iPad 2: Extensive Comparison
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As usual, I was one of the over enthusiastic bunch that waited in line for a chance to buy the iPad the minute it was available. The next morning, I awoke with the burning question many of you may have: is this new iPad really that much better than the original? Is it worth the cost of upgrading? So I began my extensive test to compare both versions. I spent two hours comparing them with the help of my son, also a heavy iPad user. I also continued to use it all throughout the weekend, and this post contains my findings

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AT & T New Data Plans: Listening, Ignoring and Observing Your Customers
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Earlier this week AT & T announced a controversial change to their data plan rates and usage limits. The net has been buzzing with complaints from users who feel they need higher caps on their data usage, not lower ones. But according to AT & T, “Currently, 98 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 2 GB of data a month on average.

I have to wonder how many complaining customers are being impacted in any other way than saving $5 a month? I use my iPad a lot, probably way too much. While on a week’s vacation recently, I watched several TV shows (while working), over 3g. I was really impressed with how well it worked considering I was on 3g. I also surfed the web a bunch, kept up with my email and social networks. I downloaded apps, watched other video, and took a bunch of notes. The week before I did the same on a 3 day trip to Atlanta, and the week before that another 3 day trip to Sarasota, FL.

I keep my wifi turned OFF on the iPad, and use 3g even when wifi is available, because often the wifi my iPad picks up is actually worse (probably due to distance) than the 3g. In all, since I received my iPad over a month ago, I’ve used under 2 gigs of data. I also have no doubt that as time goes on, that monthly number will drop. I used it a ton when I first got it because it was new. I’ll never purchase as many apps in a month as I did this month. Usage will level off, and I certainly won’t always travel for half an entire month either. And if I did get close on data usage, I would start using wifi when available.

I think this is a perfect example of what I often tell clients and startups, that you must both listen to and ignore your customers all at the same time. The trick is knowing when to do each. And as always, observing your customers actual usage of your product provides far more info than asking them their opinion. There’s nothing wrong with asking of course. PeepNote is doing that right now with a survey (we are giving away a few Pro Plan year memberships in the process too), but you can’t assume that your customers are always right. I used to spend hours watching people use web sites in UI focus groups. Their behavior rarely ever matched up with what they thought their behavior was. We as humans simply aren’t always aware how inaccurate our perceptions can be when compared with reality, particularly when not in our area of expertise.

Customers can’t know where you are coming from, where you are going as a company/product/service, what your expenses are, what your limitations are, nor what you are actually seeing vs hearing. With AT & T, they saw the the majority of users didn’t need more than 2g a month, but that a tiny percentage where ruining it for everyone by using far more than the rest. So, instead of listening to your demands, they ignored you, and in the process, lowered your monthly bill, reduced strain on their network, and stopped forcing YOU to pay for someone else’s usage.

Consumers have to remember, that while a company needs to make its customers happy, it also has to make money. You can’t do one without the other. AT & T seems to have done the right thing here, and ignored the talk while observing the behavior. Hopefully for them, customers will see over the first few months, that there is no impact on them at all. Remember too, with this change came tethering, something consumers have been asking for, for years.

What do you think and how much data have you used on your iPad or iPhone over the last month?

Announcing tmpby.com, in support of the Tampa Bay Tech Community
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tmpby_avatar_bigger.jpgAbout two weeks ago, Josh Hemsley, partner with me on Peepnote.com, tweeted about a site I had not yet heard of, prtlnd.com. It was an online directory of people in the tech community of Portland, created by Chris Kalani. The second I saw it I phoned Josh and within 24 hours, Josh, Dan Denney, creator of the Front-End Design Conference, and I we were discussing design and our own take on the concept. Dan and I had already been discussing how to assist the tech community in some way, and this concept seemed like a good starting point.

Yesterday morning we launched our two week effort, tmpby.com, in hopes of bringing together the growing tech community. We have no desire to replace any of the great meetups and groups already meeting all around the bay area, but instead, to aide them in their work, demonstrate our strength to the other tech communities around the country, and help local tech users become more aware of others in their same area of work and study.

We will also announce local tech news and events on our Twitter account so take a moment to follow us there and please spread the word to everyone you know in Tech in the Tampa Bay area.

How Technology Helped Me Lose 12 lbs in 4 weeks and Improved My Dining Experience
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I love technology and I love stories of how technology improves our lives. This time, the story is my own.

Saturday night, I sat with my family in the parking lot in our car trying to decide where to eat dinner. It’s extra difficult these days because I’m on a calorie counting diet. I took out my iPhone and pulled up the DailyBurn iPhone App to check and see how many calories and fat/protein/carbs I had left for the day. I knew that Chilis was on the way to our next stop so I used Safari mobile to pull up their nutritional menu. They had enough healthy options on the menu that I quickly agreed with my kid’s request that we eat there.

withings_scale.pngWhen we arrived, I used the same online nutritional pdf from their web site to decide on my order. Then as the food came, I used the FoodScanner iPhone App to enter in all the foods I would be eating that night. I saw that if I only ate half of what I ordered, saving the rest for left-overs the next day, I’d still have room for a little dessert after. By the time the food had arrived, my calorie count was already updated simply by typing in the names of the foods and doing a search on them in the FoodScanner iPhone App (also by Daily Burn).

As we finished eating, it was suggested we go to Smoothie King for dessert. I looked up their nutrional guide online, found a healthy protein smoothie, and within minutes had also added iy to my calorie count. That would complete my calories for the day, keeping me well under my target. The shake, by the way, turned out to be beyond my expectations. I’ll be returning again regularly.

When the Chilis bill arrived, I used the Check Please iPhone app to calculate the tip (automatically adding 18% and rounding off to the nearest dollar). I filled out the credit card receipt, and then, using the Shoeboxed app, took a photo of the receipt which was auto submitted to their web site, and will be scanned and added to my budget tracking without any work on my part. I can leave the paper receipt right on the table…no need to take it home and fool with it later.

Tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll step on my Withings wifi enabled scale, which will take my weight, measure my body fat, calculate my BMI and submit the data to the Daily burn web site to help me track exactly how many calories I should continue to eat to reach my goal. Again, no work on my part, no time wasted in trying to reach my dual goals of getting leaner and staying on budget.

It is with this process that I’m able to keep on track with my financial budget for the year, and, it is with this process, only accomplished thanks to today’s technology, that I have also managed to lose 12 lbs in 30 days…without any exercise at all and very little stress.

Yes, I do love technology, and it is making life better…and this is all with just using the iPhone. I can’t wait to see how much better it will be when my 3G iPad arrives.

Update: One month later, I’ve now lost 19 lbs, continuing to use this strategy.

For the FoodScanner iPhone App, DailyBurn iPhone App, Withings Body Scale visit the Daily Burn web site.

Visit the Shoeboxed web site to read about their services and the iPhone app.

13 technologies to be thankful for
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As I take a day off tomorrow from all my projects, and turn my attention toward the yearly tradition of turkey, family and giving thanks, I thought I would take a moment to give thanks here, but as this site is focused on technology I will focus my thanks on the same, though not before taking a personal moment to mention the most important things I’m thankful for in my life, which are: the freedom to support myself with capitalistic endeavors, freedom of religion, the opportunities available in this country thanks to those who’ve sacrificed over the years, my home, my job, my friends, my immediate and extended family (of which I’ll be eating with 16 of them tomorrow), my wife, and my two amazing kids.

Now for the technologies I’m most thankful for in 2008, which combined are allowing me to reach my personal and family goals like never before (in no particular order):

1. Ruby on Rails
Not in ten years have I enjoyed web development as much as I do now thanks to Rails. Thank you Yukihiro Matsumoto, DHH, and the entire Rails community.

2. Slicehost
Doesn’t do much good to create great web sites if you can’t host them reliably and affordably. I love to concept, design, develop, and tweak web applications, but system administration is something I’ve never cared for. I tried many hosts, and not until I found slicehost did I find a company that could help me with all my needs and do it so well. Thanks slicehost.

3. MacBook Pro
Thanks to my Mac, I now focus all my time on being productive and little time on getting my computer to do what I want it to. Thanks Apple and all my friends who talked me into getting a Mac.

4. Broadband Internet
What did I use a computer for before broadband Internet? Can’t even remember now. So much information available. So many opportunities and…

5. Online Media
Last year the Tivo would have been on my list. But these days, with Hulu, bit torrents, my blockbuster online subscription, iTunes, and all the TV sites that stream their own shows, my Tivo sits idle. Thanks to Boxee as well for providing a great way to bring all this media together and use from one common interface.

6. Fujitsu ScanSnap 300M
My office is 90% paperless thanks to this incredible, two-sided, speedy and portable scanner. Makes staying organized easier and helps with my goals of a more simplistic lifestyle.

7. Mint.com
I tried so many financial software packages before and never stuck with them…too much work. But thanks to Mint, I can keep tabs on all my accounts, my expenses and all related trends. Great for the mobile office.

8. Remember the Milk
It’s simply the easiest task management web app there is.

9. Internet Cafes
Maybe not exactly a technology, but there’s little I enjoy more than a fresh ice tea, free wifi, a pastry, and my laptop.

10. Social Media (FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
Last year I didn’t have a single account at any of these sites. I didn’t understand how they could be of help. Now I can keep in touch with clients, potential clients, old friends, current friends, extended family, and new friends. Some worry that Internet usage gets in the way of communicating with real people, but thanks to these sites, I have time to keep in touch with 10x more people than ever before.

11. Online Shopping (Amazon, Zappos, Newegg)
Busy roads, expensive gas, large crowds and long lines, all work together to waste massive amounts of time when engaged in traditional shopping. But with the wide product selection, ease of ordering and excellent customer service of some of these online shops, why bother?

12. Favorite Mac Apps
The reliability of the Mac OS is only equaled by the productivity gains of some of its software. My most used apps currently are: TextMate, Firefox, NetNewsWire, Boxee, iTunes, and Vuze. Almost everything I do is done in one of these pieces of software.

13. Entrepreneur leaders in the Web Services Industry
There are so many great companies now doing some fantastic work in providing web services and most of them are more than willing to share their experiences, thereby helping the rest of us to get to our own goals even faster. Special thanks to 37 signals, ADS, Rails Envy, Railscasts, Slicehost, Web Worker Daily, and ReadWriteWeb.