Jason Ball's TechBytes

Technology & Venture Capital. Early stage venture capital news mixed with personal views and comments

The Invisible Internet

One area I’m thinking about these days is what I call the “Invisible Internet”, so I thought I’d put a post out there in case there are apps and products I should be looking at. Feel free to reach out if you’re building a company in this space…

Big data is gaining a lot of interest from VCs. e.g. companies that can crunch data and find patterns for large corporations. I’m interested in Big Data for the Little Guy. We invested into Worksmart Labs, who make a great product called Noom. Noom is a pedometer for your Android device. It’s fantastic because once you’ve installed it, you don’t need to do anything else to gain benefits from the app: it sits there and watches you, tracking every step you take. Of course, you probably installed it because you want to know how much exercise, walking etc you’re getting. But that’s the beauty of it – it just sits there silently tracking you. Piling up that data, zero effort from you (except the walking).

I have a withings scale at home, which works on the same principle. I weigh myself every day, but my withings account captures all the data and starts crunching. Fitbit has just announced its wifi scale as well. Strava.com is a cycling site that compares me to others, crunches my data to tell me how hard any given ride was (Strava’s Suffer Score). I love it.

Clearly, wireless healthcare is an area where I’m seeing the Invisible Internet become productized, but there are other areas as well – self writing journals that track where you go, smart home applications that monitor your energy consumption, etc.

Maybe it’s age, but more and more I’d prefer my apps just figure out what it is I’ve done, and what it is I want vs having to work on getting the information in and out of them – I want to be surprised and delighted by insights or information that I would have missed out on otherwise.

I hope to see more of these apps in the future. Or maybe not ;-)

Filed under: Android, Apple, Apps, Artificial Intelligence, Cycling, iOS, iPhone

iPhone usability tip: slide to open

We all know you can “slide to unlock” your iPhone, but did you know you can “slide to open” your various alerts?

This is what happens when you get a text message (or any alert for that matter) and slide it:

This will open directly to the message vs opening the phone, then drilling down to the message.

Enjoy your new-found productivity.

Filed under: Apple, iOS, iPhone

Favorite Apps from 2011 – iOS and Android

Here they are, in no particular order…

Day One

Day One

Day One offers a well designed journal app. Twitter and Facebook are great for shouting to the world, but sometimes you’d like to keep your thoughts to yourself. Day One is a great app that lets you do that. You can set a reminder for any given period – I have it set weekly, and I type a few lines about what’s happening. Available for both iOS and Mac OS X.

Strava
I’m a cyclist. Strava is hands down the easiest to use app I’ve come across. It works on your iPhone, your Android device and also can handle data from your Garmin. If you cycle and want to track your training, and see how you compare against yourself and others- grab this now. It’s free, although if you love it, I’d recommend you upgrade to their Premium service. Available on iOSand Android.

Wikinvest
I have an account with Etrade – logging into their mobile app is a pain. Wikinvest lets me keep an eye on my portfolio and the news- all protected with an easy to use 4-digit pin code. Available on iOS and Android.

Livestrong – My Plate
Strava is a great place to track your cycling, and My Plate is a great place to track what you’re fueling yourself with. This is the best site I’ve found to get a good picture of what I’m eating – and has a large enough database to auto populate with what you’re eating – so you don’t have to enter too many details. Once you’ve used the app for a week, it understands what you normally eat, so those foods are right at your fingertips. It costs $2.99, but is worth it. Available on iOS and Android.

Money - Your sweetest accounting application

Money
Keeping a handle on your finances isn’t easy. Mint.com isn’t available in Europe, so I’ve spent a lot of time looking at – and testing- various financial applications. Money from Jumsoft is by far the best in my opinion. The apps are simple and well designed, and syncing between my iPhone and Mac desktop has been seamless. The apps aren’t cheap – but, I knowing where my money goes (I know, into these apps…). It also handles non-US currencies just fine (which is not always a given). Available on iOS and Mac OS X.

Gmail app (iOS)

I’m not 100% happy with the Gmail iPhone app, but I’ve been using it since launch and I will say I like it. A lot. A native app would be much better and more responsive, but the functionality offered by a Gmail app is fantastic. I do prefer the Gmail app over the native Mail app for managing my gmail account. Available on iOS and built into Android.

Filed under: Android, Apple, Apps, iOS, , ,

If you can’t take it with you, it’s not yours

I picked up an Android device earlier in the year – I’ve been watching the platform and app ecosystem develop, and decided it was time to make the jump…

That’s a huge deal for me, the Apple Fan Boy, bought a non-Apple piece of hardware. Turns out, the hardware switch wasn’t as critical as the software switch. And I don’t mean the OS.

I stopped buying any content from Apple a long time ago. Sure, I used iBooks to test it out, but that’s all. No Apple content lived on my iPhone. When you buy digital content from Apple, you don’t actually own it, so getting your iTunes library, iBooks library, etc onto an Android device is a no go.

Having options (for portability) is very important; owning your data (or content) is more important. And, as we all know, if you can’t take something with you, it’s not yours…

In many ways, I now care less and less about owing content, and more about content portability, or more importantly accessibility. Cloud services like Spotify and We7 have made my music life so much easier. Password = Music. What could be easier?

Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader is all about accessibility (and circumnavigating the 30% Apple App Store tax). Via Amazon’s Cloud Reader, Password = Book Collection. On my iPhone, iPad, Android and Desktop. Easy.

Photos are slightly better than purchased content, but Apple still makes your life difficult. Photos on your photo roll in iOS will live there (mostly) thanks to restrictions by Apple. The new iCloud sync means they get backed up, but online access/sharing would be better. Password=Camera roll restore, which great, but… for Android, Lightbox is pioneering the way with an awesome “connected photo roll”. Lose your phone, log back in, and all your pictures are there.  And there’s a great online gallery where you can edit and share, so Password = Photos. Easy.

Everything else I use lives in the cloud anyway…  which I can get ubiquitous access to. The implication there is, data security will mean everything in the future. Both Google and Facebook (!!) will allow you to export and backup the data you’ve stored with them. Definitely a good alternative if you’re storing all your pictures and memories online.  Look for a future post  on data security-”it’s 4am, do you know where your data is?”.

Filed under: Android, Apple, iPhone, Mobile, Music, Software, Technology

What a difference a decade makes

This picture says it all… Graphic by Brett Jordan.

Filed under: Apple, iPhone

Dropbox- how file sync should be

dropbox
My beta invite for Dropbox (funded by Y Combinator) arrived this weekend - and my initial impression is very positive. I’ve migrated my home mac use to a client/server (MacBook Pro/iMac) set up- with my iMac doing most of the heavy lifting.

I’ve tried multiple back up services and even tried to use iDisk as a “dropbox”, but it never worked like it should. I’m now sharing my “Current” folder between the two macs seamlessly- and can even get access via the web if needed. Essentially, Dropbox is what iDisk should be – seamless cross-platform file sharing, complemented by web access:

Dropbox features

Apple should acquire these guys ASAP and switch out iDisk for Dropbox…and getting access to these files via my iPhone would make a nice addition to MobileMe too.

Filed under: Apple, Internet, Venture Capital

iTunes Downloads- 5 Billion Served

Apple announced today that iTunes downloads have now topped 5 billion. I posted back in January 2007 that iTunes had hit 2 billion purchases…

I note we’re now comparing downloads with purchases- which may or most likely may not- be the same thing, but the growth curve looks very impressive:

Itunes5billiondownloads
It’s worth highlighting that the number of weeks required for the second 2 billion downloads took less than half the time that it took to reach the first 2 billion…hence the exponential curve, not a straight line…the rate of change growth is accelerating… Ray Kurtzweil would be pleased to see exponential growth in action.

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, iPod, Music

Apple’s Backup 3.0 – Roadtest [Updated]

Bkp_128
I’ve been road-testing Apple’s new Backup since it’s release. Overall, I’ve been very impressed. I’m using it to backup daily to iDisk certain frequently-used files and also to my iPod.

The incremental backups means time spent backing up is minimal every day. And I haven’t experienced any of the Backup weirdness that plagued Backup 2.0- it was very unreliable and I almost never successfully completed a backup.

However, as easy as it is to backup- no backup software is worth its complied code if it doesn’t RESTORE reliably. Last night while playing around with the WordPress beta, my Safari preferences got nuked. (Yes, there appear to be some very nasty bugs for OS X users with the WordPress.com site).

This presented the perfect opportunity to test Backup’s restore function…

Backup_screenshot_5
Restoring my Safari preferences was a piece of cake: I had previously selected the "Personal Data & Settings" backup plan, so I opened that plan, selected restore, the date and source and then Safari settings.

The only criticism is that the entire backup had to be downloaded from my iDisk before the Safari settings could be restored- i.e. Backup didn’t selectively download those files. If the files are absolutely mission-critical, a short wait is a small price to pay for getting those files back.

The only other hole I had pointed out with Backup was the lack of a cloning option allowing bootable copies of your entire hard drive. I’ve come across a great program called SuperDuper! that appears to be even better than the venerable CarbonCopyCloner that CK swears by. It costs $20, but the combination of Backup and SuperDuper! is all the backup software you need to recover from a serious data loss situation.

And just because you aren’t backing up doesn’t mean a hard disk failure isn’t out to get you!


Update:

There are further QuickPicks for Backup 3.0 available here.

Filed under: Apple, Software

Apple’s Backup 3.0 – Roadtest [Updated]

Bkp_128
I’ve been road-testing Apple’s new Backup since it’s release. Overall, I’ve been very impressed. I’m using it to backup daily to iDisk certain frequently-used files and also to my iPod.

The incremental backups means time spent backing up is minimal every day. And I haven’t experienced any of the Backup weirdness that plagued Backup 2.0- it was very unreliable and I almost never successfully completed a backup.

However, as easy as it is to backup- no backup software is worth its complied code if it doesn’t RESTORE reliably. Last night while playing around with the WordPress beta, my Safari preferences got nuked. (Yes, there appear to be some very nasty bugs for OS X users with the WordPress.com site).

This presented the perfect opportunity to test Backup’s restore function…

Backup_screenshot_5
Restoring my Safari preferences was a piece of cake: I had previously selected the "Personal Data & Settings" backup plan, so I opened that plan, selected restore, the date and source and then Safari settings.

The only criticism is that the entire backup had to be downloaded from my iDisk before the Safari settings could be restored- i.e. Backup didn’t selectively download those files. If the files are absolutely mission-critical, a short wait is a small price to pay for getting those files back.

The only other hole I had pointed out with Backup was the lack of a cloning option allowing bootable copies of your entire hard drive. I’ve come across a great program called SuperDuper! that appears to be even better than the venerable CarbonCopyCloner that CK swears by. It costs $20, but the combination of Backup and SuperDuper! is all the backup software you need to recover from a serious data loss situation.

And just because you aren’t backing up doesn’t mean a hard disk failure isn’t out to get you!


Update:

There are further QuickPicks for Backup 3.0 available here.

Filed under: Apple, Software

Apple’s Mighty Mouse- Mixed Results [Updated]

Like any Mac devotee, I rushed out and bought me a Mighty Mouse as soon as possible. My first impression was good, then I installed Apple’s Mighty Mouse drivers and was met with horror as my System Preferences went haywire. They still switch on me at every restart. [Update] Apparently, this is a widespread problem.

Then my mouse started sticking when I would click. I thought it was me, but I’ve returned the mouse and am sitting here with a new one- I definitely had a defective Mighty Mouse the first time.

I still can’t program the scroll wheel to do a cmd+W. Hopefully, Apple will add more ability to program the mouse *exactly* like you want it, instead of how they want you to use it.

Overall, the mouse performance is fine for my needs- as long as I can add cmd+W- and is light as a feather. It’s just like using the original one-button apple pro mouse, but with the ability to right click. If you’ve got the spare cash, pick one up- just avoid the Apple Mighty Mouse Driver.

Update

Mighty Mouse number two has died. The scroll wheel stopped working last night… It’s going back to the Apple store tomorrow and I’m getting my money back.

Plus, my hand actually hurts from using this mouse. It is incredibly non-ergonmic. I’ve seen other people mention wrist and hand problems after extensive use of this mouse- I can coo-berate those claims. The Mighty Mouse has to be one of the worst releases from Apple in ages.

Filed under: Apple

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