5 Up, 5 Down: 2012 - A Year in Review


As we inch closer to a new year, I enjoy taking the time to reflect and look back on 2012; not because it’s cliche,  but because it helps me better prepare myself for what’s ahead in the year to come, and helps me better analyze just how many minutes of my life I wasted in 2012 listening to idiots scream “The End is Near!”, and “Call Me Maybe.”

Regardless, I present to you my first ever “5 Up, 5 Down” list: A list in which I quickly summarize the events that took place over the last 365 days and dish out words of praise to 5 things I felt impressed me (or at the very least, were interesting), as well as touch upon 5 things I felt contributed to my disappointment in mankind.

Starting on a positive note, in no particular order. let’s go over the “5 Up”. Enjoy:




Say what you want about Windows 8, but I love it. It’s refreshing. It’s different. It’s a gamble. And I applaud Microsoft for taking a chance and FINALLY doing something new. I believe Microsoft has taken the best parts of competing operating systems and has refined them to give users a truly innovative product. Yes, I know people hate change. I see it once every 3-4 months when YouTube or Facebook redesign their layouts. I don’t give a shit. Change is often good, and for Microsoft it is necessary. The software giant is slowly losing it’s market share on the enterprise business, an install base they HEAVILY depend on for revenue. Microsoft was clearly late to the game in the mobile space. And the Zune was a colossal failure.   It was time to show people, other than large businesses, why Windows is “cool again”. I like the fact Microsoft ditched the skeuomorphic design craze, and conjured up a very unique experience with its live tiles, and touch screen interface. It’s still too early tell if Windows 8 will take off, but I definitely see this as a step in the right direction for Microsoft, and I wish them the best of luck in 2013.



Tim Cook:

Notice I didn’t say “Apple”.  Nope, instead, I’m giving the nod to Tim Cook. 2012 was Cook’s first, full-calendar year as Apple’s new CEO since he took over as interim CEO for Steve Jobs in January 2011. After Jobs passed away last August, Apple officially became Tim’s company. Many expected Apple’s stock to plunder under new leadership, however, with Tim Cook at the helm, Apple’s stock has never been higher: peaking at $705.07 a share in September 2012. Despite the recent fall, Tim Cook still raised the price of Apple's stock 40% in the past 12 months to $538.79 a share, as of December 2012.

However, what intrigues me is Tim Cook’s leadership and the changes he is making at Apple. During The Great Apple Maps Fiasco of 2012, there was no “You’re doing it wrong...” excuse circulating from Tim Cook’s secret lair in Cupertino. Instead, he decided to ditch the “Book of Jobs”, and gracefully issued an apology to early adopters of iOS 6, claiming Apple was doing “everything they can” to make the Apple map experience better. He later did something I could never imagine Steve Jobs doing in a million years: He encouraged iOS users to use other mapping alternatives while Apple attempts to fix its shit.

On top of that, it appears Tim Cook is slowly making changes to Apple’s employee handbook. Historically speaking, while the rest of Silicon Valley was providing free dry cleaning and day care to their staff, Apple employees often got the short end of the stick. According to various reports, it appears Cook has a more “giving heart” than his predecessor, granting Apple employees better perks and discounts than ever before.

Tim Cook is obviously a smart man, and make no mistake: kissing the ass of both your customers and your staff is a sure fire way to make a good impression during your first year as CEO at the world’s most profitable tech company. And it’s hard to say if this is a sign of things to come, or if it’s simply a ruse to retain your loyal install base and some top-notch employees. Regardless, things could have been much worse for Apple in 2012, and I give props to Tim Cook for guiding the company through a smooth transition in leadership. The man clearly has big shoes to fill.




In a time where small & dedicated, portable video cameras are all but dead (i.e. see Cisco’s flip-cam), it’s truly remarkable to witness the rise and popularity of the GoPro. The company has been around for over decade now, and the camera certainly isn’t new. However, 2012 saw the release of the GoPro Hero 3, and with it the sought-after ability to shoot 4K video (even if it is at a meager 15fps). Regardless, the GoPro 3 shoots stunning video in 2.7k  at 30 FPS and even adds a new ProTune feature that increases shadow exposure, enabling users to have a higher dynamic range to play with in post. In addition to being the camera of choice for extreme sport enthusiasts around the world, the GoPro is also used professionally in the television and film industry: anything from the Deadliest Catch,  to thousands of commercials, to feature length films. For an HD camera that fits in the palm of your hand at a very affordable price, the GoPro does it all.

To top it off, they have quite possibly the worlds most clever marketing campaign: You. GoPro prides itself on making TV commercials from user submitted videos that cleverly demonstrate the strengths of the camera. And there are some stunning visuals captured with the GoPro camera, which are all nicely gathered for your viewing pleasure on GoPro’s YouTube channel, slowly approaching 500,000 subscribers. The GoPro truly is the world’s most versatile camera. psy


I tried to avoid this one, but there is little I can do to ignore the fact that a Korean pop-star, who was once told he’d never make it in this industry, created the first video ever to reach 1 BILLION views on YouTube. Ironically, he accomplished the feat on December 21st, 2012, the day in which the world was supposed to end and only 5 months after his video “Gangnam Style” was  first published.  It’s difficult to determine where PSY’s popularity stems from. “Gangnam Style” definitely strikes a chord with many pop enthusiasts with its catchy beat and familiar sound,  but it also speaks to pop detractors with its outrageously satirical display of k-pop culture, all while poking fun at a “Beverly Hills-type" lifestyle. I suppose PSY is popular for the same reason LMFAO is: They have no problem making fun of themselves or their industry. I like to think PSY rose to the top of the YouTube charts just to overthrow Justin Bieber’s romantic bowling tribute video “Baby”, which stood strong for nearly 2 years....for reasons only God can explain.




I am keeping this one short. Google had several highlights and blunders you could focus on all throughout 2012. However, the reason why I am giving Google the “Up” nod is because of Google Fiber; their ultra-high speed internet service that launched earlier this year in Kansas City. I support anything that gives the proverbial “finger” to the telecom and cable duopoly that plagues this country. For $70 a month, users (in Kansas City) can get “gigabit internet service” which is about 100 times faster than your standard cable modem. Toss in an extra 50 bucks, and you also get cable TV. And if you don’t want fiber? Pay a one-time $300 construction fee, and you have FREE INTERNET FOR LIFE. That’s 5Mbs down, 1Mbs up, no data caps, FOR FREE. (Yes, there is small print that says it’s only guaranteed for at LEAST 7 years, but still, that’s impressive). Google says they plan on expanding Google Fiber to other areas across the country. Let’s just hope they eventually break out into larger, more metropolitan  markets, in lieu of settling for only smaller towns and communities. Fingers crossed.

My “5 Down”
*Please note, the items listed below are things that I found disappointing. You may or may not agree. However, this is my blog, and not yours. Enjoy.


The United States Congress:

This may possibly be the worst, most inept Congress in United States history. It may have started with their pathetic attempt to regulate the Internet using SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act), but it quickly snowballed into a large mass of deranged, incompetent lunatics hell bent on fighting with each other, rather than reaching across party aisles to compromise and get shit done. What they do succeed in scares the shit of me: A continuously-growing Federal Government, bloated with power and control that not only threatens personal liberty, but was never in the Constitution to begin with. (Not that anyone follows that document, nowadays). This however is nothing new. If it’s not SOPA, it’s CISPA. If it’s not CISPA, it’s the NDAA. If it’s not the NDAA, it’s the common renewal of the Patriot Act. I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you lean towards, nor what political party you identify yourself with, the United States Congress is a completely absurd, dysfunctional branch of our government filled with corrupt leaders and aging dinosaurs. Whether their decision making is based heavily on that amount of money they receive from crony lobbyists, or their poor understanding of the female reproductive system, Congress has proven they are incapable of legislating anything worth a damn, and most, if not all of them, should be kicked out of Capitol Hill, with the hope we can at elect some new leaders who at the very least, know how to work a computer.



The Republican Party:

I registered as a Republican back in 2008 to vote in California’s Republican primary. It was the first time I ever officially identified myself with a political party. I tend to be a social liberal who has strong, fiscally conservative beliefs: Something that I feel I share with many Americans across the country. However, since the 2012 Presidential Election, I can’t help but laugh at the disarray and panic that is currently sweeping across the Republican platform and its pundits.

“America has lost its way!” “Things were so much better....in the 50’s!” “What happen to moral decency in this country?!”

This is the type of bullshit that will ensure we’ll never again elect a Republican President. As long as these silly, aging social values (gay marriage, abortion, criminalizing drugs like marijuana) remain at the forefront of the Republican platform....over issues like government spending and nation building....the Republican party will continue to fall. I honestly see no reason to vote for either party at this point, but I can at least understand why the majority of this country voted for Obama: he clearly represents his constituents and speaks FOR them. Who the hell votes for Republicans now? Wall Street? The Religious Right? Lockheed Martin? As Professor Clyde Wilson put it best, “The Republican Party does not represent its voters (and never has). It represents only itself.” The party that bailed out the banks. The party that wants to goto war with Iran. The party that supports bills like the NDAA and the Patriot Act. This isn’t the voting populace who supports these decisions. It's the platform. (And yes, to be fair, many Democrats supported these policies as well). However, I can continue to see Democratic success in politics. Unless the Republican Party starts to reform from within, and begins to focus on the issues that truly represent the concerns of the American public, they are all but doomed.

The U.S. Patent Office:

I do not wish to dwell too long on America's broken patent system, but anytime a company like Intellectual Ventures can thrive and profit off of a system that does anything but promote innovation, you know we have a serious problem plaguing the tech industry. IV’s sole purpose, it seems, is to stock up on patents that it has no plans in ever developing into real-world products. They rather spend the majority of their time in litigation, shutting down new start-ups,  while they extort existing businesses for money in a grand mafioso kind of way.

And did you know there are several hundred patents for toast? Reheating bread? Let alone patents for “faster-than-light data transmission”: a technology that currently does not exist. I can only hope we continue to look closer at patent reform in 2013, and hopefully add a few more staff members to the U.S. Patent Office, so companies like Intellectual Ventures can profit less from extorting others.

Cell Phone Carriers:

Pretty much speaks for itself. I continue to experience poor customer service and coverage using AT&T, and Verizon isn’t much better. Because of the ridiculous demands and policies carriers enforce for the use of their LTE networks, earlier this year Google failed to bring LTE capabilities to it’s flagship Android phone, the Nexus 4. Carriers also continue to overcharge for texting and data plans, and continue to use the “it will cripple our network infrastructure excuse” to prevent smartphone owners from using what otherwise should be free features already built into their phones: tethering and WiFi hotspots. Having to pay an extra $20-$30 bucks a month to tether my device is insulting. Nevertheless, it appears no business hates its customers more than cell phone providers, and I dream of the day Google tries to become a cell carrier. Here’s hoping.



U.S. Airline Carriers & U.S. Airports:

Tomorrow, it will be 2013, and below is a list of things that I still can’t comprehend:

  • I still have to remove my shoes while going through airport security checkpoints.
  • Most airports still charge for WiFi access while waiting in the terminal, and it’s often slow and unreliable.
  • There are never enough electrical outlets in airport terminals for people to charge or use their mobile devices.
  • Most US airline fleets seem old and outdated. And whereas we now have inflight WiFi, we still don’t have one power outlet per seat on many U.S. carriers.
  • I’m still paying between $25 and $50 to check a bag.
  • During the inflight safety announcements, the guy next to me can read the SkyMall catalog but I can’t read my Kindle.


I realize many of the problems above are first-world problems. Regardless, Happy New Year, folks. Here’s hoping you have a great 2013.


29 Days With Android: Day 22 - A Sad Farewell?

[singlepic id=66 w=520 h=340 float=center] It's so hard to say goodbye


Do you believe in fate? Do you believe in signs? I personally do not abide by these philosophical notions because I like to feel that I am in control of my own life. However, sometimes, shit just happens, and you’re left with two options: Sit back, and ride out the storm until a solution presents itself, or constantly question how you got there in the first place.

To sum this up quickly, Android....I am done with you. At least for now. I will continue to follow through with my analysis of your operating system, and I will continue to enjoy the things I like, and complain about the things I hate. However, please know, it’s not entirely your fault. I just can’t stand HTC Sense. My HTC One X has bricked several times since we’ve been together. My OS randomly restarts; my SIM card deactivates; my widgets stop working; my phones performance degrades if I don’t restart you regularly; these are all unacceptable issues that cannot be forgiven. Whereas I love the One X’s design and still regard it as a solid piece of hardware, I cannot understand why HTC insists on installing it’s own ridiculous front-end,touch interface on a phone that would be amazing had it come with a stock version of Android.

I don’t want to root my phone,and install ROMS in order to get Jelly Bean 4.1 (Which is a moot point considering there is still no way for me to root my device). I don’t want to wait 6 to 18 months to get a new version of an Android OS when it hits Nexus devices in a matter of weeks. It’s ridiculous. I don’t want the bullshit bloatware, and I don’t want AT&T’s branding all over my phone.

However, it wasn’t all disappointment. I loved the larger screen the HTC One X offered me. I loved reading Flipboard articles on it’s beautiful IPS-panel display with vibrant color reproduction, and fantastic pixel density. I loved sifting through Google Reader, keeping myself up-to-date on when the hell Android Jelly Bean was going to hit the HTC One X. (Among other things). I enjoyed the Beats by Dre audio on my device. And I absolutely LOVED the Google integration on the Android operating system; the one thing I will definitely miss the most about this phone when I finally get rid of it in 7 days.


[singlepic id=63 w=520 h=340 float=center]

The big 3. Which one would you chose?


It’s a sad goodbye. What remains uncertain, however, is where I’ll end up. In terms of hardware, I still find the iPhone 5 to be a boring upgrade. True, it would meet all the necessary requirements needed for me to deem it a great smartphone. And there is no doubt Apple’s new Jesus Phone is fast as shit with it’s new A6 processor and LTE antenna, but I am also interested to see what Google announces this coming week with it’s future line of Nexus devices. I’m also extremely curious about the Lumia 920, which from what I've read and seen online, is a truly innovative smartphone, complete with wireless charging, a stronger pixel density than the iPhone 5 and the most responsive touch display the industry has seen since the first iPhone. (All will have to be verified later).


[singlepic id=65 w=520 h=320 float=center]

I'm very tempted to try out the Lumia 920. It's a sexy device.  


Regardless, it's been a fun ride and I still plan to further explore what Android has to offer since I clearly see the benefit to using Google's OS. It has a very loyal & dedicated community behind it, which leads to many tweaks and custom ROMs that allow any user to create a very unique and tailored experience. Essentially, Android can be whatever you want it to be. I admire that in an operating system. It’s why I always enjoyed jailbreaking my iPhone 4. It’s why I used a PC for years, and it’s why I built a new one just a few months ago. However, I also like it when things JUST WORK. Sometimes I like it easy.  There isn't anything wrong with either philosophy, it just comes down to whatever suits you best. In regards to my cell phone, I just need it to work 99% of the time. And I often found myself incredibly frustrated with my HTC One X because of random missing SIM card errors, various performance hiccups and the constant wondering on when the hell HTC is going to make a year-old update to the Android OS available to my phone. It’s bullshit.

I definitely see the advantages to an open ecosystem, but seriously, why the fuck do Galaxy S3 owners, and HTC One X owners get hosed if they don’t buy a Nexus device?! Some Android phones are still 2-3 iterations BEHIND on their operating systems. I understand with so many devices to worry about, updating every Android-based smartphone to the newest version of its OS may be impossible, but if your phone is less than a year old, and it still can’t get the latest version of Android, then you have every right to be upset. There is no excuse for continuing to foster a poor customer experience, and hopefully Google is working hard to address these issues.

Again, this is simply a rundown of my experience. Not everyone who decides to make “The Switch” has a bad venture. In fact, my experience with Android wasn't necessarily awful, just rather disappointing. It’s important to note, however, my experience could have been dramatically different had I been able to root my phone; or purchased the Galaxy S3; or purchased a Nexus device, etc. There are a number of different paths I could have taken, and this series of blog posts only chronicles my experience with the HTC One X. I will always keep an open mind, and I LOVE trying out new hardware and operating systems. It’s the beauty of competition; we have choices, and I encourage others to experiment and explore what else is out there.


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Farewell for now, but we shall meet again, Android. 


In the meantime, I am thinking of picking up a Nexus 7 in order to experiment with Android in what I feel is the BEST way to experience it: as a stock OS. I’ll continue to update my blog as I “enjoy” my last week with the HTC One X, and who knows....perhaps HTC will announce a Jelly Bean update in the next 7 days, and it will change my life. Stranger things have happened.

Till next time....



29 Days With Android: Day 15 - Half Way There...

[singlepic id=62 w=520 h=360 float=center] (Twas a rough week for me and Android.....)


So perhaps I was setting myself up for disappointment, however I never expected it to happen so soon: HTC Sense is pissing me off. At least that’s where I THINK the issue lies. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, and give the HTC One X the boot, but I am finding it incredibly difficult to put my faith behind Android when there are so many skinned versions of the OS on so many different handsets. Regardless, let’s get down to what everyone cares about: how my second week with Android is faring, and will I be able to make it 2 more weeks before pulling out my hair.


I reached some important milestones this week as this marked the first time I traveled outside of Austin with the HTC One X. I was interested to see how my phone would perform while traveling, and while walking about the city of San Francisco. Having lived in the Bay Area for over 6 years, I definitely understand the importance of having a phone that can last on a full charge all day long, while supplying me with key functions and features that one would expect from a smartphone: Music, maps, directions, texting, phone calls, and photos. I also wanted to see if there were any limitations to using the One X at the airport and while flying. The results varied.


The Good:

Starting my day on a full charge, I hit up Austin Bergstrom International Airport and immediately experienced some great advantages to using an Android smartphone. As a longtime customer of AT&T, my disdain for the company has slowly grown over the last 4 years to the point where I am starting to think the cell carrier couldn’t give two shits about their customers or install base. Whereas I still have my unlimited data plan on AT&T’s fast LTE network, I still can’t enjoy the benefits of tethering my device to my MacBook Air or using my HTC One X as a mobile hotspot.

Since the free WiFi in Austin’s airport is about as fast as fat kid rushing to hit the gym, the ability to use my phone’s LTE antenna to email and browse the web would have been ideal. However, since I refuse to pay AT&T the extra $20 per month to tether my phone, I downloaded the FoxFi App instead, which gives me this feature for free, and throws the proverbial “FUCK YOU” into the face of AT&T. Definitely a plus for Android owners, which DOES NOT require you to root your device. I had a similar app on my jailbroken iPhone 4 that I purchased through Cydia, but that app cost me $20, and of course, required me to jailbreak my phone. Being able to do this on Android for free, without the headache of rooting was a definite plus.

Speeds through the mobile hotspot were much faster than the airport’s free WiFi, and my overall browsing experience was generally a positive one. I had downloaded some podcasts on my HTC One X to help speed me along the 3.5 hour flight to San Francisco, but ironically, I hardly used the One X while flying. I browsed through some cached music on Spotify, and read a few articles I saved via Google Chrome to Phone,  but I spent most my time reading Steve Job’s autobiography on my iPad. Go figure. However, it was nice to know getting music on and off my device was a breeze, and I could definitely see myself dumping a large portion of my music library on the HTC One X + when it releases later this year. I also have to mention the great picture quality of the HTC One X, and the way images look on it's gorgeous 4.7 inch display. Very sharp, and photo-like.


The Bad:

However, once I landed in SF, and began using my phone in the city, things took a turn for the worse.

The key complaint I keep coming back to when using the HTC One X is the battery. At 1800 milliamp hours, I feel the battery is insufficient for someone who needs to use the One X for an entire day without the ability to recharge. Since there is no replaceable battery in the device, I find myself shit out of luck when my phone starts dying. And trust me, after walking around San Francisco for hours, taking pictures, surfing the web, and navigating my way around numerous protests and farmers markets, the One X is quick to show off its weaknesses. This isn’t really a knock against Android, but rather on the hardware itself.

In fact, my problem isn’t really with Android at all. It’s with HTC Sense, and how it manages applications, power, and performance. My girlfriend has a Galaxy Nexus, and not once did her phone slow down, stall, or lock up over the weekend. The HTC One X, however, decided it would have random moments of network hiccups, and missing SIM card warnings all throughout my stint in the Bay Area. On several occasions I had to restart the device just get make a phone call or send a text message. I found these issues painfully frustrating, especially since I find Android to be a very useful and robust operating system.


I think the One X is a solid device. I just wish it came without HTC Sense, but rather with a true vanilla version of Android. I could conjecture that a new Jelly Bean 4.1 update or the new One X+ would resolve the issues mentioned above, but it’s not certain. Sense simply seems to bog down the phones performance. Even after I installed Nova Launcher to help give me the illusion of a true Android experience, HTC Sense’s presence was never entirely absent. Like a bad case of herpes, you know it’s there.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on Sense. And perhaps I should use these final two weeks to research solutions to my problems, and tweak some settings that may increase battery life. But working this hard to get my phone to behave the way I want it is not my idea of fun. Part of the appeal to Apple’s iPhone is that it’s easy to use and “customize”. (I use that last term loosely). Still, I haven’t been able to root the HTC One X, nor install Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, so my hope is that in the coming weeks, I’ll truly be able to experience what the One X has to offer once an update is available. (Or a ROM, whatever comes first). Regardless, I am beginning to understand the benefits of purchasing a Nexus device. No bullshit artificial skin, no bloatware. I pray Google is able to resolve these issues, and do away with things like TouchWiz and Sense. I know companies like Samsung, and HTC will stubbornly express their disapproval of a stock Android experience on their hardware, but if OEMs truly care about the customer experience, they will do away with front end touch interfaces.

Nevertheless, I am on to week 3. Wish me luck....