Company Blog

Memory Engineering: What is this new Trend?

  • Posted On  2015-07-13 03:28:32 by Blog

As with all trends on the World Wide Web, we have a plethora of new terms used to describe new ways of organizing your on line and off line lives. Newest to this assemblage is “Memory Engineering” term coined by Clive Thompson, who is a writer for the popular technology trend magazine Wired. It is becoming less of a trend, more of a utility used by professionals, students and homemakers alike. It takes on many forms, from applications for your cell phone, to websites that connect your vast social network presence on line to photo and music play-lists that are kept and meticulously stored in order to bring back memories from a week, month or year ago. With the shortening of attention spans worldwide in every single age group, this new utility will assist the user in keeping a track record of their lives as they appear on the World Wide Web.

OK: Sounds neat, where do I go in order to sign up for one or many of these sites? Well, first of all you need to define exactly how you would like your on line life to be tracked. Do you prefer to have an all-in-one solution that includes your FaceBook account, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress Blog and your favorite RSS feeds (as well as many other options)? Or are you only wanting to keep track of a few specific things, like just your FaceBook and Twitter since you are not connected to every single social networking site on the planet (yet)?

From there you need to consider if you would prefer an application for your cell phone as well or prefer to access all of this through your main computer only. I know, it sounds like a lot to consider when it comes to social networking options. However, the more thought that you put into the initial choices, the less spread out your on line life will be in the end. Is that not what we are trying to accomplish? Never fear, we have taken some of the guess work out of the situation for you, and below you will find some information about the most widely used sites.

Memory Engineering Sites and Applications Review:

    4Squareand7YearsAgo: This service is essentially a sister service to the well known geotagging social networking application and website, 4square. For those unfamiliar with this, 4square is a website and cell phone application that allows you to “check in” to different places through the cell phone application and share the locations of places that you have ate, drank, visited, etc… with friends who are on your friends’ profile and through other services that you may connect, like Twitter and FaceBook. By using your “Check ins”, 4squareand7yearsago compiles a list of exactly where you were and where you checked in as well as any notes and to-do list items that you may have logged on that day. In the morning, it will send you a nicely presented email showcasing your movements that day. It becomes an amusing and potentially helpful record of your movements and creates a deeper memory of the time for your enjoyment (or other, less positive emotion, depending). This service requires a 4square account to work and the application installed on your cell phone to facilitate checking in.

    PastPost: PastPost is essentially 4squareand7yearsago for FaceBook. It does the same exact things that the above service does, just only with FaceBook. It gathers your information, your likes, notes, status updates and other shared items and puts them together in a well-presented, easy-to-read email going over your experiences a year ago on that day. This service does not require you to have any applications installed on your cell phone thanks to FaceBook’s well-developed website.

    MemoLane: Here we make an entry into the multi-service platforms for memory engineering. MemoLane allows the user to link several services such as: FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, WoodPress, Rss Feeds, 4square, Last.Fm and many more. However, unlike the above services, MemoLane offers far more options of what to do with your information. Touting itself as a “Time Capsule”, it allows you to share your history as well as to work on “stories” which you can invite your friends to assist and collaborate with. Also offered, which is a large bonus over the last two services, is a search option. You can search your own “memos” (as the service calls your entries), other users and also stories created by your friends and family. It does in effect create a “time Capsule” effect.

    Daily Review: Daily Review is expressly for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. The Kindle allows you to take clippings of your books, either to make notes on or to keep for later because they are good quotes. Daily Review allows you to take those clippings and have them shared across your network of friends as defined in your Kindle user settings. It also allows for you to review and recommend those books and clips via twitter right from your kindle. While this is by far the most limited of the services offered, it does serve a rather specific niche that has not been touched at all. The world of the avid e-book reader is large and diverse with many interests and preferences. Of course, this means that this particular service is limited to those who use either the free kindle computer or cell phone reader or who own an actual kindle. While this is not as large a group as those who use FaceBook and Twitter, it is still a rather large contingent.

Privacy Concerns

Thankfully, all of the above listen services have customizable privacy settings so that you can choose what is seen by everyone, what is seen by friends and what is private. Not everyone is going to want to share their past with the entirety of the Internet and there is be some people that for whom this is a very private endeavor.

In conclusion

Memory engineering is a new and interesting way to keep track of your life and remind you where you were and when, as well as allowing you to share those experiences with friends and family. In some cases, it can be useful for crafting a biography, such as in the case of using memo lane where stories are a feature of the program. This is a trend that I believe will be seeing much more attention as time goes on and will change the way people interact with the internet and keep track of their lives and memories. Truly, we are becoming life bloggers.

Read More

Google’s Galaxy Nexus and the Ice Cream Sandwich: A big player arrives

  • Posted On  2015-07-13 03:27:16 by Blog

Let’s get it out of the way, first of all.  Just about every article that you read about the new Android software is going to throw at least one cutesy pun in about the name.  So we’re putting in our veto now: no food jokes here.

More than in most cases it would really miss the point.  The Galaxy Nexus and the Android 4.0 operating system it utilizes, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, looks to already be a major entry in the phone and tablet wars.  This is no minor release.  There is every reason to believe that this might be even bigger than all of the hype says it is.

Riding the cresting waves

Part of what makes this debut so important is that it turns on the turbocharger for a number of trends that were already flying high.  Possibly the biggest of these is the Android operating system.  Its initial release was a mere three years ago, and the 3.x Honeycomb versions were only released this year.  Today there are an estimated 190 million Android capable devices in use, with another half million activated every day (that’s about 8 every second)!

Part and parcel with that is the supernova that is Google.  This company is simply on fire.  Name just about anything related to the internet.  At this point, either Google has their own version of it, or they’re working on it.   It’s clear from the various news releases that there is going to be monumental support for both this operating system and this device.

What makes Ice Cream Sandwich so special?

The primary design goal behind Android 4.0 was to create an operating system that could work equally well on tablets on phones, eliminating fragmentation.  Given how ubiquitous this would make it, Google put immense redesign effort into just about every aspect of it.  While it is described as still being intuitive to 3.0 users, even the compacted list of features and improvements is far too long to list.

Where do we start?  Perhaps the interface is best.  The physical buttons have been replaced with virtual ones.  This creates a lot of versatility, as the phone uses a hefty 1280×720 resolution, and the icons can be moved all around.  An even better, and long overdue customization, is the ability to disable any application, including pre-loaded ones, so long as its functioning is not an integral part of ICS itself.  To pretty things up further, Google debuts a new font with this OS called “Roboto”.

A slew of minor improvements and ideas follow this.  Many of them, unsurprisingly, are to the Gmail interface, which now contains an offline search, the ability to swap between multiple conversations with specific gestures, and two-line previews.  Chrome also comes with some new toys such as “Request desktop site”, which will load your bookmarks and settings from your PC.  Stepping out of the Google-specific stuff, the user can make a new folder by simply dragging one application over on top of another, there is a “Recent Applications” icon, and you can access apps directly from the lock screen.

The fancy stuff

The lock screen is a good segue into one of the most talked-about new features: facial recognition unlocking.  The phone lets you unlock it by simply showing your face.  Purportedly in tests this had to be slowed down because it was working so fast that it ran the risk of convincing users that the lock was never on in the first place.

While this may be one of the most talked-about features, though, it so far isn’t the most well-received.  A demo of the feature failed (it was claimed later that they used the wrong person), and many users expressed doubts about the value of this service, especially since the phone includes alternate unlocking mechanisms.

What might be a little more exciting is the improved communication between phones via a new feature dubbed Android Beam, which makes use of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology.  Two phones tapping this within short communications range of each other are able to easily send data back and forth between them.  Adding to the improved voice recognition software is now voice typing, allowing the user to type by talking.  Lastly, the People app will load data from social networking sites for any contact that you enter.

What about the phone itself?

With all of the advancements in the OS, it might get missed that this is also a high-quality phone.  It certainly has some strong specs: a dual-core 1200MHz processor, 1G RAM, 3D graphics accelerator, just about every type of connector you might want, 32GB internal memory, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a compass and a barometer are all on-board.  This phone is loaded.  On the downside some early reviews state that the responsiveness of the phone is merely par for the course, and lags behind some competitors.

The camera also boasts some upgrades.  It takes a standard 5 megapixel pictures with LED flash, auto focus, digital zoom and records 1080p video at 30 frames per second.  More advanced is that it boasts zero shutter time, and can take panoramic pictures.

Is this really that big?

While no one can tell the future, the amount of buzz this phone is generating is only equaled by things that start with a lower-case “i”.  Android is staking a serious claim in the operating system world: just recently AT&T increased its selection of Android-capable phones to 19, shattering its promise at the start of the year of 12 for 2011.

This has resulted in a cacophony of rumors over which new and old devices are going to be equipped with ICS.  For upcoming products, the talk seems to state that just in November alone we’ll start seeing more devices capable of running it.  For older ones, Google has promised to try to make it adaptable to some more recent phones, but stressed that they are going for quality over quantity.  Current smoke says that if your phone is more than 3 major device introductions removed from this one, don’t get your hopes up.

Google right now is thundering down the information superhighway, picking up speed at every turn.    From everything we’ve seen, the release of the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich could potentially be one of the major events in the current phone and tablet revolution.

Read More

Competition in Social Networking: The Rise of Google+ and the Status of FaceBook

  • Posted On  2015-07-13 03:25:18 by Blog

It’s been seen all over the tech world news, people are increasingly displeased with FaceBook and their questionable privacy practices  as well as their increasing addition of new features without even a previous statement giving the user the opportunity to choose if they wish to implement them at this time. It has also been a well-known fact that, generally speaking, Google has not gotten the hang of social networking, just yet.

Thankfully, those days are now over. When Google announced its newest social networking initiative, Google+, most people were, of course, skeptical. After all, Buzz shared all of their contacts information and their own publicly and angered their users to no end. It also brought the company under an oversight committee with the FCC for the next 20 years. So on June 28th 2011 when a limited field trial of Google+ was announced on the official Google blog, there were those who were generally not that interested or impressed. However, as time went by and invitations were beginning to circulate, an amazing thing occurred: IT was proclaimed that Google finally got their user-friendly privacy laden social networking engine!

Spam Infested Walls and Poorly Managed Groups

The timing of this release could not have been better, truly. During this time period, FaceBook had begun making improvements to how the social networking giant handled everything from personal details and security to how friends lists were displayed, and there were very few users who were satisfied, let alone happy with the changes. Their news feeds were being dominated by those applications that now had free reign to post on friends’ walls crowding out the actual status updates with games like “Fish-ville” and “Sims.” Users were also finding that their groups were being attacked and changed, a move that made it impossible for the group leader to interact with their group members no matter how long the group had been in existence without beginning again from moment one and re-inviting them to join the group.

Many users had been asking for the option of further defining their friends groups so that updates could be further managed. While FaceBook made a move to have options for showing a particular post only to XYX friends list or to exclude XYZ person or group of friends, it was clunky and the rules must be set for each post. Google+ learned much it seems from the problems that FaceBook has been facing. With a neatly streamlined interface, users are given “circles” of friends that are user defined. When posting, you are given a prompt to choose which circles you wish to share this with, or if you want to share it publicly, with all users.

Profiles, Interests, and User Choice

Another feature of Google+ that users find to be a better executed version of a FaceBook feature is how interests appear. On FaceBook, in the sidebars of your page, there are listings for interests such as: actresses, movies and establishments. There is the option to “like” them, adding a listing in your profile of goodness only knows how many listings. From the most inane like “sleep” and “food” to the names of bands and movies, your profile becomes cluttered with this mess! Taking a lesson from these oft voiced issues, Google+ Created what they call “sparks”. These are user interests and, when searched for and chosen, only the ones that you mark specifically are added to your sparks file and you receive updates on your news feed for only those that you chose.

Chat and Archiving

When it comes to chat, Google+ uses their ever stable G chat which rarely, if ever, freezes or otherwise disrupts the browser of the user, and saves conversations within your G mail in a special folder meant for them. Unfortunately, FaceBook seems to not yet understand the need for a stable chat engine or for easy archiving of said conversations. Regularly FaceBook chat will freeze a user’s browser and messages get stashed away in your in-box, making it impossible unless you have an excellent memory to tell a conversation from an in-box message.

Also, a much clamored-over feature that FaceBook users have been rallying for is Video conferencing and group chat. While these features are now available on FaceBook, Google+ was launched with them available and working without any freezing or slowing of your system or even distortion of sound.


FaceBook has been charged with many privacy issues, especially lately, including:

    Data mining: Where information is gathered about a person through their website usage and used to advertise other services to them. The information gathered is often sold to a third party.

    Customization Issues: FaceBook only allows for plain text to customize your site, unlike some of its more popular contenders. Due to this however, innovative minds have begun creating and using hacks to customize their sites, causing others to become infected with their hacks (usually Java Scripted) and slowing down their system.

    Lack of live support: In our 24/7 lives, customer service that is live and reachable at any time around the clock is crucial. Especially since FaceBook sells credits for its widely-used games, questions about billing are sure to arise.

Google+, while in its infancy, is working out the kinks as they go along.

    Privacy: Google+ is fueled by your Google profile which in its default settings is 100% search-able.

    Service Linking: Google is fond of linking all of its services to create a suite of programs that can be used together or separately. Be certain of what Google products are being drawn upon when you sign up and begin posting.

    Copyright: A not well known clause in their terms of use make anything that you post using Google+ the property of Google and can be used in any way that they see fit. This, as I am sure you can imagine, makes some waves.

In conclusion

While FaceBook and Google+ both have their flaws and their upsides, it is being shown now that what was once the product or service on every person’s lips, there will always be new innovations in social networking. It has become such a large part of how to communicate with our loved ones, coworkers and friends that seeing more streamlined and more secure services will be the path that any and all social networking sites must take if they wish to survive. Google+ is here to stay. However, so is FaceBook, as they will eventually serve two different demographics. Our prediction is that Google+ will become the social network of the 20-30 something business people while those younger and older will gravitate towards busier FaceBook.

Read More

The Qwikster Debacle – What we can Learn from it

  • Posted On  2015-07-13 03:21:37 by Blog

Nothing reminds you so quickly of the fact that even CEOs of major corporations are human than when they royally screw up.  When they come right out and admit it in short order, you really wind up dropping a lot of whatever agitation you feel at their six-or-seven-figure salary.  Suddenly you just want to forget it all, take them out somewhere and buy them a beer.

Maybe I’m letting my nice-guy side show a bit here.  Some of the angriest Netflix refugees would surely say so.  That does, though, seem to be about where a lot of the Netflix community is after the cancellation of the fascinatingly wrong-headed disaster known as Qwikster.

How did such a beloved company fall so far so fast?  And what do we have to learn from it?  Let’s go to the instant replay.

The quick and dirty summary – and it’s both

Following a July 2011 price hike that was huge and poorly received (even as price hikes go), Netflix made the decision to branch off its DVD business from its streaming business.  Netflix would still handle all streaming content.  The DVD side of their business would be split into a separate company called “Qwikster.”  A blog post from Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, first apologized for the company’s bad communication, and then gave a brief summary of the coming changes.

Despite the fact that there seemed a genuinely contrite tone in his post, reaction to the announcement was swift and toxic.  One user responded with the comment “I’m afraid your letter will go down as the oddest suicide note in history.”  Perhaps having seen it, Hastings, in turn, remarked three days later, “In Wyoming with 10 investors at a ranch/retreat. I think I might need a food taster.”

The bad press and worse customer reaction piled on unmercifully.  Whatever reasons that there might have been for the change from an internal perspective, customers could see no immediate way that this benefited them, and a lot of ways that it didn’t.  Customers would have to keep two separate accounts with separate information.  When you rated movies on one service it wouldn’t show up on the other.  This just seemed to make everything more complicated for no good reason.

This is the end

Finally, not a month after the initial announcement, Netflix issued their surrender.  In a contrastingly curt note, Hastings announced that the changes would be scrapped.  User reaction to this was split.  Some were just so agitated by everything that had happened that they weren’t in the mood to applaud much of anything.  Others appreciated that the company was listening to their customers, admitting to an error, and changing course.

What fallout will come from this whirlwind remains to be seen.  One minor unknown is the fate of by-mail video game rentals.  This was originally packaged as one of the few new benefits to Qwikster.  Whether or not it will still happen is undetermined.

The bigger question is whether or not Netflix will survive this collapse.  Estimates are that the price hike alone lost them 1 million of their 25 million customers.  There’s no word yet on how much lower they might go now.  Message boards are filled with users declaring their departure, but this is, of course, an unscientific metric.  Still, even after the reversal, Netflix’s stock continued to drop.

Why did they even think it was a good idea?

Using our 20/20 hindsight, it seems hard to think of any reason in favor of this.  Much speculation surrounded the initial decision.  Some of the theories included:

    Licensing issues – Movies are licensed separately for different formats.  With a company that handles more than one, sometimes access to one license is used as leverage against another. Splitting the companies would prevent this, and help Netflix show more diverse streaming content, a constant customer complaint.
    Streaming costs – One related theory suggested that a split would reduce Netflix’s streaming costs, by reducing the number of users who could potentially pull from it.  Again, a price drop would result in greater selection.
    Subtle murder – Some believed that Netflix wanted to find a way to kill off its DVD business entirely while making it look like something else forced them to pull the plug.  Splitting the business would be all the cover they needed.

In truth, though, the main problem with this attempted maneuver is that, whatever the reasons for it were, it was something meant to benefit the company and not the customer.  One commentator pointed out that if they had actually worded it this way, they could have gotten away with it.

The lessons learned

They didn’t, though, and what’s done is done.  Let’s use this, then, to look at some of the lessons we can learn from this debacle.

    Communicate with your customers – No, really, communicate at all times.  Customer bases around the world have been begging for this for years.  They perhaps don’t realize that a little goes a long way. Maybe this incident will reinforce that point.
    Remember that your customers are not helpless – An arrogant company can convince themselves that they can change whatever they want, and their users will learn to love it.  Remember how well that worked for New Coke?  For that matter, even Facebook is feeling the pinch from pushing their “innovation” a bit too far.
    Don’t be afraid to admit your errors – This is the one thing that Netflix got right.  Yes, he got some “flip-flop” heat for backtracking, but those people got jumped on themselves.  Admitting that you are wrong and that you’re listening to your customer base can only do you good.

It remains to be seen whether or not Netflix can rebound from this pair of dueling blunders.  This isn’t a very forgiving economy right now.  Making timing worse is that a crowd of competitors is set to jump into the streaming market, whether or not Netflix falls.  Even Blockbuster, who Netflix themselves pushed down the ladder, is getting into the act.

There are a lot of loyal users who still hope that Netflix can pull themselves out of this mess.  If so, maybe someday they’ll really be able to share a drink with Mr. Hastings and laugh about it all

Read More

A Comparison of Lesser-Known Tablet PCs

  • Posted On  2015-07-13 03:18:25 by Blog

The tablet PC is where it’s at, and the computing world is reacting accordingly.  This means that in addition to the biggest names like the iPad and Kindle variants, a number of also-rans are jumping into the fray. Our review explores some of the tablet alternatives that have received the most positive attention.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

The first version of the Galaxy Tab was one of the opening salvos in the tablet wars.  It was decently received, though it had a number of significant problems, most notably in its performance.  The 10.1 model was released in the summer of 2011, and while reviews of it still noted some problems, overall scores were far higher.  One review called it “the best Honeycomb [Android] tablet to date”.

When the Galaxy Tab was first released it was criticized, famously by Steve Jobs, for its small size.  While most reviewers mentioned this first thing, not all of them said it was really a negative.  Besides its greater portability, the Galaxy Tab still manages to squeeze onto it a 1024×768 resolution.  Smaller-sized tablets have since taken off as a major sub-market; sorry, Steve.

Its harlequin black-on-front-white-on-back design has been called a thing of beauty.  Of course you’re buying a computer, not a painting.  To that end, the reviews of its under-the-hood performance have been markedly better than that of its initial release.  It seems to have been given a little bit of improvement in just about all areas as opposed to a great leap forward in any one or two, but in this case that’s a good thing.  Overall reviews of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 found a solid piece of equipment all around with little in the way of major sticking points.

Find Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 on Google Shopping.
RIM BlackBerry PlayBook

We feel it appropriate to close our reviews with a BlackBerry model, as the BlackBerry was one of the main combatants in the smart phone wars from a thousand years ago.  The BlackBerry Playbook is another smaller model, with comically miniscule buttons: the power button is all of a few millimeters in diameter.  Like other smaller models, though, it sports an impressive resolution.  Its screen is also 1024×768, and its 5 megapixel backside camera can notably take video at 1080p.

Adobe Flash is fully supported out of the box, something which has become a major differentiating point among tablets.  This is largely due to the fact that the tablet runs its own in-house operating system designed to work well with Adobe, the creatively-named BlackBerry Tablet OS.  The downside of this operating system is that application support is not high.  The PlayBook includes no native email or calendar applications, and its online app library isn’t big.  It also has no support for Android applications, though developer company Research In Motion states that this is on its way.

In the end reviews were strongly mixed, with the BlackBerry Playbook getting both strongly negative and strongly positive scores.  It’s hard from looking at the evidence for us to make a clear case for either, but it does seem to be a good bet that this tablet will be around for a while.

Find RIM BlackBerry PlayBook on Google Shopping.
Motorola Xoom

The Motorola Xoom came out in February of 2001 and was considered one of the first major competitors to the iPad.  A primary reason for this was the introduction of Android 3.0, the Google-based operating system developed specifically for mobile and tablet devices.  Indeed, most of the early reviews of it highlighted the system’s efficient processing and ease of use.  Though benchmarking Androids suffers from inherent measurement problems, the Xoom typically scored high.

What a difference a year makes, though.  The Android has become the new hot OS, available in more than three dozen different tablets.  This has caused the Xoom’s shine to wear off a bit.  Recent reviews of it aren’t nearly as glowing as ones from earlier in the year.  Given that the price hasn’t really come down and is still hovering at around $600 with a 2-year contract, it may have lost whatever edge it might have had.

Looked at in a vacuum, though, it still seems a good piece of technology.  It has some odd design points, such as speakers and a power button in the back, and a docking station for video output.  It also includes an inclinometer, accelerometer, magnetometer and barometer!  In terms of computing power and usability, it still seems like a solid selection, and one that the market continues to embrace.

Find Motorola Xoom on Google Shopping.
T-Mobile G-Slate

The G-Slate was next on the Android parade.  That seems to have opened up the floodgates, as a slew of other tables subsequently jumped on this new OS.  This was good for the G-Slate, since at the time the lack of a large application library was one of its down sides.  The price of $530 with a 2-year contract didn’t help matters, though T-Mobile apparently took this criticism to heart, as it’s now available for $299 with the same deal.

As for the tablet’s specifications, the new feature used to attempt differentiation from other tablets is a pair of 3D cameras on the tablet’s back.  This produces an old-style dual-color image, and purchase of the tablet comes with a pair of red/cyan glasses.  Reviews of this feature were lukewarm.

Overall, counting in physical and technical aspects, the G-Slate was at the time considered a major contender, with reasonably fast surfing, few bugs and comfortable handling.  User reviews on the whole since its release have been moderately positive, and support for it appears to still be going strong.

Find T-Mobile G-Slate on Google Shopping.

ExoPC. It’s difficult at this point to give any strong recommendations to any tablet running Windows 7.  Windows 8 is on the horizon, and with the amount of development and attention being given to this tablet-centered OS, it seems a sure bet that Windows 7 tablet support will fall to non-existent at record-breaking speed.

Even forgetting that issue, reviews of the tablet were mixed.  One web site gave it high scores, particularly for its sensitive touch screen and intuitive user interface.  Others found a number of bugs and performance issues.  Its large, high-resolution screen and high sound quality are among its highest points.  Its weight and short battery life are among its lowest.  Overall it seemed like a decent enough mixed bag, but given the rapid market changes, it’s hard to guarantee that this tablet now approaching its first birthday has a much longer shelf life.

Find ExoPC on Google Shopping.

These are very quick summaries of some of the well-reviewed tablets out there.  These aren’t the only tablets, and even for the above there are many fine points that the consumer will want to take a closer look at before purchasing.  We’re in the tablet era now, but these toys are no cheap thrill.  With your list of options increasingly rapidly, there is no reason to go haphazardly throwing your money away.

Read More