The drone section of CES 2017 was one of the coolest areas of the show and DJI was king of the drones (as opposed to DaKingInDaNorf). The company showed off its latest and greatest, including the Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro. Since my brother is a freelance drone photographer in addition to being a fine musician, I checked out the latest DJI models on his behalf…and also because drones are pretty cool.
The DJI Mavic Pro was especially fascinating. In addition to being a full-featured drone, it’s foldable. It can break down to 83 x 83 x 198 centimeters, making it perfect for travel. Here’s the official press blurb, along with some photos I snapped.
Bartesian is an upcoming home appliance that aims to bring extreme ease-of-use to mixology. In many ways, it’s like the alcoholic-beverage equivalent of the popular Keurig coffeemaker. The base unit has four reservoirs that hold the liquors of your choice, while pods are inserted into the machine to make a tasty mixed cocktail. Forget about shaking, stirring, measuring the proper amounts, etc. Bartesian will make the drink you desire in seconds. It’s frickin’ genius!
The Bartesian hardware is quite handsome. It reminds me of several exotic coffeemakers that I’ve spied. It’s sure to spruce up the looks of any kitchen or wet bar it’s in. While the appliance looks great, the real magic is with the pods.
I recently received my first Amazon Prime Now order and was mostly delighted by the experience. For those of you not familiar with the service (only available in select cities), Prime Now is a mobile shopping service that offers delivery in two hours or less. The company claims that tens of thousands of goods are available though the service, including groceries, electronics, media, household supplies, and more. The products in my initial order were priced comparably to what they’d cost at Target or my local grocery store. With a stellar combination of speed and convenience, Amazon Prime Now is the future of shopping.
The Prime Now experience starts with an app, available for Android and iOS. Shopping with the app is okay — easily the weakest part of the Prime Now experience. The search features and grouping weren’t the best. The challenge of making thousands of items easy to find in an elegant app is tough and Amazon hasn’t quite figured it out. I would have preferred being able to shop on a full-featured site on my laptop and have my order sync with the app.
My first Prime Now order was for five six-packs of Zevia soda, three boxes of protein bars, and two large containers of yogurt. As I mentioned earlier, the prices were inline with local brick-and-mortar stores. In addition to the price of the goods, you have the option to tip the driver.The cool and nerdy part about Prime Now is that you’re able to track the progress of your order via GPS. The app notifies you when your order has left and you can see the driver’s progress on the in-app map. It’s similar to tracking an Uber driver or a friend that has given you an ETA via Waze.
As expected, Amazon’s packaging was very good. The soda and protein bars arrived in brown paper bags, while the driver kept the yogurt in an insulated bag while the order was en route. Everything arrived in great condition and the driver was very cheerful (he was geeking out about Prime Now too).
While the pricing was great for the products I ordered, it does pay to do some comparison shopping. Coupon cutters and shoppers that revere weekly grocery circulars will, of course, still want to hit up the local market to take advantage of sales. That said, I hate most brick-and-mortar retail experiences and love the convenience of Prime Now.
Hopefully the service continues to grow. I remember being enamored with online grocery services like Kozmo and Webvan when I was living in San Francisco…and having my heart broken when those companies went out of business. Amazon, of course, has much more money than those two companies and can afford to ride out any growing pains. Amazon also offers a much wider variety of goods, which should help Prime Now appeal to more shoppers.
I was very, very impressed by my first Prime Now experience. After some minor annoyances with the app’s search functions and sorting, it was a smooth experience. The speed and convenience were fantastic for me personally, while I love the disruptive nature of the service on a macro level. Certainly there are things that I still have to go to a proper grocery for (though Amazon is working with grocery chains in select regions), but Amazon Prime Now has everything else, as well as thousands of products that the grocery doesn’t have. I am absolutely sold on Prime Now.
Have any of you tried Amazon Prime Now? I’d love to hear about your experience with the service. If it’s not available to you yet, do you see yourself shopping this way when it does arrive to your area? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).
Earlier this year, several Bay Area friends tried to get me to buy into coffee naps. They swore that coffee naps are the most efficient way to refresh and recharge during the workday. To me, the practice sounded like the latest Silicon Valley trend — the kind of thing that employers love because it gets their underlings to work more and employees use to justify their overzealous efforts. I’m still unsure if coffee naps are truly effective or if they’re a placebo, so I thought I’d use today’s Coffee Talk to think out loud and get your opinion on the practice.
If you’re not familiar with coffee naps, the idea is to quickly drink a cup of coffee before taking a short rest. While you’re napping, the coffee is working its way through your system. By the time you’re done resting, the stimulants will have kicked in and you won’t feel sluggish when you awake.
Initially, I thought that coffee naps sounded ridiculous, but after reading about the relationship between caffeine and adenosine, I wondered if there might be something to the practice. While they’re hardly a proper substitute for getting a full night of sleep, there’s a chance that coffee naps could be effective for some people.
Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. I tried coffee naps and completely failed at them. My problem is that I’m slow (mentally, physically, etc.). With coffee naps, you want to drink your coffee quickly so that the caffeine doesn’t have time to kick in. As a slow person and a coffee nerd that enjoys the flavor of the beverage, it usually takes me 30 minutes to finish a 16-ounce cup of coffee. It just doesn’t feel right to down a good cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe because I want to nap more efficiently. The handful of times I attempted a coffee nap, the caffeine was already playing around in my brain and I couldn’t sleep.
Anyway, I wanted to get your opinion on coffee naps. Do you think that they’re useful or are they another silly Silicon Valley trend? Do you see yourself trying them out? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).
Last week, I made the decision to cut the cord and cancel my AT&T U-Verse TV service. The recent launch of HBO Now and the fairly recent launch of Sling TV precipitated the change. With those two streaming television services, I have access to Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, ESPN, and the first few rounds of the NBA playoffs — vital parts of my TV consumption. My existing Netflix (comp account) and Amazon Prime subscriptions already provide a great selection of movie and television content. HBO Now and Sling TV give me even more to choose from — certainly more than I need. When you add up all the subs, it’s still cheaper than my monthly U-Verse TV package.
One week in and I’m a happy camper. The Game of Thrones premiere streamed without a hitch, I’ve got my weekly dose of John Oliver, my lunchtime break of Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption continues, and I get to watch NBA games. While people had problems with Sling TV during March Madness and some people had issues with Game of Thrones on HBO Now last night, those services have been working flawlessly for me. I’m getting almost all the content I want and saving money!
Of course there are things that I’ll miss. Chief among them is live boxing. Unfortunately, HBO Now doesn’t feature the network’s live sports broadcasts. Showtime also has a bunch of live fights that I’d like to see. Since I’m no longer a U-Verse subscriber, I won’t have access to boxing pay-per-view events. Hopefully a solution will present itself in the future. For now, I’ll just have to go to bars or make drop-in visits to friends with cable in order to enjoy boxing. Keep in mind that all of this was expected. Being a hardcore boxing fan is really expensive. You need a cable or satellite subscription, premium networks, and pay-per-view to follow the sport live.
Cutting the cord has been liberating. It’s cheaper and (for the way I like to watch television) better. Yeah, I’ll be lumped in with those Silver Lake hipsters that love to brag about how they cut the cord years ago, but it only made sense for me now. Game of Thrones has been my favorite TV show for the last four years and there’s a bunch of other HBO content that I love (despite the presence of the wretched Olivia Munn). HBO Now gives me all of that. With baseball kicking off and the NBA playoffs starting, this is my favorite time of the year for sports. Sling TV has me covered. Watching TV solely through streaming services is less expensive and kind of cool in that “Hey, look at me! I’m a futurist!” way. For my television habits, Netflix and Amazon Prime were a great start, but HBO Now and Sling TV sealed the deal.
I know that RPadholic Smartguy has cut the cord. Care to give an update on how your experience is going? For you other guys and dolls, what would it take for you to cancel your traditional cable service and go full streaming? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!
The ludicrous sensations known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are nearly here! For the next week or so, I’d love to hear all about your wishes and wants for this year’s shopping spectacular. As the deals pile up, please use the comments section to post any sweet deals you’ve snagged or that you recommend to your fellow RPadholics. If you’d be so kind as to keep an eye on Amazon’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals page, picking something up would really help out RPadTV (if you hit the link in this sentence before buying).
Sadly, I’m way too poor to buy much of anything this year. So I’m going to live vicariously through you guys and gals. Hopefully a bunch of you will enjoy some stellar deals so that I can feel a bit of joy and possibly bust out the following saying:
Ha! So let’s have it (please)! Share your Black Friday and Cyber Monday wishes and gets below (again, please).
Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about the rocky career of RGKnee, Derrick Rose’s endless aches, or the extremely unfortunate breakup of Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.
President Barack Obama recently made a bold statement on the issue of net neutrality. He urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to keep the Internet “free and open.” The President believes that “free and open” should apply to both wired and wireless Internet connectivity, and millions of American consumers agree with him.
Unfortunately, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler doesn’t appear to be playing ball, despite being an Obama appointee. Prior to chairing the FCC, Wheeler served as a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries. The Washington Post reported Wheeler as saying, “What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.” It doesn’t work that way. You can’t have a version of net neutrality that serves both consumer and telecom interests. Similar to how a woman can’t be “almost” pregnant, you can’t almost have net neutrality. The FCC is either going to keep the Internet free and open or allow Internet providers to prioritize content.
For those of you unfamiliar with the issue, telecom companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, etc. want the right to throttle Internet connections and grant priority access to certain content providers. This would destroy the Internet as we know it, heavily favoring companies that can afford to pay off Internet providers for priority access and making things prohibitive for startups with limited budgets. For the most entertaining explanation of the issue ever, check out the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver clip below.
Personally, I have zero faith in net neutrality being upheld — zero. Even though net neutrality is being backed by heavy hitters like Google and Yahoo!, the telecom companies have better lobbyists. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc. have been crooking the government better and longer than their relatively young opponents in technology. I’m pretty disillusioned with the government; I don’t expect it to get important issues right and fully expect most politicians to serve businesses over consumers. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I can’t imagine a positive outcome for this issue.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the recent net neutrality developments. Do you think the Internet will remain free and open? Or will it become a walled garden controlled by your ISP? Share your thoughts in the comments section (please!)
Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the return of “full dinosaur” Chris Bosh, $2,000 coffee machines, or naked Kim Kardashian, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.
After becoming one of the most popular mobile apps over the last five years, Foursquare is looking to reinvent itself in 2014. The company is making some bold moves and taking some big risks, but it’s also alienating many of its users. For those of you not familiar with Foursquare, it’s a social app that blends gamification and location sharing information. Foursquare users “check in” to various locations and have the option to leave tips or ratings on the venue. Users compete for badges and “mayorship” of locations, while the company gathers incredibly valuable data from user activity.
For most of the app’s existence, the majority of users focused on the check-in aspect of the app. The gamification system is fun and people love scores, achievements, etc. (even for driving!). Strangely, Foursquare wants to drastically change its identity and deemphasize check-in activity. In May, the company launched Swarm, an app that takes the check-in aspects of Foursquare, increases the font size, and dumbs down the whole gamification system. While some users are fine with Swarm, there are many longtime Foursquare users that loathe the app because it takes away the features (mayorships and scores) that made the original so popular. Check out some of the user reviews on the Apple App Store and Google Play to see why the app is reviled.
The reason for moving check-in activity to Swarm is that the company wants to make Foursquare a “Yelp Killer” of sorts. The company has five years of excellent data from its users and will use it to power local recommendations. In some ways, Foursquare has more useful and practical information than Yelp. While I believe that the idea of using Foursquare user information to power a “Yelp Killer” is fantastic, the company’s execution has been terrible. Worse yet, Foursquare doesn’t appear to believe that the company has a problem.
In a recent feature on The Verge, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley and COO Jeff Glueck addressed some of the criticisms the company has been facing. It’s a nice article, but there are two bits that really bugged me:
Foursquare admits that it could’ve managed expectations a bit better, and timed the two app launches closer together so users weren’t confused. ‘It wasn’t a mistake. There is no prior arc with someone trying to do an unbundling like this before,’ says Crowley, ‘but I don’t think there’s any real perfect way to do it.’
Glueck emphasizes that it’s a very vocal minority of Foursquare users who have opposed the company’s changes, which not only moved check-ins out of Foursquare but largely removed mayorships and the app’s points system for competing with friends for check-ins.
The pair come off as executives that have no idea what their customers really want. Addressing Crowley’s point, pissing customers off is always a mistake. Why unbundle to begin with? Why not leave Foursquare as it is and launch a new product like “Yelp Killer (Powered by Foursquare)“? Swarm is hindered by baggage that should have been anticipated; when you force people to use a new app because you removed functionality from the old one, people aren’t going to like it. While Swarm has been improving (though is still not great), there are some people that will always hate it because it was forced on them. The same goes with the “new” Foursquare; some people are going to hate because it’s not the old one. Why not launch a new product and give it a fresh, baggage-free start? “Yelp Killer (Powered by Foursquare” — it seems so obvious.
As for Glueck, the “very vocal minority” is comprised of many longtime users that loved the old Foursquare app and hate Swarm. In all likelihood, there are probably many Foursquare users that liked the old app, didn’t like Swarm, and didn’t care enough to write a review on the App Store or Google Play. It seems like he’s ignoring some of the company’s oldest and most passionate customers. Being ambivalent about burning bridges with longtime customers is…stupid.
Since the unbundling of Foursquare and the launch of Swarm, I find myself using the company’s products less. I used to use Foursquare maniacally. These days, I sometimes use Swarm, but often forget about it because the deemphasis of mayorships and points makes the app less fun for me. I barely touch the Foursquare app at all. It’s a shame, because Foursquare was one of my favorite social apps and something I’d use several times a day. Executive decisions have made it an afterthought.
While I’m curious about the new Foursquare and interested to see how the company will compete with Yelp, I’m not sure it’s something that I’ll use personally. Initially, I’m sure it will do some things better than Yelp and some things worse. I just don’t like some of the decisions the company has made and I’m not sure I want to support Foursquare (again, on a personal level). Foursquare has burned a lot of goodwill and its top executives don’t appear to care. Judging from their quotes in The Verge article, Crowley and Glueck seem out of touch with their customers and in denial about having problems.
I know that some of you were annoyed by the “unbundling” of Foursquare into Swarm. What do you think of the Swarm app? Has your usage of Foursquare products changed since the unbundling? Are you excited for the new Foursquare? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Foursquare’s strategy. Share your wise observations in the comments section (please!).
Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the latest photo of Ben Batfleck, Ray Rice’s suspension, or everything you wanted to know about Harry Potter losing his virginity, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan that also enjoys some fine wine? If you answered yes then you definitely need to check out The Wines of Westeros. This set of twelve wines was inspired by Game of Thrones (TV) and A Song of Ice and Fire (books). The Wines of Westeros is a collection of beverages named after various houses and groups from the books and television series. Most popular varieties of wine are covered by the collection, so there’s something for everyone, no matter your taste in wine or house allegiance.
For example, those with loyalty to the North will enjoy The Stark, a sauvignon blanc. Stark wine is, of course, white (winter is coming!). Fans of pinot noir will go for The Baratheon or The Lannister. Rumor has it that the latter is made with incestuous grapes. I always enjoy a good cabernet with my grilled boar, so I’m looking forward to trying The Martell. The Wines of Westeros website notes that this cabernet “may cause insatiable lust.” Those that prefer wines that are bold, spicy, and fruity should look to The Night’s Watch and The Targaryen. These shiraz wines are dark and powerful, with the latter supposedly made with fire and blood.
Sadly, there isn’t a poisonous blend called The Rains of Castamere. That would be a fine choice to serve to wedding crashers.
When you have a chance, check out The Wines of Westeros website and peruse the company’s offerings. Please leave a comment with the bottles that interest you the most.
After getting smitten by the 2014 Nissan Leaf, but having a mostly lousy shopping experience, I’ve decided to take a look at the 2014 Ford Focus Electric. In some ways, the Ford Focus Electric is a much better car than the Nissan Leaf. In other ways, it’s lacking. Let’s do a binary breakdown of the 2014 Ford Focus Electric vs. 2014 Nissan Leaf. These opinions are fresh off a test drive of the Ford Focus Electric. Since I wrote about the Nissan Leaf last column, I’ll be thinking through this one with the Ford Focus Electric in mind.
Good: The Ford Focus Electric handles better than the Nissan Leaf. The suspension is a little bit better and the steering is much, much better. With the Leaf, you’re able to steer nimbly, but you don’t really feel anything; it’s like controlling a really powerful golf cart. The Ford Focus Electric lets you feel more of the road and has more responsive steering. While I wouldn’t call it sporty by any means, it’s certainly a more compelling drive than what the Leaf offers.
Bad: My biggest issue with the Ford Focus Electric is the lack of a quick-charge port. While its “level 2” charging is faster than most (3.6 hours to fill), it’s odd that the car doesn’t have a quick-charge port. The Nissan Leaf has the option for a CHAdeMO port, which allows you to charge the battery to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. There are several CHAdeMO chargers in my area, including a few that let you charge for free. This is a nice option to have. While I can certainly get by with the Ford Focus Electric’s relatively fast charging, a quick-charge option would offer more freedom and flexibility. In some ways, a quick-charge port is the EV equivalent of a condom — I rather have one and not need it than need one and not have it. (Oops, that analogy was supposed to stay in my inner monologue.)
Good: Another advantage for the Ford Focus Electric is that it has a liquid-cooled battery (active), as opposed to the Leaf’s air-cooled battery (passive). Extreme heat can lower a battery’s range (cold temperatures can too, but I don’t have to worry about that in Los Angeles). The Ford Focus Electric’s active cooling scheme will help the battery last longer, both in the short term (my concern, since I’m looking for a three-year lease) and the longterm.
Bad: Nissan created an original design for the Leaf, so its battery packs are smartly distributed. The Ford Focus Electric uses an existing design, so compromises were made to jam the battery into it. The end result is a slightly smaller backseat than the ICE Focus and a much smaller trunk. I knew that the trunk was going to be small based off of photos, but seeing it in real life surprised me. You can fit a couple of bags of groceries in there…and that’s about it. You can forget about picking up friends with lots of luggage from the airport (though, “Sorry, my trunk is too small,” can be a great excuse). The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, has more room in the backseats and much more usable trunk space.
Good: The Ford Focus Electric is available in one trim and the options are very, very nice. It beats the pants off of the Nissan Leaf’s S and SV trims, while being competitive or better than the top-of-the-line Leaf SL. While the initial price of the Ford Focus Electric is higher, adding options to the Nissan Leaf SL makes it a tougher choice. The interior components of Focus are nicer than most of what the Leaf offers.
Judgement Call: Some people prefer the Ford Focus Electric because it looks normal. There are some consumers that hate the atypical looks of the Nissan Leaf. I totally understand both sides. If you want a inconspicuous and unassuming EV that blends in then the Ford Focus Electric is your car. Personally, I dig the Leaf’s nerdy-as-hell aesthetics because it’s nerdy-as-hell.
The good news is that I had a great test drive of the Ford Focus Electric at Airport Marina Ford. The bad news is that when it came time to get pricing, the fleet manager was coy and wouldn’t let the salesman give me a price unless I was ready to buy on the spot. I also pulled a quote off of the Ford website with the lease terms I wanted, but the salesman said that the website quotes are inaccurate because they factor in discounts that I’m not eligible for. I left the dealership knowing that the monthly payments they’d charge me were higher than what I found on the Ford website, but lower than $300. That wasn’t exactly helpful.
The better news is that while I really like the Ford Focus Electric and would gladly snatch one up at the lease price listed on the Ford website, it’s more of a compromise than the Nissan Leaf. Yes, it drives better and has a much nicer interior, but I would get more use out of the Leaf’s trunk space and larger backseats. While the liquid-cooled battery is a great feature, the lack of a quick-charge port limits the Ford Focus Electric for me, since I live in an apartment.
The (hopefully) best news is that the salesman I’ve been working with at Alhambra Nissan found the exact model and color of the Nissan Leaf SV that I want. In my last column, I mentioned that I enjoyed working with this gentleman because he gave me honest and straightforward info over email, without pressuring me to come to the dealership. Now that he has the car that I want and I know what his prices are for more expensive models, I’m happy to drop by the dealership and see him. Whether I end up in a Nissan Leaf SV through him or a Ford Focus Electric through another Ford dealership, hopefully I’ll be in an EV by next week.
Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, your Fourth of July plans, NBA free agency madness, or your favorite fireworks, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.