Getting Onto Tim Cook’s Radar

Jen's iMacLast week, I wrote about my wife’s broken iMac that’s just barely outside of a special warranty period. That post was meant to be an open letter of sorts. Something I’d hoped would get the attention of someone up high enough on the Apple food chain that they’d reconsider the warranty period and just go ahead and fix the computer. After posting that blog, I sent an e-mail to Apple CEO Tim Cook as well as the Apple corporate PR team, explaining the situation, including a link to that blog post. I was polite and courteous but I did reinforce my belief that Apple should fix the machine, making sure to emphasize that I’d post a followup blog here at GNC, giving the company a chance to pick up some positive “organic PR.” I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it but I figured I’d give myself 24 hours before throwing in the towel and shelling out the money for the iMac repair. I set a reminder for 1PM the next day to call the service center and authorize the repair, in the case that no one from Apple got back to me.

That 24-hour period passed by with no response from Cupertino. As soon as my phone chimed with that 1PM reminder, I called the service center and gave them the green light on making the repair. And then about five minutes later, it happened! My phone went off with an incoming call. I immediately recognized the phone number because I had seen it the day before. It was the Apple corporate office. It worked! I thought. My message got thru to someone at 1 Infinite Loop and they’re gonna do it! They’re gonna fix my iMac!

I answered the call and was met by the friendly voice of Jessica from Corporate Executive Relations at Apple. She assured me that she was at the corporate office and not at a call center. She said that Mr. Cook had received my e-mail and that he wanted to follow up on the situation. Jessica asked me to recount what had happened so far. I told her how the iMac had died, where we had taken it for service, the diagnosis of a bad video card, and the attempts that were made to get the repair approved thru Apple Care (including my case number, which she already had).

After reviewing things, she said that she was sympathetic to the situation. But, it looked like everything was handled correctly and that she was going to send me an e-mail with specific information on the video card replacement program. So, while the e-mail I sent did manage to get onto Tim Cook’s radar (or at least, the radar of someone in the corporate office), it ultimately didn’t do anything to change my case. With a certain air of disappointment, I thanked Jessica for reaching out and ended the call.

The iMac repair was already in process so there was nothing else to do other than wait for it to be done. I gueess it’s nice to know that Tim Cook, like Steve Jobs before him, has a public facing e-mail address, and that someone is reading it. Overall, Apple is within its rights to deny the post-warranty authorization. But it would’ve been really cool if they’d stepped up and approved it in the face of a technicality. Of course, Apple moves a lot of products and sidestepping its own policy like this could set a dangerous precedent for the company. Regardless, the iMac is now back from the store and working just as good as ever.

Pinterest Shares Plan for a More Diverse Pinterest

Pinterest logoPinterest has decided to go on record with their hiring goals for 2016. In addition, they are sharing their plan for reaching those goals. Pinterest is doing this because they are aware that there is not a lot of diversity in the tech industry. This is their way of increasing diversity.

In 2013, Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou kicked off the “Where are the numbers?” initiative. It revealed that there wasn’t much diversity in the people that companies were hiring in the tech industry. Since then, not much progress has been made.

Pinterest is making an effort to increase diversity by revealing their hiring goals for 2016. This is unprecedented. Doing so makes it easier for people to hold Pinterest accountable for reaching those goals. It also makes it clear that they are consciously intending to make a more diverse Pinterest.

Their hiring goals are:
* Increase hiring rates for full-time engineering roles to 30% female.

* Increase hiring rates for full-time engineers to 8% underrepresented ethnic backgrounds

* Increase hiring rates for non-engineering roles to 12% underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.

* Implement a Rooney Rule-type requirement where at least one person from an underrepresented background and one female candidate is interviewed for every open leadership position.

The Rooney Rule was created by Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the National Football League’s diversity committee. The rule requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior operation jobs.

Here’s how Pinterest plans to reach its hiring goals:
* Expand the set of universities we recruit from, and launch an early identification intern program for freshman and sophomore students from underrepresented backgrounds.

* Work with outside strategy firm Paradigm to set up Inclusion Labs at Pinterest, where we’ll experiment with new ways to improve diversity.

* Have every employee participate in training to prevent unconscious bias.

* Support the creation of a training and mentorship program to maximize the impact of Black software engineers and students, led by one of our engineers.

Angry Birds 2 is Now Available!

Angry Birds 2 logoAngry Birds 2 is now available for both Android and iOS. It is the sequel to the original Angry Birds game. The app can be downloaded for free. The game is still made by Rovio.

As you might expect, there have been some changes made to the game since the original version. That’s not unusual for any mobile game that has a 2 in it’s name. For example, there were huge visual differences between Zynga’s Farmville and Farmville 2.

Ubergizmo reports that much of the gameplay in Angry Birds 2 is similar to the original Angry Birds. The new version includes animations, new effects, and dynamic lighting that Rovio was unable to put into the original version (which was released in December of 2009).

The game now includes cards, which players can earn by destroying things. The more things a player destroys, the more cards he or she receives. Every fifth level is a boss level. Players can use feathers to level up the birds, and can choose which order they want to play the birds in. There appears to be more strategy involved in Angry Birds 2 than there was in the original Angry Birds.

Angry Birds 2 includes in-app purchases Players start the game with 3 lives. When players run out of cards, they have to stop playing. The player can either wait 30 minutes for the lives to regenerate, or can spend real world money on gems. It takes 60 gems to recharge one life.

Obviously, Angry Birds 2 is not the only mobile game that includes in-app purchases. Many of them do. It is up to the player to determine if it is worth it to them to spend real world money to continue playing Angry Birds 2 right now, or if it is a better idea to do something else for 30 minutes while the lives recharge.

Medium’s Rules Make Their Website Welcoming

Medium logoMedium has become one of the many websites that has created rules that are intended to help make their site a welcoming place for everyone. Medium explains: “Some parts of the Internet lack rules. This isn’t one of them.”

They also summarize their rules as “Don’t pee in the pool (metaphorically).” Considering that Medium is a website where writers share their work, it seems fitting that their rules include some creative descriptions. There are several things listed under the header “Things You Shouldn’t Do”, (and I suggest you read their list for full details).

Here are some of the things that you shouldn’t do at Medium:

Don’t threaten violence against anyone. A second rule says: “Don’t post anything relating to minors that is sexual or violent. Don’t bully or harass minors.

Don’t use hateful slurs. Medium reserves the right to take down hateful slurs, “which tend to silence others while adding little if anything”.

Medium will not tolerate bullying, harassment, public shaming, or posing private or confidential information about others on Medium. That includes posts that shame specific individuals (including images or altered images), and posts with altered or unaltered copies of private communications posted without the explicit consent of a party to the communication.

It also includes posts with non-public, personal information intended to target, blackmail, or harass people. You are also not allowed to post repeated personally insulting notes, responses, story requests, or writer requests on Medium.

In short, Medium has made it very clear they will not allow people to use their site as a means to harass or publicly shame someone else. The rules also state that you cannot post intimate or explicit images taken or posted without the subject’s explicit consent (including revenge porn).

Medium will not allow porn of any kind. Their rule on that says: “No porn. There are other places to post it. You know where they are.”

Another rule states: “Don’t post content that violates others’ privacy, including personally identifying or confidential information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, or non-public contact information. To me, this rule is saying “no doxxing allowed.”

These are just a few of the rules that Medium has created. It’s nice to see them be a part of the growing list of websites that have put rules in place that will make their website a safer, more welcoming, space for everyone.

UltraAV Mini DisplayPort Y-Cable Docking Station Review

minidockWhen it comes to Laptops these days manufactures are releasing them with fewer ports to connect gear. Often time you will need to buy either a limited expansion device by the manufacture or you have to make do and constantly unplug and plug in gear.

When Accell sent me their new UltraAV Mini DisplayPort Y-Cable Docking Station I was contemplating where to do the test.. With two Dell XPS 15 inch laptops in my home with my daughter owning one, I knew this would be a great opportunity for her to experience the benefit of having a dock for her mobile  / home life. For the past two weeks she has had it setup in her bedroom, along with a couple of my display port monitors. Today when I asked for her comments and the dock back,  she gave me that look ad said your not taking this away from me are you dad? My answer was yes it has to go back to the company, and she decided at that moment I was going to have to order her one she could keep. I think this is the first review that has cost me money but it is a testament to the dock.

With the Docking Station plugged into just her Display Port &  USB 3.0 port she was able to take advantage of the docking stations features. She loved being able to have three monitors, 3 USB 3.0 Ports, and have the Lan and other peripherals connected to it. Accell has packed a lot into this docking station making it one of the most robust after market docking stations I have seen in a long time. The docking station specs are below.

  • Provides two Mini DisplayPort 1.2 output ports
  • Expands a USB 3.0 port to three USB 3.0 ports
  • Includes one Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port
  • AC adapter with US, EU, AUS and UK power plugs
  • DP 1.2 max link rate: 5.4 Gbps (HBR2) per lane
  • DP++ enabled Mini DisplayPort outputs
  • Supports DP 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport (MST)
  • Ethernet supports Wake-on-LAN technology, crossover detection, auto-correction
  • Supports USB 3.0 Charging Downstream Port (CDP)
  • Compliance: DisplayPort 1.2, 1.1a, VESA DDM, HDCP 1.3, DisplayID and EDID 1.4

In a small compact package about the size of your hand you can place it anyplace on your desk or hidden for cable concealment.  Priced at $149.00 you cannot beat the price if you have a computer with a display port dock the best part is the ability to quickly unplug the two connections from the Y cable and go mobile all the while leaving everything on the desk hooked up.

accell2

Second Helpings with the OnePlus 2

Never SettleI’ll have to be honest….this morning’s OnePlus 2 launch event at 3 am was waaayyyy too early to entice me out of my bed when the alarm clock started ringing. I gave it a thump and went back to sleep. Sorry OnePlus but “Never Settle” doesn’t work at 3 in the morning. Still, I reviewed the launch with the help of the VR app and have to give that experience the full thumbs up. The VR part is good if you have Google Cardboard or similar, but even to have a 2D “in the audience” experience at a major launch event was fun and the Android app worked well – there was no faffing about finding the webpage and checking whether the PC has the right plugins. Major win as far as I’m concerned and something that should be taken on for other launch events.

OnePlus 2

With regard to the OnePlus 2 itself, things are much as expected for a flagship phone – 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB storage, though later in the year, there will be a cheaper version with 3GB RAM and 16GB storage. No change in the screen as far as I can tell, with a 5.5″ IPS LCD screen which is excellent in the One. Battery is up from 3100 mAh in the One to 3300 mAh in the 2.

Of course the big change is the inclusion of a fingerprint reader which will quickly unlock the OnePlus 2 with a finger press. Difficult to say how well it will work until I get hold of a 2 but I’m expecting it to be good and useful. The other new feature is the USB C port which is hard to get overly excited about. Yes, reversibility is handy and the flat cable tangle-free but wireless charging would have been even better.

OnePlus 2 USB C

The camera has been given a boost with the addition of an advanced Optical Image Stabilization system and rear-mounted laser focussing which sharpens the camera in microseconds. Sweet. As we knew beforehand, there are dual SIM slots for world-travellers and data hogs.

OnePlus 2 Rear Covers

For styling, the press release says, “Unified by a resilient, lightweight aluminium and magnesium alloy frame and stainless steel accents, the OnePlus 2’s sleek, minimalistic design marries durability and class with an unrivalled premium feel.” Translation – it’s got metal edges, looks cool and expensive.

Size-wise, the 2 is slightly smaller but fatter and a tad heavier this time round by 13g (like you’d notice). There’s going to be a selection of StyleSwap backs available from the original Sandstone Black and Bamboo to the new Kevlar, Black Apricot and Rosewood.

Lollipop-based (5.1) OxygenOS replaces CyanogenOS in the OnePlus 2 and continues the customisations seen in the One, including gestures and themes. There are some new features, including a dark mode for use at night, custom LED notifications and greater app permission control.

If you like what you see, how much is the 2 going to cost and when will it be available? The former is easy: the 64GB version will be GB£289, EU€399 and US$389, which frankly is a bargain. I’ll be ordering one as soon as I can, which brings us to the latter. As with the One, the 2 is going to be sold via invites but assuming you get an invite by hook or by crook, you’ll be able to order from 11 August with delivery around 3 weeks later.

OnePlus 2 Experience

To whet your appetite further, fans can visit one of nine pop up experience centres located around the world on 31 July to sign up for an invite and be one of the first in the world to see the OnePlus 2. Get in line.

 

Everyone Hates Ads that Cover the Screen

Google App Interstitial adWhat do you do when you visit a website that allows you to view the content for a second or two and then covers the entire screen with an ad? If you are like me, you rush to close the browser. A (very narrowly focused) case study by Google reveals that people are not a fan of those types of ads.

Personally, I hate it when websites give me two seconds to look at the article I wanted to read, and then cover the entire screen with an ad. It’s a confusing situation to be in, for about a second or two, until I realize what happened.

Where did that article go? Oh, it’s been buried beneath a huge ad. The next thing I do is close the browser. It’s quicker than trying to figure out where to click on the ad to make it go away. I don’t want to waste time searching for an x to click when I could be visiting a different website that has the same information that I wanted to read about.

I don’t use my phone to surf the internet, but I’m certain that if I did, I’d be equally eager to evade those annoying “in your face” ads. And, I wouldn’t be alone. Google did a case study on their mobile ads for the Google+ app. They used interstitials that covered the screen in an effort to make people aware of their app. They had a feeling that they should remove the ad, but wanted to gather data about it before doing so. Here’s what they found:

9% of the visits to their interstitial page resulted in the “Get App” button being pressed. Some of those who clicked that button already had the app. Some of them never followed through and installed the app. I suspect that these clicks were from people who were just trying to get the ad out of their way.

69% of the visitors to their interstitial page abandoned the page. These people didn’t go to the app store, and they didn’t continue to use the Google+ mobile website. In other words, they were annoyed by the ad that blocked what they wanted to see, so they went somewhere else.

Google then chose to remove the interstitial ad, and replace it with a Smart App Banner. One result was that 1- day active users on their mobile website increased by 17%. They have since retired the annoying interstitial ad that was chasing users away from their website.

If there is a moral to the story, it is this: If you want people to visit your website – don’t cover the entire website with an ad seconds after a person decides to give your website a try.

GNC #1050 Autonomous Mil Robots

Will the military ever have Autonomous Mil Robots personally I think there will always be a man or woman in the loop. I cannot imagine a time in my lifetime that armed drones, robots will be allowed to go full Autonomous. I have a stake of thought provoking and opinionated news for you.

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Busy Week in Mobile Phones

It’s going to be a busy week in the mobile phone space with both OnePlus and Motorola expected to announce new Android models. OnePlus hasn’t exactly been quiet in the run up to the event and Motorola’s suffered a few leaks in the process. Either way, it’s going to be fun to see what’s on offer before Google and Apple produce their annual refreshes later in the year. Nokia might be re-entering the smartphone market too but their latest announcement is shrouded in mystery.

ThOnePlus Logoe OnePlus 2 will follow on from the successful One, though with OnePlus stoking the rumour mill, it’s still hard to know fact from fiction. What has been confirmed is that it will have a fingerprint reader, 4GB RAM, a Snapdragon 810 processor, USB C connector and cost less than US$450. Some suggest that there might be more than one version of the 2 inbound, but if there is OnePlus haven’t mentioned so far.

Motorola M LogoOn the Motorola side, the teases us with “Your relationship is about to change” signed, “XGX Moto”. I think we can expect new Moto X and Moto G models and as Motorola tends to go with evolution rather than revolution, they’ll probably be much like last year’s, only better. Some have suggested that the two Xs might mean two models, but I think it’s just supposed to be “XOX” for hugs and kisses.

Nokia LogoFinally, Nokia might be re-entering the mobile phone space. There’s a VIP press conference in Los Angeles but no-one knows for sure whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet or a virtual reality headset. The invites featured “Nowhere” and “Now here” which led to much speculation with nothing concrete to go on. We’ll just have to see.

The OnePlus 2 announcement is at 7 pm PT on 27 July which is a very early 3 am UK time. Motorola have a far more reasonable 9 am ET on 28 July which equates to 2 pm here in the UK. Keep ’em peeled.

 

GNC #1049 Cord Cutting Growing

Cord Cutting is having a steady impact to cable companies business models. I can only see this trend accelerating. I hope you join me in Fort Worth on Friday for my induction into the Podcast Hall of Fame. Lots of tech so please enjoy the show.

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