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The Mystery of the Lexar SSD

It was a dark and stormy evening as I walked the aisles at our local Eden Prairie, MN Costco store. Imagine my delight at discovering a display selling a Lexar 512GB solid state drive (SSD) for only $124.99! Not only was this an unheard-of price for such a tiny little drive with a big capacity, the next-closest competitor last week was Samsung’s T3 500GB for close to $200 (available here at Amazon for $197.99).

When I got home I immediately tried it out and experienced the amazing write-speeds from my SSD iMac to this external SSD (44GBs transferred in just over 4 minutes). My wife took one look at it and said, “I want one!” so I went back the next day to buy one and they were all gone (and there were at least 50 available when I bought mine the night before).

No worries,” I thought. Figuring I’d find them online I searched and searched and searched. The only place I could find them were on eBay from some miscellaneous seller with lukewarm reviews (at a higher price too) and I’m not about to do that.

This is the smallest, high capacity external SSD drive I’ve seen yet.

Unable to find any of these drives anywhere but eBay, I finally tweeted to @LexarMemory to see if they could solve the mystery of these apparently unavailable SSDs and point me in a direction where I could buy one:

I connected with tech support and essentially received an “Um…I dunno” but a bit more information was revealed about these SSDs being available “in a limited number of stores.” With my experience working as a manufacturer’s rep in consumer electronics in the late 70s and 80s, it is highly likely that this SSD’s Costco appearance was a dry-run to see how this drive, at this price-point, would sell.

Based on how quickly these drives sold out this test was most certainly a success. That said, I’d strongly suggest that LexarMemory get a move-on rolling these drives out at retail since Western Digital just announced this tiny SSD drive (in three capacities: 256GB; 512GB; and 1TB) and they are a much more recognizable hard drive brand than Lexar.

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Why My iPad Pro 9.7" is Perfect

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Apple announced the new iPad Pro 9.7″ and looking over its tech specs I knew I had to order one…and did right away….and it arrived March 31st. I’ve now used it daily for over a month and the “wow” factor has died down somewhat, so today seemed like the perfect one to jot down my impressions.

Why My iPad Pro 9.7″ is Perfect
OK. Perfect might be too strong a word since there really isn’t such a thing in technology. Devices and tech overall is a continuum and the moment you buy something that sinking feeling that, “…if I’d only waited until…” comes over you as you realize the next iteration of it will be better, cheaper and faster.

For me, the reason I’d use a superlative like “perfect” is because it is so much better than any other iPad I’ve used before. It’s very fast; best battery life ever; the screen, and Apple’s True Tone display technology, is stunning; and when paired with the Apple Pencil it finally lets me take notes like I was writing on paper without all the futzing around making sure my wrist wasn’t leaving digital ink marks all over the page.

apple-pencil2Seriously. That note taking capability is my killer-feature. It is something I’ve wanted to be amazing and perfect from day-one with iPad but it was not. Handwriting sure is now though! There are several note-taking apps I use but have settled on these three and each has their one defining feature for me:

1) Notes Plus: Has built-in character recognition that’s pretty good if your handwriting is legible (I print vs. cursive so it works great)

2) Noteshelf: Numerous features I love and use often like Dropbox backup, but the stationary (in-app purchases) templates are remarkably useful

3) Microsoft OneNote: The handwriting is under “Draw” so is really for sketching (no character recognition) but I use OneNote for organizing so many aspects of our three businesses (as well as my many side projects) that I like having it work well on iPad and the Draw capability is a bonus.

But Steve, Can iPad Pro Improve?
Like I said above, the next version will be better, faster and probably the same price instead of ‘cheaper’, but it’s likely I’ll have this one for at least two years. Especially since I spent over $1,000 on it and accessories (gulp) and I don’t use it as a primary computing device anyway due to its limitations.

Where I think the big value will lie is with removing more of those limitations within iOS itself. As you know if you’re an iPhone or iPad user already, there are inherent security model aspects to iOS that are quite stringent when it comes to apps sharing data with one another (i.e., you cannot). Because of those security concerns, almost every highly productive task I can easily perform on my iMac or Macbook Pro requires several additional steps and apps to accomplish on iPad.

Those multiple steps just make me mad and frustrated all the time and this “nearly perfect” iPad only removes a fractional amount of that frustration due to its speed. But one thing is certain: Apple will continue to improve iOS along with their devices.

Should You?
Should you buy the ‘Pro’ or stick with the regular iPad? Only you can decide on what you need, but if note-taking or sketching is something you will do often then the Pro model is it. I’ve had mine for nearly six weeks now and I feel delight every time I use it…it’s that good…and I’m using it frequently throughout each day, every day.

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Apple's 'Special' Financing is Special Alright!

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Just went on Apple’s web store to see about lead times for shipping the new iPhone 6. When I clicked to check financing options, this “Limited time offer” appeared.

Check out the paragraph below the “Apply Now” button where it states:

The purchase APR will be 22.99% or 26.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness.

Those are interest rates that a mobster named Lenny-the-kneecapper would love, no doubt. If you choose one of these payment options and miss one payment or are late, the interest rates kick in. It simply is a bad option and why so many people get in to debt with interest rates that mean you end up paying double, triple or more for a device like this one.

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Amazing at the Time: Dad's First Calculator in 1973

Adler 81 calculatorA few weeks ago my sisters and I held an estate sale at my father’s house since he had passed away in March at the age of 87 (a tribute site to him is here). One device didn’t sell and I should never have put it into the estate sale in any event: Dad’s first calculator.

In 1973 my Dad brought home an amazing device: a small hand-held electronic calculator called the Adler 81. We were stunned that it could do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and you could (sort of) slip it in to your pocket or purse. He showed it off to the neighbors, brought it out at a party mom and dad had at our house to “wow” their guests, and everyone else he showed it off to were suitably impressed.

Until they found out the price, that is: At the time it listed for $175 and his company bought it for him for $150 dollars in early 1973. To put that into perspective in today’s dollars (using the Consumer Price Index as a measure) the relative value of that $150 in today’s dollars would be $775!   [Read more…]

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YOU Might Already be a Victim of a Cramming Scam

Click for an UPDATE on 10/7/14
The New York Times had this article in the “Money” section yesterday about mobile text messaging scams. It’s likely you won’t pay attention to this scam until YOU are a victim, but you might already be one so read on.

Sick with the flu one weekend this past January I’d gone to bed early on a Sunday night only to be awakened by two back-to-back text messages arriving on my iPhone at about 2am. Having been in the internet/web industry since its beginning in the mid-1990s, I instantly recognized the potential for charges from this scammer so I sat up, grabbed my iPad, and started poking around to see if either the message identifier (the “318-50” in the screengrab below) or the toll-free 866-861-1606 number was an active scam.

I was stunned to learn it is a scam and even ignoring the message meant my account would be charged $9.99 PER MONTH

Based upon the sheer volume of complaints I found during my searching online shows that this scam is rampant, apparently is seeing little-to-no preemptive action on the part of the wireless carriers, and many, many mobile users are being charged monthly fees. This fraud is commonly known as cramming.

I am writing this post for the express purpose of bringing this issue to your attention. If *I* can get scammed (and I am VERY cautious, careful and savvy about online scams and still don’t know how my number was discovered) I can only guess how pervasive this is and that it appears the carriers are likely complicit in perpetuating these cramming scams since they apparently receive 30% of all subscription fees collected..

What is this scam and what can you do?  [Read more…]

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We are Media

If you are not working on your skills in communication—or mentoring others like your kids, staff, spouse and colleagues so their skills improve—you should probably quit now and get a job with zero human interaction.

Why? Because right now being media literate is not just the skill to critically thinking about the media you’re consuming, but today (and going forward) media literacy will be primarily how good you are at discovering great content from others; aggregating it in a way for you to keep it handy; and curating that content so you’ll be able to deliver the essence of your pitch, argument, point of view, opinion, set of facts, or whatever needs to be communicated to one or more human beings.

I’ve always loved an audience, starting from the time I was a little kid. The photo above is of my older sister Nancy and I hamming it up for my Mom so that she could have a photo with us incredibly enthused by this magnificent gift (cool…but not magnificent). I remember charging other kids admission for shows, being the emcee, and loving it.

In fact, I began blogging in 2004 and podcasting in 2005 to scratch that itch. I had A LOT to learn about being an effective writer, all about microphone technique, and how to pull together a show others would find interesting and worth their time to give it a listen. Having done some on-camera work I was comfortable with that, though never felt compelled to do much of that other than inside the occasional screencast with me introducing the content with a brief talking head introduction.

Though I was teased good-naturedly by other executives when I ran strategic alliances at Lawson Software about my podcast specifically (and one exec played mine before a big meeting started and got lots of chuckles from others in attendance), I’ve since coached and mentored several of them on how to effectively leverage video, podcasting, blogging and social media in general.

What I find is those who cannot effectively communicate with media are already at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace, especially if one is in a leadership position or aspires to become a leader. One woman I know was so nervous about “being seen” that she would dig her fingernails in to her palms so that the pain would keep her focused on the interview and not how she felt! Kudos to her for sticking with it as she’s incredibly comfortable now being interviewed on TV, via webcasts and on podcasts. These skills she honed in a year and is still surprised today how her communicating with new media has become such an imperative in her job in marketing and her focus on social media.

NOT becoming media literate with creating content will be (and maybe already is) as important a skill as knowing how to use a computer is for most jobs today. If you’re not literate, people will automatically assume that “you don’t get it” and are somehow a bit of a dolt, not savvy and clearly behind the times.

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Quit Whining About The iPad Interface

There has been a fair amount of iPad bashing going on with the lack of multitasking, limited ability to create content (or at least as flexibly as when using a mouse-driven computer) and the constraints put on developers by Apple.

Man….does this ever bring up memories and an analogy that you might find interesting!

When Apple introduced the Macintosh in 1984, they simultaneously published Apple Human Interface Guidelines which specifically outlined how to build an application that leveraged the supplied interface “toolkit” in ROM so that there would be a consistent user experience across applications (e.g., people would always know where “Quit” was under the “File” menu). There were howls of protests from developers over “the constraints Apple is imposing on us” and “command-line driven applications are so much more flexible than ones that have to fit in to the “File>Edit” metaphor” as well as “who does Apple think they are telling us how to build and deliver great applications?

Sound familiar to today’s whining about the iPad? Look at the original Microsoft MS-DOS driven personal computers and the graphical user interface (GUI) on the Macintosh (and its predecessor, the Lisa). Which would you rather use?

Yes, all of us have become pretty adept at the GUI and all the applications we use today are optimized for that human interface paradigm. Will a transition to any other form of human interface be painful? Absolutely, especially since we’ve all been using GUIs since the mid-1980s! You know that it’s easy to look back and see that a GUI-driven computer world was a much better one to live in than a command-line one, but it’s more difficult to look in to the future to see what a touch-driven computing world will look like.

Apple has published iPad Human Interface Guidelines and it’s pretty clear that the time has come for the computer to take the next leap. Many are discussing it and this post by Keith Kleiner at the Singularity Hub is a good overview of some of the thought leading technologies being explored with this next generation touch paradigm.

The iPad is the first mass market product to embrace this paradigm and make it palatable to everyone, with the possible exception of the whining developers, tech geeks and others who see it as too limiting, closed or different. Is the iPad without warts? Nope and it’s certain to improve and competition will abound. But every time I look at the landscape of human-created products, services, religions or any other endeavor, absolute perfection seems to be missing so get over it.

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Your Perfect Social Media Input Device?

If you haven’t been paying attention to the continued improvements in handheld cameras, let’s just say that what’s being released in the handheld space is pretty amazing and you should pay attention if you’re involved in the ‘internets’ as a participant in any way and especially if you’re a social media user.

Back in April of 2007, I shot this SD video of the incredible ‘maker’, author, showman, and good guy, Bill Gurstelle, as he wow’ed the geeks at Minnebar with his potato bazooka. It was recorded with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 handheld camera which I’d purchased in the Fall of 2006 and, as you can see, it’s pretty good quality video, the sound is decent, and it does take great photos:

But now Nikon has announced their Coolpix S8000, a 14.2 megapixel, 10x optical zoom, 720p HD video, very low light (down to 3200 ISO), 4-way image stabilization, all for the great price of $299.95! That’s $100 less than I paid for that Panasonic over three years ago (which, I’m well aware, is ancient history in technology).

Though I’d always prefer to have my single device that can do everything (in my case, a 3GS iPhone) there are too many compromises with mobile devices and the low video and image quality disturbs me. The lack of “glass” on a mobile device lets in a lot less light and having the iPhone default to compressing both videos and photos before uploading means that most of the stuff sent to blogs, websites and social media spots look like crap.

So I’ve been thinking… [Read more…]

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Apple A4 Chip is the "Magic" & is "Revolutionary"

Couldn’t agree more with Jay Yarow at Silicon Alley Insider that The Real iPad Revolution is the A4 Chip That’s Running It. That is where the “magic” is and will set Apple apart for a very, very long time.

Many people seemed to wonder about Apple’s 2008 acquisition of PASemi, a small chip designer for $278M. Ever since I devoured former Apple CEO, John Sculley’s book “Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple : A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future“, where Sculley outlined the future of computers (in 1987, I might add) where chip designers would shrink functionality on to custom chips cranked out by fabrication plants for those designers, I’ve been a believer in this concept and wondered what has taken so long for a company to jump on this and do it.

Though it’s highly unlikely that Jobs would even acknowledge this vision from the guy that got him ousted from Apple and took the helm to the company’s detriment, it’s nice to see Apple driving forward on this concept that will give it competitive advantage no other company will be able to match.

Watching the keynote video I can only imagine what an A4, or its derivative, will mean for the nextgen iPhone certain to ship this summer!

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Exclusive: Apple iSlate photo?

Yep…this has about as much of a chance of being the “iSlate”, “iPad”, “iTablet”, or “iMiracleDevice” as any of the artist renderings I’ve seen. I must admit being intrigued by all the buzz and fun people are having with speculation about this rumored device — and yes, I do think there will be one and it will stun the world like the iPhone/iPod Touch has — but the “scoop du jour” frenzy will provide lots of misleading clues and pointers to stuff you should probably just ignore over the next few weeks.

By the way, this slate tablet is described here at National Geographic and is, “…a rare inscribed slate tablet dating back some 400 years, to the early days of America’s first permanent English settlement.

Both sides of the slate are covered with words, numbers, and etchings of people, plants, and birds that its owner likely encountered in the New World in the early 1600s.

The tablet was found a few feet down in what may be the first well at James Fort, dug in early 1609 by Capt. John Smith, Jamestown’s best known leader, said Bill Kelso, director of archaeology at the site.”