The Death of the Nexus

People have long claimed that Google would kill off the Nexus line. Well… they were right. They have. I’ll only say this once.

The Nexus is dead.

Yep. Dead. Did I stutter?

Did you miss the whole thing where Google announced the Nexus 6 and 9 today?

I did not. Make no mistake. These devices are Nexus devices in name only. The ideology behind the Nexus program, meanwhile, is dead. That is, to provide a pure Google experience on flagship-level hardware, all at an affordable price. What I can’t deny is that the Nexus 6 is, like its predecessors, still the best Android phone of its generation. However, it is priced at a point I am not willing to pay. Google, you’ve shot yourself in the foot. Nobody’s going to pay $650 for a Nexus 6. People have no desire to pay flagship prices for a flagship phone at this point. Society as a whole has moved past it, largely thanks to you. It’s too late to go back on that. As a matter of fact, you’re pulling a Microsoft. What you’re doing is going back on your aggressive pricing to placate OEM’s. Understandably, OEM’s were pissed about Google launching devices they couldn’t compete with on price. However, Google shouldn’t care. You shouldn’t care. The goal of any company should be to deliver products that the customer wants. If their competition can’t deliver a product in its league, at its price point, why slow down? I don’t care if OEM’s are happy, and Google shouldn’t either.

Google (and Microsoft): OEM’s are not your “partners.” They are not your friends. They are your competition. Don’t worry about cannibalizing their business. Worry about pleasing your customers. OEM’s need you more than you need them. The Nexus program stood for something: Delivering a quality device at a price the average consumer could afford without becoming slave to a carrier contract. I’ve said no to contracts starting a couple of years ago, and I haven’t looked back. The only problem is, I don’t know where to go from here. I have no idea what my next device will be. I left iOS a couple of years ago, and I stand by my reasoning. It’s too locked down. And Windows Phone is not and probably never will be a viable alternative to iOS or Android, as it still lacks a sizable app ecosystem.

Back to my previous point, Google has no reason to placate OEM’s. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and the company that best satisfies the needs of consumers should win. And what consumers need is an open device that one should not need to whore themselves out to a carrier to afford. Nothing aside from the Nexus program offered this. OEM’s didn’t like competition they couldn’t beat, but that isn’t Google’s problem. As put so elegantly by Taylor Swift, “And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”

Did I just use a Taylor Swift song to make a point about tech? Yes. Yes I did.

But Google needs its partners!

WRONG! Neither Google nor Microsoft need their “partners.” By the way, these “partners” are nothing more than people who tarnish their reputation by bolting bloatware onto Android and Windows. Look at Apple. Apple makes a lot of money. In fact, Apple is the most valuable company in the world. They don’t need “partners.” The only people Apple needs on their side to be successful? Developers. And developers also happen to love Nexus devices. Cheap, but the most powerful hardware on the market. Google and Microsoft, I implore you: I have quite a few problems with Apple (mostly with iOS; I do happen to be a proud rMBP owner who, in fact, typed this on my rMBP), but learn a lesson from them. Don’t be afraid to piss off the OEM’s. Deliver the most competitive first-party hardware you can, at prices the competition can’t afford to beat. Either they learn to catch up, or they die. I mean, what would they do? Switch to Windows Phone? Firefox OS? Let’s get real here. Google has OEM’s by the balls and has no need to please them. The only real alternative to Android is iOS, and that isn’t available for licensing. If the OEM’s die, they won’t be missed.

Ultimately, I blame Motorola for this. Motorola is notorious for making overpriced hardware at noncompetitive prices. See last year’s Moto X: Priced far beyond the Nexus 5, a vastly more capable phone. Partnering with Motorola to produce the Nexus 6 is outright stupid. Motorola’s ideals (turn a huge profit at any cost) are simply antagonistic to those of the Nexus program.

TL;DR: Google, wipe Samsung off the map. You can do it, but pricing your phone the same as theirs isn’t how to do it.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here putting up with my antiquated Nexus 5. Oh, by the way, Google, it’s absolutely insulting that you’re still selling it at the same price like it’s a modern phone. Even Apple is less greedy than that. They drop the price of their obsolete models when they announce a new one.

Ah well. This generation isn’t important, I guess. Next year is where it’s at. 64-bit Android phones are the next big advance. I’d may as well wait for it (I think I’m just in the “denial” stage of grief). That said, someone new will need to make a phone in the Nexus spirit, or I don’t know what my next phone will be.

Thoughts on Windows 10, Its Detractors, and Marketing

Windows 95, 2.0. Apparently Windows 10 is nothing more than this, if internet commenters are to be believed. I liked Windows 8.1. That is, I liked it when everything tablet-centric about it is made more desktop-friendly. But with StartIsBack, ModernMix, Glass8, UXStyle, and a good theme, it’s a good OS. Online though, everyone seems to fall into two camps: “Windows 8.x is a total disaster. I’m sticking with Windows 7!” and “Windows 8.x is perfect! MS has a brilliant vision, and anyone who dislikes it is just wrong.” Meanwhile, I fall somewhere in the middle. There are things I like about 8.x: Native disc image mounting is huge for me. The new file operation progress dialogs. The ribbon in Explorer. An app store. Oh, and the new task manager. When it comes down to what I don’t like? The tablet-centric UI paradigms like apps and the Start menu being forced into full screen. So now that we’ve finally been given a choice, I’m happy…

Well almost. I’m still left with two things I just don’t understand. First is the marketing. Within this category, I have two smaller concerns that add up to a total sense of “What is MS drinking?” First, of course, is the more obvious of the two: The Windows 10 name. I have a general sense of “Microsoft can’t count” these days. Actually, I’ve had this sense for quite awhile now.

Windows 6.4. Doesn’t that just scream “10” to you?

The third Xbox? Xbox One. Windows 6.1? Windows 7. Windows 6.2? Windows 8. Windows 6.3? Windows 8.1. Windows 6.4? Windows 10. I am confused. Completely and totally confused. Ever since Windows 7, the actual version number has incremented consistently by 0.1 (how often, exactly, are they going to keep this up?). Meanwhile, the marketing version number has incremented by 1, 0.1, then… 1.9? I have no idea what’s going on here, but I’m quite worried that a company that makes accounting software apparently doesn’t know how to count.

Then we have the other issue: How they’re marketing the Technical Preview.

I think this is the most patronizing thing I’ve ever seen…

So what exactly does this accomplish? I’m taking a technical writing class, and right now, we’re studying how to not sound like condescending asshats. This is a prime example of how not to avoid looking like a condescending asshat. You’re a multi-billion dollar company, Microsoft. The billions you’re paying your marketing team? They came from your customers. The same customers you’re painting as idiots. Please do the right thing and fire these guys. Just like you canned Adam Orth. Do I find this amusing? Yes. But I’m laughing at you, not with you. Do I like it when a company shows personality? Yes. But there are better ways to do that than to make the vast majority of your customer base feel stupid (and kind of make yourself look stupid in the process).

Anyway…

I actually didn’t decide to write this post in order to spew a bunch of anti-MS rage. I decided to write it after reading an ignorant comment on, surprise… The Verge.

I’ll do you one better: its Windows 95 with some Metro apps bolted on. What a shame that a few tech bloggers poisoned the minds of the public and terrified Microsoft into backpedaling hard from Windows 8’s original bold vision.

Here, we have a person who quite clearly understands technology. Totally different, more modern kernel? Yep. Modern security model, completely different file system, multi-processor and 64-bit capable? Yep, yep, and yep. BUT… it provides the option to use a Start menu to open apps instead of a full-screen version that mostly wastes space on a desktop machine? CLEARLY Windows 10 is just Windows 95!

Actually, I think he’s right! It’s like I can’t even tell the difference! /s

All the progress that’s been made in the last 20 years, and the only thing separating Windows 10 from Windows 95 is apparently that I can choose the size of the Start menu in Windows 10. “Bold vision” or Windows 95? The only difference? This little checkbox.

Did I mention there’s actually an option?

It’s not like MS actually removed anything! People are complaining about “backpedaling on a vision,” but all they did was provide an option! But no… apparently people should be forced to conform to some “vision.” The modern fanboy confuses me. Decrying the actions of a company because they listen to their customers instead of stubbornly going forward with something? We went through this with the Xbox One and the always online stuff. People complained about no longer being forced to phone home every 24 hours. A company does something consumer-centric, and then its fanboys hate them for turning back on their “vision.”

So what are my thoughts on Windows 10? Execution, A+. Marketing, F-.  The issue here is a clear split between the engineers and the marketeers. Windows 10 is decidedly a step in the right direction. All I ask is that they change that bland, 9x-ish visual style to something else (mostly the window borders… everything else looks good). Hey, actually everything else reminds me a little bit of Watercolor. Why not bring back those window borders? Do that MS, and I’ll love you forever.

Windows 8 and 8.1 brought about some good changes, with the key flaw being forcing a full-screen Start menu optimized for tablets on desktop users. With Windows 10, we have MS realizing user choice is a good thing, and finally allowing people to do what they should’ve been able to do all along. Meanwhile, we have those who thoroughly confuse me. The Stockholm syndrome ridden fanboys who think users shouldn’t be given an option. To these, I ask: Does a person who ticks a checkbox that makes their Start menu not take up the whole screen really hurt you? Are you that butthurt over someone having a UI preference that’s slightly different than yours?

In summary: I like the product. I hate the marketing (including the name). And as always, I hate the fanboys.

Happy Month-iversary Kimberly! <3

If I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s to expect the unexpected. About a month and a half ago, on April Fool’s Day, I wrote a blog post about Chromebooks as part of my typical April Fool’s tradition. And I decided to link to it on the ChromeOS subreddit, because, why not? May as well go all-out. And I just so happened to have a reddit account I never really touched; I just so happened to have created it in order to defend against some unsavory comments a rather unsavory subreddit made about a Youtube video of mine. So… yeah. Despite the fact that my previous experiences with reddit led me to believe it was a cesspit of trolls, I decided to look around. Apparently there’s a dating subreddit, /r/r4r. So I decide to post there. Do I really expect to get very far with this? Of course not. I also never considered that I had posted on April Fool’s Day, which isn’t particularly strategic. Anyway, the next afternoon, I get a response (to this day, I don’t actually know why she replied to my post; I just go on and on about how I’m a socially inept geek). So. Typical dating site response? A few poorly-written words. Not what happened here! A girl named Kimberly introduces herself in a well-written, well thought out message. I figured this was a lost art these days. Perhaps it isn’t. So we exchange several messages of reasonable length (proving how perfect she is for me; as a self-proclaimed socially inept geek, my communication skills are far less than adequate, and she somehow makes up for them), and after I nearly ruin everything (possibly the one thing I’m good at), we continue talking on Skype. On April 14, in a spectacularly clichéd fashion, I ask her to be my girlfriend. On the 16th, after I maniacally raced home from a lab (and if my lab partners happen to be reading this, now you know why I seemed so frustrated over not being able to leave early) so we could do a video call, she finally told me yes, around 5PM my time, 6PM hers (roughly the time at which I published this post). The conversation that led up to this was embarrassingly lame on my part (oh, what a surprise), so I think I’ll leave out how exactly it happened. 50/50 chance she’ll comment and tell the story anyway.

 

I really like this particular picture of her. It’s in no way more relevant to this post than any other picture I could’ve chosen, but I really like this one.

As best as can happen considering she’s halfway across the country (for now, but I shall put every possible effort into changing this by the end of summer), Kimberly has been in more or less every moment of my life since then. And I don’t think I’d be capable of being without her for a moment. She’s responsible for several of the happiest moments of my life, and this has by far been the best month I’ve ever had.

Did I mention she can sing?

Last week, she performed in her last chorus concert before her graduation, as the soloist in this rendition of “Walking in Memphis.” One of my greatest regrets is that I wasn’t able to be there.

Kimberly, thank you. You’ve given me a reason to be alive. All because of you, I’m happy in life now, and I hope that I’ve brought you some measure of happiness as well. I have something for you, but it’ll be a little late. I want to give it to you in person before graduation. It’s the most important moment of your life thus far, and despite the fact that 700 miles currently separate us, I refuse to miss it. I realize we won’t have much time together when I come to visit, but… I’m still working on that, I promise! And despite how short those moments may be, they’ll be the best of my life yet. I love you. 

Sent from my Samsung Chromebook 2 – An Apology to Chromebook Fans

So I’ve got a major announcement to make. I am now the proud owner of a Samsung Chromebook 2.

Look at the beautiful fake leather! Doesn’t it just scream “delightfully plastic”?

So yeah. This is me admitting I was wrong. Chromebooks and their ability to do absolutely nothing at all are delightful. Their uselessness totally merits the $400 price tag. You should buy this instead of a vastly more capable Nexus 7 or Windows 8 tablet, both of which are so much cheaper but actually do stuff (the horror!). And we wouldn’t want that, now would we? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got more of exactly what this machine does best to do – absolutely nothing!

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone. 

 

Tech Products that Should Be Banned

Another blog post inspired by a series of tweets. Last week, I purchased a new monitor. It’s a pretty nice 27″ AOC beast. Obviously, this meant that my old 23″ Samsung would be used as a secondary monitor. The only problem? My graphics card only has one HDMI port, which is consumed by my new monitor. My old monitor has HDMI and VGA inputs. So I did the only thing I could do at the time, and connected the old monitor via VGA. Wow, it looked horrible. So finally, this happened.

So yeah. This post is going to be very trollish. If that bugs you, you may want to stop reading now. =P

Also, I’m going to skip over products that I’ve already ranted about (ChromeOS, Bitcoin, Xbox One, etc…). These are smaller rants that have thus far slipped through the cracks.

Still here? Well then, time to start the list!

VGA

The whole reason I wrote this post: No modern product should be built with a VGA interface. So why does the midrange graphics card I purchased maybe eight months ago have one? If only that space were instead used by a second HDMI port, I wouldn’t have been in the mess I was in last weekend. Connecting a modern monitor to a VGA port results in an unspeakably horrible picture, and I’m fairly certain that looking at it for very long would’ve given me headaches. Fortunately, connecting my monitor via a DVI to HDMI adapter solved my problem.

Beats

Why do people actually buy these overpriced headphones? Not that I’ve ever been in the mood to spend $400 on headphones (I think the most I’ve ever spent on a wired set is $50, for the Sony pair I’m using now), but if I ever were, I’d probably buy something else.

Browser toolbars

So I do some work for these people once in awhile. It’s a guy in his 60’s or so. I was tasked with speeding up his web browser. The problem? About five different toolbars. Uninstalled them, and it ran much better. A couple of days back, I was at my best friend’s house. He’s about my age, and also a CS major. You think he’d have the common sense to not install this garbage, right? Nope. Two or three of them. He said they were bundled with some other stuff he had installed. Sigh…

Printers

It’s so annoying when I have to print out a report or coupon or some other thing, and then I find out I’m out of ink. Fortunately, I’m not my household’s designated ink-purchaser, but this stuff makes the aforementioned Beats look reasonably-priced. And fortunately these days I can show most coupons on my phone, and submit most of my assignments online, but for those few holdouts where I can’t, get with the times. In this modern age, where nobody’s ever more than a few feet from a computer screen, why waste paper, ink, and time making physical copies of things? It’s a relic of a bygone era, that people really just need to let go of. And furthermore, once I move out and get my own place, I’d really like to get by without owning a printer at all. So please, I beg of everyone, let’s make this happen within the next year.

Dating Sites

Maybe this is more so a fault of the town that I live in (which, if you couldn’t tell from the end of the last section, I’m more than ready to move out of), but these are full of people not worth meeting. Profiles are either of people who have no concept of spelling or grammar, or who copy/paste the set of interests “hunting, fishing, and mudding.” I’m not entirely sure I want to know what “mudding” is, but for now I’m going to assume it means rolling around in mud like a pig, which doesn’t even sound remotely fun. I’ve always figured if I were ever to find a fellow geek with whom to share my life, it’d be on the internet. I suppose not.

Almost anything by Samsung

Samsung seems to have a knack for choosing the worst possible materials from which to build a product, then brainwashing the public into overpaying for it. Take the Galaxy S4 for example (which somehow manages to be the least egregious design travesty out of Samsung). It retails for $624. And what do you get for that price? A less-powerful Nexus 5, with an awful plastic case, and a bunch of bloatware, for almost twice the price of the N5. And the upcoming S5? It’s the name “5S” reversed, with a clone of the 5S’s headlining feature (TouchID) slapped onto the S4. Then there’s the Galaxy Note. It’s basically the same thing, but pointlessly huge. Oh, and then they throw some craptastic fake leather thing on it. And finally, you have this monstrosity.

Why would anyone think this level of skeuomorphism is appropriate? Did Scott Forstall go to work for Samsung after leaving Apple?

How I’d guess this thing was “designed.” It’s “bring your kid to work” day at Samsung. Someone’s three-year-old sticks an employee’s laptop in a leather notebook. “Eureka!” No, really. I can’t think of a better explanation of how this was ever conceived. It’s beyond what I’d be able to come up with as an intentionally bad design. It’s even worse than the previous Samsung Chromebook, which, from a distance, looks like a MacBook Air. Then once you get closer, you realize, “WAIT, THIS IS AWFUL CHEAP SAMSUNG PLASTIC!”

“Gaming” PC’s and peripherals

For what it’s worth, appending the word “gaming” to something doesn’t mean it’s a better product (I guess it’s kind of like how adding the word “premium” to “margarita” doesn’t make a better margarita; it just makes a more expensive one). It just means it’s sold for a severely marked-up price and has some awful gaudy design to it. The base Alienware desktop? It’s $700. And it has a dual-core i3. For $100 less, you could get a Mac Mini that at least has a dual-core i5. It has 2GB less RAM, although if you add $100 to the price (matching the Alienware), you can upgrade it to 8GB, making a machine that’s the same price, with more RAM and a better CPU. Oh, and also consider that Alienware is owned by Dell, a company that hardly has a reputation for build quality. So much for that Apple tax, huh?

Then you’ve got peripherals. We were shopping for a new keyboard for my brother (he eventually wound up buying some HP crap that he now desperately wants to replace). My sister then informs me that I should buy some $100 crappy gaming keyboard. I paid ~$110 for my keyboard and mouse, and I have no idea what functionality that keyboard has that makes it worth $30 more than I paid for mine. Aside from some stupid gaudy design that plastered tacky green markings all over the keyboard for no apparent reason. Oh, and my sister also paid something like $100 for a Turtle Beach gaming headset. I bet a $30 Logitech unit would’ve sufficed just as well. Not to mention, it’s not like “gamers” need exceptional audio quality anyway. I don’t think you need audiophile-class equipment to listen to this. I guess “gaming” equipment is to “e-sports” what Jordans are to jock sports? (in case I haven’t made it clear, I’m not a fan of “e-sports” or jock sports)

Whatever this thing is

Speaking of audiophiles, the next piece of tech that really, really shouldn’t exist is this Pono thing. Someone made a placebo MP3 player that sells for $400, and only sounds better than “normal” music players because it’s paired with an online store that sells overpriced FLAC’s or something. Furthermore, what is with that shape? Is that supposed to fit comfortably in my pocket? =/

Slap some FLAC’s onto a Nexus 5, and you get a device that’s $50 cheaper, sounds just as good, fits in your pocket correctly, and doubles as a fully-featured smartphone!

Flappy Bird knockoffs

Random observation: Windows Phone is the worst when it comes to knockoff apps and games. I’m fairly certain this was the top game in the store for awhile.

 

A new version of bad grammar called: Flappy Bird 2 with incoherent, more hard to read, and more horrible.

Furthermore, people believe this is legit? Also, there’s so many of these. Just… why? The only Flappy Bird inspired game besides the original that’s worth playing is this one.

Tablets

Okay, let me preface this one by making it clear that I don’t think tablets in general should be banned. I do, however, think Windows RT should be banned. It offers nothing over a comparable tablet running Windows 8 on an Atom. These days, Atom tablets are about the same price as, if not cheaper than, WinRT tablets. Bonus: Win8 on x86/x64 has an actual app ecosystem to speak of.

Also, this.

Furthermore, rear-facing cameras on tablets really need to go. It’s not an appropriate form factor to be used as a camera, at all. Why encourage this? All it accomplishes is the annoyance of the poor, unfortunate souls who are stuck standing behind the person doing this at an event.

Conclusion

Quite a few of these products are oriented toward audiophiles, gamers, and in the case of overpriced gaming headphones, the uncanny intersection of the two. Maybe we should just ban audiophiles and gamers? I also considered adding netbooks to the list, but then I realized, if netbooks didn’t exist, that’s justify the existence of ChromeOS. The lesser of two evils, I suppose. Others, like tablets, were only added under heavily limited conditions, but upon the suggestion of someone else. Suggest some more products, and if I like it (as in, I hate the product), I might make a sequel to this post someday.