Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Lion Goes .... Squeak?

The elusive Tidbit
Daddy, why does a Lion squeak?
Today I was playing with my little friend, Tidbit. We were having a great time playing with all the toys, which were coincidentally all great animals of the Sahara. Dogs are really no different than little kids, and apparently, neither am I, so we had a good time. As we made our way though the toys, it dawned on me that they all make the exact same squeak sound. Even toys from different manufacturers.

At this point, I'm going to assume this is a worldwide conspiracy to deny our dogs the joy of knowing what each animal sounds like, just as we humans were taught as children.

So, as we made our way through the toys, I would tell Tidbit: "The Lion goes 'Squeeeeaak', The Monkey goes 'Squeeeak', The Rhino goes 'Squeeeak.'" It must have been very unsatisfying for Tidbit. He must think me a liar. Certainly he has unrealistic expectations of what animals sound like on the continent of Africa.

Seriously, in the year 2012 we don't have the technology to make any dog toy sound different from any other dog toy? Shouldn't the animals of the Sahara sound like the animals of the Sahara? They can't put a digital recording of a Monkey inside a toy, stuffed Monkey? Please, mega-dog-toy-corporations and/or Santa Claus, let Tidbit hear the mighty roar of the Lion, or whatever-the-hell sound a Rhino makes!

Our dogs deserve better.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Still Beef With Dell

Around 20 years ago, I worked for a company who bought me a brand new Dell laptop. This was 1991, so just having any laptop was in itself impressive at the time. My new Dell was this amazing machine ... for about 3 days, after which time it completely crapped out. So, we sent it back in for warranty work, and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited for what eventually became an entire year, which co-incidentally was the entire one year warranty period. We eventually got it back with a note saying they couldn't fix it because the warranty was expired. We sent them a letter pointing out that the laptop sat pretty much the entire warranty period (minus a few days we had it) in their service center, during which time they didn't do anything with it. They replied back that we should have bought the extended warranty. So, the office manager had me send a letter to Michael S. Dell, who replied via a VP that they were really sorry they couldn't replace it, but that we should have purchased the extended warranty. Yeah, right.

Well, fast forward a couple decades and I'm looking for a new laptop on Black Friday 2012. It seemed like every single laptop on sale was a Dell. There were some great looking deals, too. It was even a little tempting to set my grudge aside. Maybe in the past I didn't make much effort to be frugal, but this time around it seemed like Dell had a contender for every price point, form factor and options I was looking for.

But I still remember the snarky, condescending letter I got from Dell all those years ago, so I went with an Asus K55N-BA8094C with an AMD A8 4500M processor, which I bought from Best Buy for $379.99 from their Cyber Monday sale. The last few years I've been buying Acer laptops, which we've had really good luck with. But I've owned a few Asus motherboards, and I have friends that swear by the brand, so I'm excited to see if it's as good as the Acers I've been buying.

It's just funny how the negative experiences like this shape our buying habits. What this experience taught me is that customer service should be a long term thing. I've personally talked probably hundreds of people out of Dell computers in the two decades I've had a beef with them, and I keep that in mind for my own work. I try to realize that my interactions with customers could have decades-long ramifications, not just for bad but for good, too. If a customer with a bad experience could talk hundreds of people out of my product, then a customer with a good experience can talk hundreds of people into buying my product!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Twinkie-Shaped Hole in My Heart

If the past teaches us anything, it's that the future is uncertain, and humankind is historically and notoriously bad at predicting it. Will Twinkies, Ho Ho's and Ding Dong's be a relic of the past? All we can do is wait helplessly by while the events around Hostess' bankruptcy play themselves out.

Twinkies have always been a part of Nerd counterculture. What better to represent the supposedly sedentary lifestyle we Nerds live than a quick, sugary snack like Twinkies? It's like a burrito for Nerds, and the perfect compliment to the other (there's only two!) Nerd staple: The glorious Hot Pocket.

Now, I'm not going to predict the demise of the Twinkie, or the potential world-changing consequences that will assuredly happen if we lose this valuable, natural resource. I leave those predictions to folks more paranoid than me. But I will say this: we must be very careful with the forces at work here. We do not want to risk the consequences to society that the loss of Twinkies (and Ho Ho's, etc.) could bring. We just don't. We bailed out the banks, right? Well, this is a no-brainer.

So, I hope cooler heads will prevail, and Hostess will eventually emerge from bankruptcy with all of our snacks intact, hopefully along with the machines that make them. In the meantime, there's a Twinkie shaped hole in my heart.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Google Wireless?

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Google is in talks with Dish Network to possibly create a new wireless service to rival the big four incumbent carriers. Dish is reportedly also in talks with other potential partners, so who knows how this is all going to pan out. But certainly, more competition is always a good thing for consumers.

Personally, I love the idea of someday having Google as my wireless carrier. How many other wireless carriers have a "don't be evil" sign in their lobby? Yeah, that would be zero.

These aren't the first moves Google has made for becoming a service provider. They recently rolled out 1 Gbps fiber to select parts of the country. It's pretty clear where Google is going with this, and again, I think it's a great idea for them. And maybe now the big four might actually work to earn people's business instead of just lowering the caps and telling people how great low caps are and how great it is that everyone can share the low caps to hit them sooner. Google is definitely going to shake up whatever market they enter, and it's about damn time.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Microsoft Surface: I'll Pass

When I first read that Microsoft was coming out with a Surface tablet, I was really excited. The main reason I was holding off buying an Android tablet was that with powerful new processors coming out, I was hoping to be able to run desktop applications if I wanted to.

Now, I would probably never want to compile a C# web site on a tiny tablet. That has always taken a notebook, or more recently, a netbook. But it would be nice on short trips if I could just bring one device that could function as a real computer in an emergency, like my netbook can.

So, I was very disheartened to learn that Surface isn't a Windows machine in the strictest sense. It's more of a Metro machine, meaning it can only run metro apps. Seriously? It just seems like just as computing technology gets concentrated in smaller and smaller devices, we're seeing less overall functionality instead of more.

Maybe someday I'll have that perfect tablet that will have the simplicity of the more web-centric operating systems like Android, but with the capabilities to run desktop applications as well. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to do that. In the meantime, I guess I'll finally break down and get a Galaxy or something, and just carry two devices.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Disney Does Deathstar

And just like *that* the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other for the Star Wars franchise. We're going from locked down, metered doses of Star Wars to having it laser etched onto our bodies, it will be so prevalent. Of course I'm only half-joking. As a consumer, I think it's bad news whenever a mega-corporation (especially one so politicized) devours every franchise in its path. As a Star Wars fan, I am going to see what Disney does with the franchise before I form any opinions. Lucas kept such tight control over everything Star Wars, I always thought he was kind of stingy. But that doesn't mean I want it stamped on every single product I buy for the rest of my life. I guess time will tell!