Friday, January 29, 2010

Introducing the iPad, the iPod Touch for huge people...

First off, I'm not at all a "bash everything apple" guy. I think they are a tremendous hardware manufacturer, and they generally make some great software too.

At dinner last night I was sitting with two friends who adamantly defended the iPad and how cool it is. They also marveled at how low the price tag was, especially for a new apple device. Had to do all that I could to keep from spitting iced tea all over the table. When I watched the iPad launch video I sat silently, in disbelief. Steve was trying so hard to be enthusiastic about nothing new at all, like the ability to change the wallpaper to whatever you want. If you closed your eyes and couldn't see the device, you would have thought without question this was the release video for the iPod touch. It's the same device, only huge.

I'm not saying the iPad is useless, but I am saying its not such a game changing announcement at all. The iPad has some serious flaws that should have been addressed to make up for its bulk and help this device to stand out. The iPad needed to compete with netbooks and all the upcoming tablets, and I really don't it comes close. You're going to see a lot of other tablets begin to overshadow the iPad in terms of functionality (maybe not in the hype department though, Apple has got that market cornered). There will be a slew of Android based devices from lots of different manufacturers that will out of the box perform a lot of the same functionality and then some, including the Flash support that the iPad doesn't have.

Let us count the ways the iPad is lacking vs a Netbook
- no flash support
- no external storage device support
- no access to non apple media stores
- no built in web cam or camera, or mic for that matter
- can't angle the screen when device is on your lap
- no physical keyboard
- no SD card slot
- more expensive!

What Apple Should have released imo:
The iPad certainly should have had a mic, webcam, sd card slot, usb port for external devices, flash support, and it should come with the carrying case they sell as an accessory, and maybe a digital TV tuner or something to make it stand ABOVE what we already have.

I'll be waiting for the iPad G2 or whatever they will be calling it.

UPDATE: Just days Later We get the announcement that the JooJoo is set to hit the market and has most of the features the iPad is missing. It doesnt have the name recognition but it certainly looks good and has some serious specs to back it up... all for the same price as the iPad. Now that's what Apple should have done. Oh well maybe next time.

Check out the new device here:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Use Google Voice to Deal with Pushy Debt Collectors

It's happened to everyone. You receive a phone call from an unknown number and next thing you know they are informing you that they are recording your phone call. Lots of times after the conversation is over and you think you've made some progress explaining whatever the situation is, and you get a call the next day from someone else who has no idea what you've talked about, or what the previous person had promised you.

For me it was when a mystery account showed up on my credit report and now I had to fight to get it removed. Turned out years ago I was on a short term lease with someone who had stained the carpet in their bedroom. The management company had to replace it and billed it back to us, the tenants. I was unaware of this until seeing it show up on my credit report. After tracking down the collection agency assigned to the debt I began to get the equivalent of Navy Seal trained debt collection efforts in the mount of over $2,000. I wasn't personally responsible for the carpet, but I was on the lease after all. I did what anyone would do and asked them what the minimum amount was that they would accept to clear the debt (since of course they purchased the debt for pennies on the dollar). The process can be pretty daunting if it is considered a legitimate debt, but there are some things you can do to protect yourself when negotiating a settlement. One thing is to use Google Voice to record any conversations with the debt collectors to get them to keep their promises. These guys are shady and they are trained to be that way. For example they will always lie to you and tell you 1) they need an entire lump sum, and cannot accept payments (generally false) 2) they need it within 3 days or some ridiculous timeframe, etc. etc. If they hear 'voice recording is now on', they are much less likely to try and BS you.

It's funny how people change when they are on camera, or being recorded unexpectedly. Doing this is simple, log into Google Voice, press the call button, type in the number to the slimy bill collector, and it will ring your phone. Once they are on the call press the number 4 and you will hear 'call recording on'. Your call will be recorded and will be accessible from your Google voice account. You can even save the file for future reference.

One other good practice is to call them from google voice and record the call, then request they update their records with your Google voice phone number so you can record calls and you no longer authorize them to call your cell phone directly. Let them know it will ring the same phone. They are much less likely to refuse when they know they are being recorded.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Future of DJ Hero?

So this past weekend a friend stopped by with Activision's latest creation, DJ Hero. Not being a very big gamer in general I hadn't heard much about it at the time, but now I'm convinced that this is the beginning of something just as big as [if not bigger than :-0 ] guitar hero. I will start by saying I'm entirely biased. Guitar hero was great in concept for me but it lacked most of the music I prefer to listen to on a daily basis. Some of it is great, and timeless of course, but to me it would be more entertaining to play new fresh content, not the same oldies I've heard thousands of times. With DJ Hero it wasn't like that for me. Since these are original mixes I was in love with some of the tracks as well as disappointed by others, but the point remains, they've taped into something new and I'd like to illustrate a few of the ways they could make this game nothing short of incredible.

1 - Build on one game with expansion packs. A lot of people online are complaining about the music in DJ hero and as I said before I love some of it and really cant stand some of the other stuff. Give me an expansion pack loaded with mixes I like and dont force me to buy the crap I dont. If we were to break a lot of this up and let the people decide what they wanted we would have more happy campers out there and overall sales would make up for the losses. Be good to the consumer and they will return the favor.

2 - Include more than just hip hop, specifically Trance, House etc.. Yes the whole DJ thing is synonymous with hip hop, but it is a new world where electronic music is making a strong push. Look at Ultra Music Festival for example. This thing is getting bigger every year and its not showing any signs of slowing down. More than 85,000 people attended in Miami last year alone and the numbers have been climbing by more than 10,000 every year. Not to metion it only just started in 1999.

3 - Build a mix creator. The big obstacle for the game creator is licensing the music. So how can you affort to keep tons of fresh music available to consumers? Let individuals (or real DJs) purchase mix creation software and load their own music sources and design their own beginner, easy, medium, hard and expert tracks for their songs. Original music only, free online community, etc will ensure the game never gets old.

4 - Dual turn table edition. The turntable in DJ Hero essentially simulated dual turntables by use of the buttons on the vinyl itself. My theory is, the closer you can make the game to an actuall DJ experience, the more well accepted it will be and can even be adopted for training purposes for those looking to get into the real thing.

5 - Make a PC Version. The PC game market it a big one. Online community can exist there with much less limitations than console gaming enabling free reign on some of the ideas above. I know lots of people who don't bother with console gaming at all because of the great strides PC gaming has seen over the years. You've already got the hardware, you got the software which should be too difficult to port over to a windows based app, especially from your xBox based code, why not make a PC version?

6 - Genre Filtering - This game is about the music. Give me a simple way to select precisely what type of music I'm into. Let me deselect certain artists for example to hide them from the library. This leads into my next suggestion...

7 - If you have one huge music repository for all the tracks, integrate a song suggestion feature like pandora or apple's genius feature provides. Maybe one day I'm in the mood for classic hip hip, and another day I may want more electronic, while another day I may want rock / hip-hop mash ups.... help me get there.

8 - Customizable samples. A lot of the samples are a complete joke. If I hear that guy say 'check this out' one more time I may just shoot myself in the face. We need more, higher quality sounds and let me put together my own sample kit from the entire library, don't group some decent ones with crappy ones and make me use them all.

9 - Visualization mode. I never got into guitar hero for one of the same reasons I never touched world of warcraft. The cartooney nature of it was a little unbearable. Corney characters and visuals are a turn off. Why not offer a mode that just puts a simple visualization in the background that spins around and goes to the beat? Should be a simple addition and doesn't have to be the default mode by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe it can even be an unlockable item?

In short I'd like to see a DJ Hero experience that is more like my ipod collection. I want to listen to some good music, and the game is almost an accessory that helps me get into the music even more. If I can actually learn something about the real deal in the process I'm sold. If they can do this the game will begin to appeal to an entirely new market, and will be insanely entertaining.

Some of these ideas may happen while others will probably never see the light of day but I think even a few of these could make one hell of a game.

Finally I want to say, I'm not trying to take anything away from the game, I think its insanely addictive as is and a overall good time (my friends think so too), I just couldn't help but think about what else it could be.