Posts Tagged ‘smartphone’

While on vacation recently, I tried to do business with two different companies from my iPhone. I was trying to add services that I wanted, and that would have translated into a little more revenue for them. Alas, it was not to be. For both products, I was able to successfully navigate all of their sign-up forms until I reached the very last “submit” button.

 

The. Very. Last. One.

 

As in  . . . the one that equals “buy”.

 

It just didn’t work. I tapped and tapped, but the phone couldn’t submit the content.

 

For one company this won’t be a big deal. I’ll have an opportunity to use their service again later. For the other company though, this represents a tiny little loss in profit. I needed their service while I was on vacation. Now that I’m home, I don’t need it anymore, and I haven’t been back to their website. All because the website didn’t support a mobile browser.

 

Now I understand that when you’re coming from a mobile browser, you shouldn’t necessarily expect the full website experience, and I didn’t. But if the website lets me make it most of the way through a purchase, I expect it to let me complete the purchase. Oh well. Maybe they just didn’t want my business since I was coming from a mobile platform. Funny thing though . . . the company has two mobile apps that I wanted to use after I subscribed to their service. Go figure.

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As a general rule, I don’t like my data in the cloud. Let me go ahead and get that out there so my prejudices are fully disclosed. I use it because I must, but I don’t like it. The primary reason I don’t like it is a practical one: data in the cloud means that you have to be able to connect to the cloud, and far too often, I can’t. Living and traveling in a largely rural area, network coverage is far from ubiquitous. And no network coverage sometimes translates into no data. Setting aside security concerns and the additional hook into my devices that each application seems to want, connectivity is my main concern.

Until recently, that is. Several months ago, a friend recommended Evernote. There are a lot of things I like about Evernote. I like the clipping feature, and I like the IDEA of being able to access my notes from many locations. Unfortunately, I recently lost a lot of data to Evernote. As in POOF – gone forever.

I was recently on vacation, and I started making some travel notes with Evernote. As luck would have it, my vacation area didn’t have great coverage, and Evernote had a lot of trouble every time it tried to sync with the Evernote server.  Initially the result was relatively benign but nevertheless annoying: sections of content would be duplicated several times throughout the document. I had to scroll up and down, find the old stuff, find the new stuff, delete the duplicate stuff, and save it again. Annoying, but doable.

Until the very last day. Over the course of my vacation I spent several hours making notes so that I could remember specific details about the trip. And then the last day everything disappeared. Well . . . almost everything. I still have a blank document with a title, but that’s all. Everything else – all of my CONTENT – is gone. It happened after one of those periods when my local application was trying to phone home. Apparently something went awry, it couldn’t connect properly to the Evernote server, and Evernote inexplicably thought that I wanted to delete all of my content. Grrrrr. Double-grrrrr even.

These were just vacation notes, true. It wasn’t critical work/medical/financial information. But the principle is the same. I relied on the cloud. The cloud ate my data. The cloud failed. The scary thing is that more and more companies are pushing data for mobile devices into the cloud. While the idea is a good one, the execution is everything. If you’re going to eat my data, I really can’t trust your service. Moreover, I can’t in good conscience recommend it to others.

Google Goggles

Posted: December 11, 2009 in android, search engines
Tags: ,

If you haven’t heard about Google Goggles yet, it’s worth checking out. We all do text searches, and some folks are doing voice search as well. But how about a visual search? I don’t mean searching for an image – I mean using an image as the search object. Goggles is currently available for Android phones. I’m curious to see whether Google will roll out a version for the iPhone, WebOS, or other platforms. Goggles’ potential is easy to see (no pun intended). Time will tell whether there is a demand for this type of search. The things that work are interesting enough. However, I think the things that Google says it can’t do (yet) are even more interesting!

My Missing Software

Posted: November 5, 2009 in smartphone, software
Tags: ,

Sometimes you find a piece of software that works well for you on a number of levels. First – and most importantly – it does what you need it to do, and it does it well. Hopefully, it also matches the way you like to work. And occasionally you find a piece of software that just does something no other program does.

Right now I’m really missing my ListPro. I’ve used ListPro for years. Most recently it was on a Windows computer in conjunction with a Palm Treo. ListPro handles nested lists very well, and it’s very customizable so I can make my lists into just what I need them to be. The Treo version combined with the desktop application gave me a good combination that did just what I wanted, and I haven’t yet found its equal.

Oh, I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried – not because I WANT to move to another app. Ilium just doesn’t have an iPhone app on the market. When I considered the move from the Treo to an iPhone, ListPro was a must-have app. Unfortunately, although I saw the press release that Ilium Software was releasing an iPhone version of ListPro, I missed the later retraction that said the app wasn’t going to be ready on time. Yep. Completely missed it. I saw it AFTER I bought the iPhone and tried to find ListPro in the app store.

In a typical workday, I pull up ListPro (desktop) at least 4 or 5 times a day, and I used to pull it up even more frequently on the Treo. A recent development update from the company rekindled my hopes, so when I saw a tweet about an early shopper discount on ListPro I knew that the time had come and the app was nigh ready for release. Alas, it was not to be. And being so blatantly reminded that I can’t use ListPro on my iPhone reignited my search for a comparable app. I’ve tried several – some free, some paid – and I just can’t find it.

There are all kinds of list apps out there, but they’re too rigid. They want to be a grocery list, or a to-do list, or a checklist of one kind or another. They don’t offer the flexibility to work the way _I_ want to work. And then let’s talk about a desktop companion. For the most part, those other apps just don’t have it. There are a couple that try to get around it through e-mailings to/from the app, and there is one that offers an option to add data through a Google Docs template. But that’s just not what I’m looking for.

You wouldn’t think that a person could be so particular about a list-making app, but ListPro is just that good – at least for what I need it to do. And so I wait, not with bated breath, but with a kind of quiet, longsuffering patience. I have the desktop app, but no mobile counterpart. I’m not happy about it, but at the moment I simply don’t have any other choice. Unless . . . perhaps . . . Hey, Ilium, how ‘bout it? Maybe a little something underneath a guy’s tree?

I am conducting two anonymous surveys to gather information from libraries and library users regarding the use of e-books, e-book readers, and e-book software on portable devices such as smartphones. The information gathered will be used to consider ways in which libraries acquire and support e-books and how library users interact with the library in using e-books. The results of the survey will be presented during the International Conference on the Book at the University of Edinburgh later this year.

I am trying to gather data from as many library employees and users of e-books/e-readers as possible, so please consider completing one of the surveys listed below. If you are a library employee AND a reader of e-books, please consider filling out both surveys.

Survey for users of e-books, e-book hardware, and e-book software:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=EHFSuOFp_2fXK_2f_2bjYZ3SI9ZA_3d_3d

Survey for library employees:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=RNCPWl326UK7Y8oPB2af0A_3d_3d

This study has been reviewed by The University of Mississippi’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB has determined that this study fulfills the human research subject protections obligations required by state and federal law and University policies. If you have any questions, concerns, or reports regarding your rights as a participant of research, please contact the IRB at (662) 915-7482.

A lot of the “free” apps available for the iPhone are ad-supported, so as you tap away on the device you are confronted by a host of ads with various levels of intrusiveness (depending upon how nice the developer is). I recently downloaded an app called Dots Free. The ads in this one are small text bars that display at the bottom of the screen. Not very intrusive at all really, so it was just kind of happenstance that I noticed one of the ads invited me to check out the new Palm Pre. Right there . . . embedded in my iPhone app . . . a Palm Pre ad. Too funny. Now of course Apple isn’t running this ad, but given the animosity between the two companies, I found this decidedly amusing.

palm_pre_ad

Sometimes you need a little chuckle. And I still think the Pre is a pretty cool device. 😉

We hear about a lot of different types of computer-related security issues these days – hacking attempts, virus infections, phishing scams and the like. At the recent American Library Association annual conference, I noticed a couple of behaviors that reminded me that not all security breaches are high-tech escapades.

On a couple of different occasions during the conference, I was typing notes into my laptop during a session when the person next to me leaned over, stared at my screen for a few seconds to see what I was typing, and then went back to his/her own notes. I was a little shocked, but probably not as offended as I should have been. I realize that these people were probably just trying to catch a few words that they might have missed during the presentation. I didn’t have any sensitive data on the screen so it shouldn’t have been a big deal . . . but it still feels wrong. Maybe it’s because I was taught that it’s impolite to come up behind someone and read over their shoulder without being invited to do so. Or perhaps it’s because a complete stranger very pointedly read my screen. Whatever.

My next example falls along those lines as well. Think about all of those nice, glossy iPhone screens we’ve all gotten so used to seeing. One thing about them – they’re big – at least compared to a regular cell phone screen, and their size makes them pretty easy to see. A couple of times during the conference I noticed people leaning forward in their seats and staring fixedly at an iPhone in the row in front of them. Now maybe they were just trying to figure out what that cool app was so that they could download it later. Or maybe they just had to know what that person was tweeting or texting. But again, it just feels like a no-no.

It kind of reminds me of those social engineering horror stories in which someone was duped into typing in a password while another person just stood behind them and watched their keystrokes. The big difference though is that there is no duping here. In some cases perhaps people are just being rude while others are being careless. In a lot of meetings it just doesn’t really matter because everyone is busy trying to get the same notes, and their isn’t a security issue at all. But increasingly I see people absolutely buried in their laptops and cell phones, logging into e-mail, Twitter accounts, and all manner of other services without being aware of their surroundings. Let’s just hope none of them are sysadmins with the keys to the kingdom, eh?