2.12.2013

Google's Android Problem




Google has a problem.

The problem doesn’t lie with the software.  It doesn’t lie with the build quality or battery life.  It doesn’t lie with anything that Apple is doing.  Google’s problem lies with the carriers and OEMS.

The prime example is the atrocity that is the Verizon version of the Galaxy Nexus that was released in 2011.  It was billed as a “Nexus” device with a “pure Google experience”.  Free of bloat ware, LTE speeds, excellent display, and constant updates from Google.  It was advertised as a “consumer device” as opposed to being a developer device.  They even had commercials advertising such things.

Fast forward to 2013 and the device saw a grand total of two late updates (ICS and Jellybean 4.1.1), Google Wallet has been blocked/disabled by Verizon, and as of today, I was assured that since this device is “retired” it will not be getting any more software updates.  So, is this what a “pure Google experience” feels like?  I surely hope not.
 
Sadly, this had been my experience with Android over the past few years.  It’s been rather frustrating to say the least.  I’ve had a HTC Incredible, Motorola Droid, HTC Incredible 2, HTC Rezound, Nexus 7, and now a Galaxy Nexus LTE.  With the exception of the Nexus 7, all have been horrid experiences.  Complete hardware failures (multiple), software issues, poor user interfaces, etc.  I figured that the Galaxy Nexus would be a different story as this was to be a Google device and not bound by the rules as the other devices but I couldn’t be more wrong.

I soon found the device to be nothing more than a slightly less-bloat free device which had horrible call quality, signal issues, random reboots and software freezes.  Taking the device to Verizon for service was an exercise in futility as the techs would just perform a factory reset or do a hardware swap.  Same issue on the new device.  It was the software that needed to be updated but Verizon wasn’t going to push it.  No, instead they place the blame on Samsung and Google for not pushing the updates.  After a while the customers that can’t use the phones just give up and either buy iPhones or root their devices.  This is where the problem is.

If you market something as a typical consumer device, you can’t expect the average consumer to know how or even want to try to root their phone.  They buy something and they expect it to work as promised.  The Nexus LTE wasn’t promoted as a developer phone.  It was marketed as a consumer phone.  Oddly enough, as a developer phone it also fails.  Verizon insisted on blocking/disabling Google Wallet and not providing ANY updates whatsoever to Jellybean.  As far as they were concerned, Jellybean 4.1.1 is the best that Android can get so they had no need to ever update it.  Why do developers even need to make calls on this device?

To make matters worse, the OEMs just love to put their hideous UI skins on the devices to further muck up the process.  HTC Sense, Samsung Touch Wiz, and Motorola MotoBlur all detract from the value of the device and lead to subpar and frustrating experiences.  Consumers eventually come to know the entire Android operating system as some ugly unintuitive UI that crashes a lot and becomes obsolete and unsupported before their contracts are up.  This isn’t what Android is.

The latest version of Jellybean is a fast, fluid, intuitive, functional, and extremely attractive OS that the majority of Android users won’t even see until they buy another phone or root their current phones.  It’s a sad fact and it’s something that iOS users don’t have to deal with.

The Apple iPhone 4 still received the last update (iOS 6) and the device was released in June of 2010.  The same day that the update is released, you can get it on your device.  The updates may be missing a few features on the older devices but regardless, it still gets some love.  Most Android device are lucky to see just one update their entire cycle and are quickly discarded if there’s not a strong developer community to put out buggy ROMs occasionally.  Even this month’s supposedly high profile devices are tossed to the dogs after a few months when something with slightly better specs is announced.

I realize that OEMs have the right to do whatever they want to the OS since Android is open-source.  I also realize that carriers can also do what they want on their network but there MUST be some sort of structure to Android at some level for this operating system to have a future.
 
Google needs to step up to the carriers and take charge of their own updates.  If they want to market a “Nexus” device then support it like you would a true Nexus device.  Since OEMs are going to run rim shot and fork the OS, let the consumers know and give them options.  Don’t just rely on the tech geeks to go to the Play Store, wait months to buy a Nexus 4, and then sign up for service through a carrier that supports GSM.  The average consumer isn’t going to do that.  They’re going to go down to their local carrier store and get the phone with the biggest screen…

Apple is going to continue to make great devices.  I don’t think Tim Cook is dumb and he knows what he needs to do. Apple is the type of company that doesn’t need to innovate all the time.  They just need to continue to make quality products just like they’ve always done and update iOS and mark my words, iOS will catch up to Android in the near future.
 
Google’s “make it or get broken” moment is the day they decide to provide structure for Android or rely on the tech geeks to all go out and all buy a Droid.    

11.28.2012

Why I Quit Facebook... Twice



TL;DR Version is below this post.

When MySpace was hitting its stride, I was using Facebook.  When people raved on about glitter pages and embedded music in their profile page, I was using Facebook.  When MySpace finally withered up and died, I was still using Facebook.  I was in essence a Facebook fan.  Facebook was my early everything-in-one social network.  Wow... have times changed.

I remember FB having a clean, almost professional look to it.  Clean pastel colors with a simple interface allowed me to post my ideas and get to converse with people that I used to go to school with.  I had a few friends that would send me a "poke" or an invitation to hang out or give them a call.  Ah... those were the days.  Now FB resembles the MySpace of old complete with page long advertisements, nudity, spam, banner ads on the sides, cluttered interface, and little to no relevant content.  All they really need is some glitter graphics to crash the browser and loud raunchy rap music with hidden controls embedded in the site.  I guess we can't forget the "comments" section at the bottom in which everyone posts the same damn comments for every single post...

After a year of random friend requests for Farmville and Mafia Wars, I was about through.  I decided to go ahead and cancel my FB account.  Twitter was getting big but it still contained a lot of "noise" for my tastes.  It would have to do for the time being.  So, I went ahead and cancelled my account.  Or at least I thought I had.  Instead of a simple "Cancel account" button, I had to go through 45 minutes of replying to emails and confirming that I "really want to cancel" my account.  It was sickening.  I was tired.  At that point, I didn't even care what they did with my pictures and posts, etc.  I just wanted it to be over.

I really liked the "idea" of a social network that I could share my life and experiences with but all I had was Twitter.  I was excited to be a part of Google Wave but found that to be like using Microsoft Excel and waiting for a ghost to start communicating on my keyboard.  As an avid user of Google Reader, I was excited to see a social network that I thought would take off, Google Buzz.  Unfortunately, no one likes to share anything and the other 90% of people had issues with privacy.  You can't image how happy I was to use Google+.

Google+ has been everything that Facebook isn't.  I can arrange my contacts in convenient circles and sync those same contacts with my phone, send emails, easily share stories, pictures, and YouTube videos all in one place.  Heck, I'm even starting to use Google+ as a blogging platform.  I communicate with a few people regularly and I've gotten more out of this social network in one month than I have from my entire time with Facebook.

There was always something missing though... the people that I knew.  My family, friends, co-workers, and classmates were all still using Facebook.  I think I've managed to get a few close friends to try Google+ but they always seem to go back.  That's the main reason why I went back.  I signed up for another Facebook account and had to find all my "friends" again.  It's nice to see these people and find out what they're doing with their lives.  Too bad that's not what I found.

I like to call this "Facebook 2.0".  It kind of looks like Facebook and they have pictures of my friends but I seriously doubt that they're spamming me with multiple page advertisements for makeup and Wal-Mart flyers.  It seems like everything that one of my friends "likes" shows up on my news feed in the form of a huge advertisement.  Every time they make a comment, it "links" back to an advertisement somehow.  Hell... even my wife is spamming me on Facebook!

I can easily see how Facebook plans to make money but this is just bad.  Google is supposed to be the advertising giant, not Facebook.  There is an art to advertising and Facebook needs a lot of instruction.  I can easily see Facebook becoming the new version of MySpace in the next few years if they continue this.  All of this isn't even mentioning the dreadful mobile apps.

Look, I love the concept the Facebook.  They changed the game but by trying to force advertising in the news streams and substitute interactions with the people we care most about just to satisfy investors will be their downfall.  I quit Facebook once and came back because of my friends and family.  This time, I'm quitting for a different reason altogether.

TL;DR Version:

Facebook has become bloated and full of ads.  Their mobile apps (iPhone, iPad, especially Android) are absolutely horrid.  They care more about investors than the users and that will be their downfall.

Google+ has been wonderful for me and I've meet some interesting people and been able to contribute in a meaningful way.  Sharing is a snap (Google+ Instant Upload/Picasa) and it integrates perfectly with whatever I'm doing.

I'm still going to keep a "static page" on Facebook but it's not worth even looking in my news stream.

11.13.2012

Windows 8 = MAJOR FAIL

If there has ever been a case where I have been completely dumbfounded by ignorance and technical incompetence, it has to be the case involving the piece of s*** operating system know as Windows 8.  I had extremely high hopes of the new version of Windows.  I was anxious to try out the new Start menu and had even saved money for a Surface tablet and Windows 8 phone.  All that vanished after FOUR days of using Windows 8.

After the initial adjustment of getting used to the "missing" Start button and live tiles, I actually started to like the new look.  That is until Windows decided to update the OS.  Normally I'd like to review the updates that are installed but for some reason, I couldn't find the option in Windows 8 for it.

"Oh... what the heck can possibly go wrong?"  I said to myself.

After a completely unscheduled reboot of my machine, I see a blue screen with "configuring updates".  I grab a soda and come back 5 minutes later to see that it has incremented to 13%.  Excellent.  I come back 40 minutes later... it's still on 13%.  2 hours later... still at 13%.

After some investigation, I realize that there is an issue with Windows 8 and some Realtek sound drivers.  I decide to power off my PC and get into Safe Mode to see if there may be something else to it... maybe my anti-virus software.  Come to find out that the Safe Mode has been completely buried in the OS making it damn near impossible to get to anymore.  After the next reboot, Windows decides to really screw with me.

I'm finally able to get into Safe Mode and log into Windows only to see that none of my programs or files would open.  I can't even access Device Manager for some reason.  Instead of an error message with a vague description of the problem I get a blank dialog box that I can't close out of... Yeah.

"Let me just open Task Manager and kill it from there."

Nope.  Task Manager won't even open and instead gives me a grey dialog box.  While using my Windows 7 machine to research the issue, the screen goes blank on my Windows 8 machine and I can't wake it up.  At this point, I have no idea what's going on.  I don't know if it's in some kind of sleep mode or what...  Power light is still on the tower and also on the monitor but I have a blank screen.  WTF?

After another hard reboot, I then come to the dreaded "Windows is attempting to repair.  This may take HOURS..."  Hours?!?!  (silent rage)

A little over an hour later, my PC goes right back to the blue updating screen... still stuck at 13%.  At that point, I decided to contact Microsoft for support.  Keep in mind that I work in tech support so my pride is severely damaged at this point.

After being disconnected and rerouted for an hour, I finally gave up and decided to start a chat session with Microsoft Support.  This guy was nice enough (at least in chat) but he appeared to have an issue with my Windows 8 key.  Even though the windows that he was typing it into verified that it was a valid number, the next screen would not connect to whatever it was connecting to.  Message displayed was "Unable to connect".  I then heard probably the dumbest s*** that I've ever heard from a technician who was already remoted into my computer... "Do you have an internet connection?"  SMH

OF COURSE I HAVE AN INTERNET CONNECTION!  YOU'RE REMOTED INTO MY PC USING IT!

"Oh yeah.  Okay... I'll have to escalate this to our 2nd level technicians.  Someone will try to call you back tomorrow."

So here I am.  I took the Microsoft plunge and paid the price for it.  Had Windows 8 for all of four days before it rendered my PC unusable.  Even after a hard reboot with a wired keyboard and mouse, nothing is recognized from boot.  No sound, can't access the BIOS or Safe Mode.  I'm dead in the water until Microsoft decides to call me back.

I must say that occasionally it does randomly power on the monitor and display a pretty picture of a hill with the time and date.  I can't access it but it does look like it would be nice if it worked.  It "looks pretty and would be nice if it worked" pretty much sums up my review of Windows 8.