Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Equitable Mortgage

I'm a "systems guy." I look at cause and effect. Unintended consequences.  Processes.
We hear in the news crazy stories of about foreclosures where the entity holding the paper cannot be identified. A huge part of the "mortgage crisis" came from lenders writing mortgages that were just bad. The market was in a frenzy and the political environment encouraged home ownership.

At the height of the lending frenzy, I was approached multiple times per week by the shadiest sorts of agents who were willing to put me in a house. I've been dealing with tax issues for over a decade and could not guarantee that I could make payments. I was assured that that would not be a problem. Because I earned a good amount of money, anything was possible.
Never mind that I run my own business and my actual profit is a tiny fraction of my "earnings."
Never mind my credit was in the toilet.
I would have to fight off these opportunistic sales weasels and say "no" to these insane offers.

I can totally understand how someone less informed would jump at the offer to get into a house and start rebuilding credit.

But enough of the history, on to my proposal:
Mortgage contracts have two parties. But only one seems to have any power. The homeowner cannot arbitrarily transfer the loan or deed without permission of the bank. So why can the bank?
Let's keep the imbalance caused by the money, but require written permission by both parties to modify or transfer the loan.

Friday, November 4, 2011

SwitchEasy Trim

I'm a big fan of SwitchEasy. In a sea of generic silicone phone cases, it's nice to see a company think outside the box. For previous iPhones, the Color and Rebel were some of my favorite cases. With my upgrade to the iPhone 4S last week, I ordered some of the iPhone 4 cases to try them out.

That all-glass iPhone is darned slippery. Had a few close calls in the days I waited for my new cases to arrive.

First up, the Trim.
I chose this because I like the engineering: The ribbed plastic band should provide good "crushability" to protect the corners of the phone. The rigid polycarbonate back should help protect the rear glass and act as a stretcher to keep everything tight. You can still see the Apple logo.
The case is available in 7 colors.
TRIM package contents

In the package we get the usual SwitchEasy overkill:
  • The case
  • Two (black and white) dock adapters
  • Two sets of seals (dock connector, and headphone)
  • Plastic card for applying screen protector
  • Two screen protectors
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Viewing stand
  • Instructions

Another view.
Package Contents After Opening Some Stuff

The case is very snug and requires some muscle to get it on. Once it is on, it is snug and secure. The molding is clean. The fit is precise. The seals fit well.

We've barely dropped below freezing, so I can't report on its cold weather performance.

I unfortunately got to test the protection a couple days ago, when the phone was knocked off a kitchen counter. Landed squarely on the corner - the best way to shatter your phone. The phone literally bounced.

Here's a view of the case in place:

Case Installation Testing

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lon v.s. the IPhone 4S

I've been packing an iPhone 3G since it was introduced.
At the time, it was new and cool.
Native apps, faster data network, and microphone inputs. It was an amazing phone and portable computer.

Then came iOS4.

Apple's apps, like Maps, became useless. The phone became so slow that was not able to perform most tasks.
Since I pretty do everything on the web, I was still able to use the phone.

But last week I updated to the iPhone 4S and everything is great.
Well... Mostly Great.

First off: the 4S is fast. Obviously faster than the 3G, but also appears to generally be faster than the dual-core Android phones I played with.
HSPA+ is actually faster than stock 3G. It's not 4G, but it is noticeably faster for web surfing and maps.
Colloquy benefits from the additional speed and irc is very pleasant on the new phone.

The display is crisp and very readable.

Multi-tasking actually works. I can be streaming TWiT or Frogpants and still participate in the chat room.

I don't use iCloud. I use Google as my "cloud" service.
I don't use Mail. I access my mail using the GMail mobile web interface.

And now to the stupid problems:
Siri works. Really.
"Remind me to leave at 3:00"
Poof! Reminder set.
If the Reminders app isn't running, the alert doesn't happen.
Almost missed the bus today because of that.
Siri really should turn on the Reminders app if it's requested to set a Reminder.

Yes, the Phone app.
The Phone app does cool audio processing like monitoring a second microphone to cancel background noise on your call.
But if you plug in headphones, it gets all confused.
It starts to amplify the background noise until it drowns out the call and eventually starts a feedback look which makes conversation impossible.
Lots of discussion on the Apple support forums, but no acknowledgement of the problem from Apple.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wisestamp revisted

The last time I wrote about WiseStamp was about two years ago.
At the time I was thrilled with the service.
To recap:
  • Rich HTML email signatures in gMail
  • Ability to bring RSS feeds
  • Firefox extension

That original service worked great for me. But WiseStamp has not stood still in the last couple years.
It's now available for Chrome as well as Firefox. I use both browsers on a regular basis, so this is great for me.

They've added support for all the popular online mail systems including gMail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, and AOL.

 The editor just gets better and better:

Cleaned up menus and predefined templates.

The RSS feed feature is now a whole "App" system where you can add lots of different content blocks that show your latest post to Twitter, WordPress, eBay, or many other services.

I work with a PR firm that wanted to centrally manage all their employee's email signatures. It was one of their man concerns about moving to Google Mail.
Wisestamp solves that problem with their  Enterprise product.

So Wisestamp is perfect, right?
Well, almost....
Nearly every screen has an Upgrade button.
They really want you pay for the service. Which is perfectly understandable.
But what is not understandable is the pricing.
They still have a free version. That's what I'm using.

Next step up is $4/month. And they go up to $25/month.
First: That is WAY too expensive for such a service. Most people use free web mail. I pay $50/year for my Google account. I'm not going to another $48/year for better signatures. And I'm certainly not going to pay $96/year. (The "most popular" option.)

I put Wisestamp in the same category as Xmarks, LastPasss,,  and KeePass. Upgraded versions of features you already have.

I'm not willing to pay a lot for these, since I already have those features. The going market price seems to be $0-$1/month.
I'd like to see a version with everything but the enterprise features for $10/year.

Oh. And I must say the presentation of the pricing feels a bit sleasy. "Only $6/month. *Billed Annually)"
So why not just say what the actual price is?

The bottom line:
Product is still great, and constantly getting better.
Business doesn't seem to understand the market and I'm concerned for their long-term prospects.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

National Blog Posting Month

There's a slew of "National Thing Verbing Month" initiatives out there in November.

NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month
NaPodPoMo - National Podcast Post Month
NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

I won't be participating in the Novel Writing month this year, but I will blog every day. I''m going to try to figure out the role of blogging in a world with with all these social media platforms.

So let's set the table: Why still blog?
  • It's mine. I'm responsible for the domain and hosting. It's my brand.
  • In-depth. There's basically no limit to how long an article can be.
  • Profit! A widely read blog can actually make money from advertising

Why use other platforms?
  • Easy. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are very easy to use. Even when mobile.
  • Engagement. Because those social platforms manage audience, reader response it generally much higher than with a traditional blog. For my group, Google+ is terrific place for extended discussions.
  • Part of something bigger.  My posts can appear alongside articles by great and interesting writers.
  • Visibility. My articles are much more likely to be read on Google+ than my own site.