Reviews – Stay N Alive

Name a Better Phone

Let’s put all partialities aside.

Currently, I own an iPhone, an Evo (which I’m borrowing through work for testing), and a Pre (my work phone).  I have been a Windows user most of my life, and spent 2 or 3 years with Linux on my desktop.  In the PDA days I ran a Palm Pilot, a Handspring Visor, and a Dell Axim (Pocket PC) device.  In all honesty I don’t care what the brand of the device is that I use – I care that it gives me the best experience for my money and will provide the same for my family.  At the same time my experience may be different than yours.  You may need something cheaper.  You may not need a camera.  You may just need the phone features.  All these factors go into the purchase of a cell phone.

Yet, when Consumer Reports says that it can’t recommend the iPhone 4 as a whole simply because of one feature, when it rates it higher than the competition on every other test, I call foul.  Something’s fishy in this review.

Partialities aside, when you rate phones, as a whole, feature-by-feature, side-by-side with the other phones that I own, the iPhone 4 still outperforms them, hands down.  Even Consumer Reports confirms that. The iPhone 4 takes better pictures than my Evo.  It takes better video.  The iPhone 4 has so much better screen quality than my Evo.  I can edit my movies on my iPhone 4.  The iPhone 4 lasts at least 3 times as long in battery life than my HTC Evo.  The iPhone 4 has a better, more consistent application experience than my Evo.  There’s simply no comparison on those features.  The iPhone beats the Evo in user experience and simplicity (My 2 year old has issues with the Evo – he has no problem with my iPhone).  It has better parental controls.  It has a much smaller, easier-to-hold form factor.  It has FaceTime, and before you say the Evo has apps that do that, the Evo has not integrated it into its Operating System and phone book, and that’s a huge difference.

Now let’s look at the Evo.  True, the Evo does have better call quality.  That’s perhaps the one advantage that matters to me.  The Evo has better Google Apps integration, although that’s not as big a deal to me either since at work we don’t use Google anyway. (and the iPhone 4 is good enough)  The Evo has social integration built in, but except for the hard-core techies and Social Media geeks, this simply won’t matter to the majority of the world, and the iPhone 4 has better apps to handle this anyway.  What else can the Evo do better?

I know you’ll bring up the issue of Choice.  I’ve covered this before – it’s a valid reason, but I ask you to define choice.  Can I run my Evo on Verizon, and run Verizon Android phones on Sprint?  How easy is it for you to switch services with your Android phone?  Can I port my iPhone Objective-C based apps over to the Android marketplace?  No matter what, there will always be elements of the OS you can’t port, and there will always be limitations in choice. History doesn’t change, so long as one company is controlling the infrastructure.  At the same time, no one is stopping me from Jailbreaking my iPhone to get the extra features I might want, should I want them.  Sure, Apple makes it harder, but that’s not stopping people from doing it.  There will always be some form of choice no matter what phone you’re using.

I don’t get all the bashing by mostly people that don’t even own an iPhone 4 based on solely connectivity issues.  I use my phone with my left hand.  Yes, I notice and can reproduce the reduced signal, but it simply isn’t that bad.  Especially contrasted to all the other amazing features I get from the phone.  Yet at the same time, Consumer Reports admits they didn’t even test it with the recommended case that Apple suggested all iPhone 4 users purchase.  Since Apple suggests that to fix the connectivity issues, I would definitely just consider that as part of the purchase price – it’s still a cheap phone!

I don’t understand all the negativity and targeting of the iPhone, asking for recalls and such because of simple connectivity problems.  I still think most of the vocal critics are all people that don’t even own the phone.  For those that do, go get a bumper, for goodness sakes!

And if you still refuse – I remain to ask: Name a better phone.

When that phone comes I’ll be all over it.

Review: The MINI Microphone for the iPhone and Android

I’m a sucker for good sound.  I actually have a pretty nice Microphone I use with my computer for production use in podcasts, or when I get interviewed, and I love to have a good sound to go with the things I create.  That’s why when I saw Chris Pirillo promote the MINI Microphone for the iPhone, I had to try it.

The MINI Microphone looks like a little black egg, and you can take the case off (the case you could add a string to and tie it to something if you’re worried about losing it), revealing the Microphone jack you can connect to your iPhone, Android, or similar device that accepts a Microphone jack.  You pop it in, and immediately you have a microphone with better sound quality for your recordings, or so they say.

When I tried it it wasn’t quite as good a change as I thought.  In fact, speaking through the built-in Microphone, I noticed a much wider range of sounds than with the Microphone plugged in.  The main advantage that the MINI Microphone gave me was a reduction of outside noises and a stronger focus on my own voice.  If I had the choice, I would probably stick with my iPhone 4’s nice, built in microphone over the MINI.  In the end, there is a higher range of Bass and Treble in the built in sound than what the MINI provides.  If I were in a room full of noisy people however, I might try the MINI Microphone to reduce some of the outside noise.

That said, the Microphone is only $2.82 on so you may want to try for yourself.  Regardless, I’ll let you be the judge – check out this clip I did on where I compare the difference:

The iPhone AT&T vs. T-Mobile Comparison

I am an original iPhone user, but I only did so on condition that I could remain on T-Mobile. I unlocked and Jailbroke my first generation iPhone, and loved every bit about it! Now that the new iPhone is out and my T-Mobile contract is approaching its end, I decided to buy the new 3G iPhone and give AT&T a try. At the same time, for the last few days I left my T-Mobile phone running. Here are the results of my findings:


The first thing I noticed when I turned on my 3G iPhone on the AT&T network is that I have only about 1/4 the bars I do on T-Mobile on average. It seemed to vary depending on my location, but overall AT&T, at least in my area, seemed to have a poorer signal.

Here is a picture of my original iPhone on T-Mobile – notice all 5 bars:


Here is a picture of my new 3G iPhone on AT&T – notice only 2 bars!:


However, during some tests I did later, I noticed that when I turn off 3G on my new iPhone, the AT&T iPhone goes back up to 5 bars. It seems that the 3G has some affect on the phone signal – something to remember if you need a stronger cell phone signal. Here’s my new AT&T iPhone with 3G turned off:



The obvious difference currently between AT&T and T-Mobile is that T-Mobile has not yet converted to the coveted 3G network in the United States. They will be rolling out nationwide in September we’re told, but at the moment, Edge is your only option. So speed is certainly a difference between the two phones. I decided to try an experiment to see if Edge on T-Mobile was as fast as Edge on AT&T. You can see my findings in this video:


As you can see, 3G truly is almost exactly twice as fast, just as Apple says. So speed truly is a matter of “What you see is what you get.”


Now for pricing. I decided to take my existing family rate plan on T-Mobile, add unlimited data to both mine and my wife’s accounts, along with unlimited text messaging, at 700 minutes per month. Granted T-Mobile does not have rollover minutes, but let’s just try to compare apples to apples.

Taking the exact same 700 minute family time plan on AT&T and comparing it to T-Mobiles and what we are paying currently, based on my last bill, AT&T will end up costing me almost exactly $40 more per month than T-Mobile does currently. The added advantages I get from AT&T from a service perspective are rollover minutes and 3G, so I guess it’s up to the individual to determine if it’s worth it for higher speed and re-usable minutes. For me that 3G is crucial so at the moment that will be the choice for me.

Now, the other little known fact about pricing is that, should you go with a T-Mobile contract, T-Mobile charges you $200 per line to terminate your contract early, and it is not pro-rated. So I get charged the same $200 per line now with only 2 months left as I would have at the beginning of my plan, costing me a total of $400 if I were to terminate now with T-Mobile. So I’ll be left to reducing my T-Mobile plan to the very cheapest plan available and letting it run out. Not a wise plan on T-Mobile’s part if you ask me, since I have to make the choice between them and AT&T.

AT&T’s early termination fee is $175 per line. However, their plan is pro-rated to $5/month. Therefore, if I terminate early now I pay $175 per line, but if I decide 2 months from the end of my plan, I pay next to nothing. Because of that, IMO, AT&T is much less of a rip-off. These early-termination fees alone could make AT&T the actual cheaper choice.


Hassle is obviously an important factor between AT&T and T-Mobile for the iPhone. Obviously, unlocking the iPhone 3G for the average Joe is not quite possible yet, and therefore it is absolutely not possible to use it on T-Mobile. However, when it is available, it’s simply a matter of running a simple Mac or Windows program and voila, your iPhone can now run on T-Mobile along with the ability to customize your iPhone beyond what its current capabilities provide. I argue though that having to re-do this every time Apple releases a new software update does add quite a bit of Hassle, and you have to weigh that.

With my AT&T phone, while I do have the hassle of dealing with a closed system and relying completely on Apple for the updates I need, I do not need to worry about re-updating for each software update provided. True, I could also jailbreak my AT&T phone, and in that case the hassle would be the same between the two.


As far as features go, the only difference between T-Mobile and AT&T on the iPhone is that AT&T provides Visual Voicemail, and T-Mobile doesn’t. I really like the Visual Voicemail feature thus far, but I really don’t use it much. I generally forward my calls through Google’s Grandcentral so not many people actually call my direct cell phone number. This makes that feature mostly useless for me.


So in the end, the major difference I’ve discovered between having an iPhone on AT&T vs. T-Mobile is the price. AT&T is quite a bit more expensive on a month-to-month scale, however, if you ever need to cancel your plan, T-Mobile will leave you hanging. Other than that, the two are exactly the same.

Have you run your original iPhone on T-Mobile? Are there any other differences you have noticed?

Facebook Announces Developer Integration Points to New Design, New "Publisher" Feature

n21073243776_369793_836.pngWhile still vague in regards to details, Facebook today released some important information regarding their new design that is sure to excite those users that are considering leaving for other networks. The first of such features seems to be a slap in the Face (and maybe a token from former Google Execs) to Google Employee-founded FriendFeed. Facebook is calling the feature, “Publisher”, and from the Developer Wiki,

“The Publisher will be a central focus of communication and sharing in the new profile. It sits right on top of a user’s Feed inviting the user or others to add content. Applications can integrate into the Publisher to provide rich experiences for creating or finding content to post into their own and their friends’ Feeds…

This has replaced the old Wall Attachments feature. Now, Wall is just one type of application for creating content (text content), on par with posting links, or uploading photos or videos. For example, to add a video with the Video application, the user no longer creates a Wall attachment and adds the video. Instead, the user posts a video to a friend’s Feed just as if she were writing a Wall post.”

From the screenshots (to the left), it appears as though you can also comment on each posted item, further encouraging a “conversation” amongst members of the Facebook community. What’s most interesting is the integration with the Facebook Platform API and ability for developers to present items for discussion within a particular user’s Feed. It appears as though your applications will be able to actually utilize the text box within the publisher to present information on a user’s feed in different ways. More information regarding the new combined Feed/Wall can be found here.

Also very interesting is it seems as though Facebook will soon allow, via the publisher, the automatic playing of Flash, and onload events within FBJS. It seems this is Facebook’s answer to the demand from users migrating from Myspace and the competition from Bebo who allows such onload events.

In addition to the publisher, Facebook has released more information via their developers wiki about the Tabs that will be available, and how applications will be displayed via those tabs. It appears as though at first, all applications will be rendered in their current form in a tab called “boxes” (they mentioned earlier today that name may be temporary). What’s new though is it seems as though your application will be able to give the user options to render other forms of profile boxes to an “Info” tab on the user’s profile. It’s unclear, but this could mean your application will be able to have multiple forms of displaying itself within the user experience beyond just Canvas pages, profile boxes, and feeds. A new FBML tag has been created for this purpose called “” which appears to give your application the ability to have the user add a “section” to their profile. (I now need to update FBML Essentials!) Such section will have the ability to display image objects or text that the user can type and provide to your application.

Facebook is also allowing your applications to register an “Application Tab URL” which will have your Application appear in a list of applications next to a “+” (plus) sign in the list of tabs. The user will then have the option to add your Application as a tab, offering an alternate canvas view of your application for the user’s friends to see.

Beyond the Info and Boxes tabs, it’s a bit unclear as to what the other tabs will be called. The most recent screenshot by them includes a “Photos”, “Wall”, and “Feed” tab, but it seems as though the Wall and Feed may be combined to produce the “Publisher”. It could be that the current “News Feed” will be under the Feed tab, while the combined Mini-Feed and Wall will be under the Wall tab. I’m sure we’ll see more screenshots soon. Also of note is that the Action items, the links below your profile image currently, will be no more. Instead you’ll be able to offer your users interactivity via the publisher and other integration points throughout the user’s profile.

It also seems as though the separate News Feed/profile is no more when you log in. It seems they are bringing the focus on the profile and including what is now the “News Feed” to become what will be the “Feed” tab. I like this new concept and hope it catches on – I think it will be a win-win for both Facebook, users, and developers in that it will bring a more fluid experience to users, and encourage discussion and people more than anything else.

With the release of this information to the developers wiki it seems Facebook is on the verge of releasing the new design very soon. I would expect to see such features in the next week or two, considering it was originally supposed to launch last month.

UPDATE: Facebook just released their official announcement here:

Wanna win a copy of the book?

1316947090_6812521383_o.pngBeth Kanter and I met over at Graphing Social Patterns this year. I was running late to the lunch and happened to sit down at a table I saw Rodney Rumford at. I introduced myself and Beth happened to be at the table. She asked if she could give a book away on her blog, and interviewed me briefly. She posted a great review of the book today (yes, that’s my big head in the close-up!), and announced the free giveaway of “I’m On Facebook–Now What???”.

Learn more about Beth and ways to “Change the World” using Facebook on…

Five Real Reasons Vista Beats Mac OS X

I’m going to step away from my normal focus on Social Media because the inner-geek in me just couldn’t resist. Recently Chris Pirillo posted a challenge that I just couldn’t help taking on. In it, he criticizes a post by Preston Galla of ComputerWorld stating “5 Reasons Vista Beats OS X”, and he makes some very good points. I admire Chris a lot because he’s one of the most unbiased Geeks I know, except when it comes to the Mac. Chris and I would get along well.

I too am a Mac user, in fact, the post I am typing at the moment is on MarsEdit on a Macbook. I absolutely love my Mac, and thus far have not found a preferred Operating System for development and desktop environment to work on, at least as a software developer (I should note that actually, most of my software development is over Terminal on the Mac, over to a Linux Server, my preferred server OS).

I will be the first to admit however that the Mac does have its flaws, in particular Leopard. I do run a Vista Ultimate machine, and I love it too, but for different reasons. Let me give 5 real reasons, and Chris, if you’re reading I would love to hear your response to this, why Vista, at times can be better than a Mac, in particular Leopard. Here are 5 reasons in response to Chris’s challenge that I think really make sense:

  1. It’s all about the media. Chris, I’m not sure if you’ve used Windows Media Center to its full extent, but sit down, set up a Windows Media Center machine/server, and then set up an Xbox 360. Be sure your server has a good TV card or two in it as well. Now, sync the two, and begin watching TV live over your home network. Add on a Media Center Extender to another TV in your house and begin streaming live TV on another channel to that TV as well. Now, on one of the extenders, open up some music, maybe even from your iTunes library on your PC (assuming it’s not DRM protected, stupid Apple). Go on over and visit the videos you have stored on your PC. Install some MCE plugins, and begin browsing your videos on Youtube, or even Netflix watch now movies. Got HD? MCE supports it. Go to the sports section, see all the sports games playing currently and what their scores are, surf through all the sports channels (all in HD!). Go in and schedule to record your favorite TV Series. AppleTV isn’t even near ready for this (although I so desperately would love to see them do it!). Heck, turn off MCE even and start playing some games, or rent a movie. If you can point out a Mac combination that can do that, I’ll jump for joy!
  2. The corporate environment. As a CTO and entrepreneur, I simply cannot force everyone onto a Mac. I have first, the expense of the learning curve and integration between Mac and PC, and second the cost of the Macs themselves. I can get a PC for under $500 these days. The closest equivalent to that is the Mac Mini, which still, at the equivalent PC level is more expensive. Now, add to that the expense of Parallels so those that need Windows apps like Quickbooks Corporate editions and others. True, integration with Exchange is possible, but is still pretty limited when compared to Windows. In the end I’m looking at a pretty expensive IT budget. Again, I think a Mac is an excellent development machine, and would still encourage a Mac for my developers due to their need to develop in cross-platform environments, but it just doesn’t make sense cost-wise across the entire company.
  3. Hardware compatibility. I agree – there are a lot of options when it comes to supporting hardware for a Mac, but, can I just get a decent wireless print server that works with the Macs in my household? What about print drivers that work across the network with Windows-connected printers? Leopard fixes some of that, but it’s still not anywhere near compatible as the Vista machines are. Is it Mac’s fault? No, but it is a strong point to buying Vista. What about shuffling around every time I need to connect to a projector because Macs use the non-standard VGA/DVI adapters? I’m sure the readers can come up with more unsupported hardware.
  4. Finance Software. I touched on this a little earlier, and Galla very broadly covered it in mentioning supported software, but his claim was not backed by specific examples. Simply saying, “Vista runs more software” is an opinion, and Chris, as you point out not necessarily proof that Vista is better. However, one thing I do have issues with is the vast array of Windows Finance software (aka Small and large business versions of Quicken and Turbotax) but lack of within Leopard. I run a very small business at the moment, and frankly, Quickbooks for Mac is simply too much for me. I’m looking for something more like Quicken Home and Business until my business gets large enough for me to hire an Accountant. There’s also the flip-side to that in that if you run a very large business, there are no enterprise versions of Quickbooks for Mac. This is why both my Father, and Father-in-Law who are CPAs do not use Macs. For now, I’m stuck to slowing down my machine with Parallels any time I need something like that, which, IMO is a hack.
  5. It’s all about the animated wallpaper! Can your Mac run animated pictures of waterfalls, running streams, or flowing lava? My Vista machine can. Come on – you have to admit that’s something my Vista machine can do that my Macbook can’t, don’t you? So long as we’re going to praise the Mac UI this is one really cool feature I’d just love to see on my Mac. There are also other cool UI features on Vista that I like, even though I think Mac trumps them as a whole.

So, those may or may not be big things to some, but that is my list, and you asked Chris. Of course I could always come up with 10 more things that Mac beats Vista in, but my point is, as they told us when I was a Sales person at Computer City as a teenager, there are strengths to each OS – it’s important to evaluate what works best for you and your situation, and choose accordingly. Now, I ask my readers, are there any reasons (supported by true, concrete facts) that you feel Vista beats Leopard or the Mac in general?


Well Done Guy! Chris DeVore is a Cheapskate

I just caught this article from Mashable and I just had to pipe in. In the article, Mashable’s Kristen Nicole claims Guy Kawasaki paid too much for the development of AllTop, at $10,000. They compare it to, claiming Chris DeVore only paid $7500 for the development of Askablogr, with its rich feature-set.

I was blown away by this! Not that Guy Kawasaki paid $10,000, but that Chris DeVore only paid $7500 for Askablogr. Now, I don’t know Chris, so take this with a grain of salt, but some call it a deal. I say he’s a cheapskate! For something that will be your primary revenue source and your main line of business, $10,000 for something like is a steal! The fact that Chris DeVore only paid $7500 for his development means he’s either hiring offshore, doing the development himself (in which those costs are way under-inflated), or he’s very much underpaying a bunch of gullible developers that probably don’t believe much in the product they’re working on.

As a business owner, when supporting a technology-based business, it is of utmost importance that you put your developers and IT staff at first priority. They are your bottom-line, and should be the superstars of your business. You have to keep in mind that for top notch developers and technology, you’re competing with the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and others to get the best talent. By not paying your developers, you will either a) lose your developers very quickly, b) have a revolution at one time in your future and your developers will all back out on you in rapid succession, or c) not get the best work and skills you could be getting, and you’ll definitely run into scalability issues as your site grows in the future.

I recently finished the book, “My Startup Life“, by Ben Casnochas. I bet Guy’s read it and Chris hasn’t. In it, Casnochas talks about the lessons he learned by not paying his lead developer well. He quickly had threats of the staff to leave, and they quickly ran into scalability issues due to the unexperienced offshores they were hiring overseas. In building a technology-based business it is of utmost importance that you pay and treat your IT staff well or it will come back to bite you in the future.

So, Kristen, I say Guy is the smart one in this case. I am willing to bet his site scales better, his developers are happier, and more likely to work with him in the future. Guy’s likely to get millions for in the future, should it succeed, so $10,000 is a very small price to pay to get good developers on staff.

UPDATE: See Chris’s comment here: I probably inappropriately labeled Chris a cheapskate while trying to defend Guy. It turns out (and I should point out, unless I read it wrong, that the Mashable article did not make this very clear either) that Chris’s project was a project built simply to point out how cheap something could be developed. In that case it would make him an intentional cheapskate, not that there’s anything wrong with that. As I mentioned, I’m a cheapskate too – I just don’t see the reason to short projects in development costs when it is the core to the business. It is an interesting experiment regardless. Thanks for visiting Chris!

Facebook Getting the Vote Out – but is it Good for Developers?

You’re seeing it here first folks – this morning Facebook announced a new tag on its wiki called . I imagine an announcement from Facebook will come soon on their purposes for this. From the wiki, :

Displays a Rock the Vote widget inline in your application. The text inside the tags is formatted as a hyperlink. When the user clicks the link, a Working Assets US Voter Registration dialog appears. When the user is done, they are prompted to share it with their friends. Then they are returned to your page.

This is particularly suitable for political apps or any app that wants to encourage voter registration.

Now, I’m not that familiar with the whole “Rock the Vote” organization, and I’m very for encouraging voter registration, but isn’t this also giving preferential treatment to other big organizations on Facebook? How did “Credo Mobile” get their sponsorship on this? Does this mean apps and organizations like my company’s client, “Takes All Types” will have their own tags for developers to use too? Has FBML been turned into an advertising tool? As a Facebook Developer myself I’m a little concerned about this one.

To implement the tag, you would do something like this (from the wiki):

Register to vote!

The link looks like this:


And produces a form that looks like this:

rock the vote form, top

The second half of the form looks like this:

rock the vote form, bottom

Facebook Works to Reduce Spam Further With "Feed Forms"

Today, a new way of posting to the News Feed in Facebook appeared on the Facebook Developer’s wiki. Facebook introduced “Feed Forms”. To use a Feed form, you simply create a regular form as you would any other form, but add a special “fbtype” attribute to the form. The only documented value listed thus far is “publish”. Facebook then intercepts the form, reads the url in the action parameter, and prompts the user, asking them if they want to publish the story to their friends.

To use a “feed form”, the url in your action parameter for the form should return content in the form of JSON with a simple feed response. The example they give for return JSON data is this:

{ "method": { "fbtype" : "publish",

           "next": "",

  "feed": {"title_template": "{actor} published status",

  "body_template" : "New status is \"{status}\"",

  "body_data" : {"status": $_POST['status']}}


I created a sample form that looks like this, returning the above data (changing the url) in application/x-json format:

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem this feature is live yet (or I’m just doing it wrong), as my returned JSON data just gets returned back to me when the form is submitted. I will post screen shots as soon as I hear confirmation that it has gone live (I expect that to be next Tuesday, when they usually do pushes).

Does this mean Facebook is doing away with the automated posting of News feeds by applications, or is it just one more way, and better way to make your feed story more likely to appear in your user’s friends’ news feeds? There is no official word from Facebook yet as to how they intend to use this.