text people individually? Messy and inefficient. Plus, it leaves the possibility of someone accidentally getting left in the dark.

With group texting, you're in touch with everyone that needs to be informed. Everyone is on the same page. Everyone is in sync.

GroupMe as Entertainment

During the concert, GroupMe switched from being a utility to pure entertainment. In a setting where it's rude to talk to each other while the performer is on stage, GroupMe gave us the freedom we wanted.

(Okay, texting each other during a performance isn't exactly the most polite thing to do either, but hey, at least it's discrete.)

Because the chat is private and everything goes directly to everyone's phones, the experience is a lot more intimate than Twitter ever could be.

What about Beluga, Disco, Fast Society, etc?

One thing that made GroupMe stand out to me over its competitors: it's compatible with Google Voice.

Personally, I am a very, very loyal user of Google Voice. It's the only number that I give out. I am absolutely addicted to how I can type out & send text messages from my computer. And so far with all of the competing apps I've tested, GroupMe is the only app the lets me use my GV number.

This is important to me because when friends install GroupMe and the app scans their Address Books, I will actually show up as a suggested friend.

With the competing apps, I simply couldn't use my GV number; I was forced to use my cell phone number, which is the number that nobody has.

Closing Thoughts

With just one full day of using GroupMe in the real world, I can tell this app has serious potential for my nights out with friends.

Will it go mainstream? I hope so but I'm not sure.

There is always the possibility that Facebook might integrate their Messages 2.0 feature with Groups, Places, Events, etc. And we all know how Facebook has a knack for making early adopter ideas into mainstream hits.

Google has the opportunity to come up with something too. They have all the pieces: Gmail, GTalk, Google Voice, Disco for iPhone...I'd LOVE to see them integrate all of those technologies into one seamless experience.

Hell, Apple has the same opportunity as well, with Facetime, iChat, and iPhones. It'd be like adding that Steve Jobs magic to RIM's precious BlackBerry Messenger.

But those are all pipe dreams of mine; 100% speculation on my part based on zero insider information.

In the meantime, I've got a group of close friends on GroupMe. The cool thing is, if I want more friends to get on this, I don't even have to wait for them to install the app -- I can just add them to a group.

Even if the app never catches on with the rest of my friends, I've already got my closest friends on it.

That's good enough for me.

Get More Out of Your iPad with Instapaper

This isn't exactly breaking news...but man, Instapaper is a REALLY GREAT app.

For months I was hesitant about forking over $5 for this app. I constantly said to myself, "I already have Flipboard and Reeder...do I really need another reading app?"

A couple weeks ago, I said, "screw it" and finally bit the $5 bullet.

What happened? Instapaper quickly became my most-used app on the iPad.

I should note that I am addicted to RSS feeds. As of now, I follow 528 different feeds. So anything that helps me get through those feeds faster, I immediately fall in love with. In the past, that's been Firefox's tabbed browsing, Reeder for iPad, and somewhat recently, Flipboard for iPad.

A typical morning at the desktop, I will:

  • load up Google Reader.
  • go up and down the list with the "j" and "k" shortcut keys.
  • when I find something I want to read, I open it as a background tab and continue skimming through Google Reader.
  • once I finish going through Google Reader, I read each one of the background tabs.

Now with Instapaper for iPad, I have a similar routine while on the go:

  • load up Flipboard.
  • swipe through the pages, skimming through all of my Google Reader feeds AND Twitter feed.
  • when I find something I want to read, I'll read it right away or send it to Instapaper.
  • once I finish going through Flipboard, I load up Instapaper and read each article there.

And that's not all.

In the States, I spoiled myself with 3G plans for both my iPad and iPhone. During my recent 10 week trip to the Philippines, I didn't have that luxury for either device. But that was okay because Instapaper absolutely shines with offline reading.

Every time I was about to leave the house, I'd have several articles waiting for me. Hell, for my 16 hour flight back to Los Angeles, I queued up almost 100 articles. And when I came across an article that I wanted to come back to later, I'd file it under a folder like "Reblog Later", "Tweet Later" or "Watch Later".

Now that I'm back in the U.S., I really don't need to start up my iPad's 3G plan again. With Instapaper for iPad, I can enjoy my RSS feed reading list anytime, anywhere...with or without internet.

So thank you, Instapaper. Before I bought you, I had no idea how important you'd be to me. I was so hesitant on spending $5 for you...but you ended up saving me $25/month.

Q) What's your Daily Social Media Routine?

asked by @TheRayson.

Here we go:

Wake up.

Check notifications on Boxcar (iPhone). Notifies me of new @replies, followers, DMs, and emails. Also notifies me of breaking news about Apple.

Check text messages.

Catch up on my feeds with my Flipboard app (iPad). Tech News then links/pics from Twitter.

Check personal Twitter account on my iPad. (It's easier to skim through these since I've viewed all of the Twitpics with Flipboard already)

Promote with the @btvfam account. (Lots of the YouTubers like to promote late at night. I'll (re)tweet the morning after to give the information a little boost for the day.)

Catch up on Tumblr and other feeds with Google Reader at the desk.

Facebook.

Respond to text messages via Google Voice.

Respond to emails.

Take off DND from AIM, Skype.

Check professional Twitter account. If there's any breaking news that has been tweeted, I've probably already read about it from the news feeds.

I use Growl notifications on my Mac to passively update me with incoming tweets. Otherwise, I'll catch up with Twitter every few hours.

I also tend to load up a ton of background tabs on my browser for things to check out when I have time.