The Unsinkable brian cork™

Brian Patrick Cork is living the Authentic Life
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brian and Nicholas and the current state of relevant Technology

June11

long-time readers of this blog are quite familiar with Nicholas Johnson.

I’ll share a recent email I sent him (well it was this very daily, in fact) in response to some advice I was seeking from him around a Chromebox. Nicholas is quite the Android afficianado, and technologist:

Good morning Nicholas.

Thanks for the link. I’m getting old in terms of many proclivities. For example I find myself less interested in what most people write, and my tolerance for poor research has ebbed to practically nil.

However, I’m keen for this exchange given our shared passion for technology.

So… I agree with you that the author of the piece you have shared with me strives for objectivity. I have an intellectual understanding of why Apple takes other companies to court. I just don’t like anyone using the judicial system as a blunt-edged weapon. So, I appreciate Apple’s efforts as a shareholder, but resent the ponderousness of it all. Having said that, I’m not convinced that either Apple or Google (or Samsung) are genuinely pioneering new technology. I used “pioneering” because my fingers won’t let me tap “innovative” (rats!) again. All three companies acquire, borrow or utilize technology from other sources. Their “job” (what word would you use?) is to leverage technology in a meaningful way that makes it appealing and useful to improve our quality of life and productivity. So, I guess it comes down to competition or packaging and presentation. All three companies spend a lot of money on R&D. And, it seems analysts are judging companies by their R&D budgets. If you combined the R&D budgets of those three example companies you could probably run economy of Great Britain.

There is a great deal of anticipation around the up-coming Apple iPhone 6. I’ve seen the working prototype and I want it more than I did the iPhone 5. In-fact, I use an iPhone 5C (my daughters have the 5S), and I’ve never really cared about it. The device works fine. As you know, I keep looking for someone else to come up with a device I like more. This includes HTC, LG, Samsung, etc. They make terrific hardware that is probably as good as Apple’s. My ONLY issue with those devices is that Android does not work for me. Its my sensibilities. I want it to work; and badly. Its just not there, yet. However, I know that eventually the Android experience will be on-par with Apple’s. And, the competition is terrific for consumers. Its also endlessly fascinating to me that the iPhone 6 will likely be a singular event that will push the planet off its axis. Its important for technology enthusiasts, shareholders, and people that care about how and why cultures work. A lot of people will buy the iPhone. It will generate record revenue for a company that sets the standard for profits (and margins). Its simply astonishing that a company of this vintage can raise its own bar again and again while setting the standard for best practices (or, perhaps that is precisely the point).

Circling back to pioneering/ innovation/ experience… I’m going to use the iPhone 6 as an example for my entire email thus far. Lets focus on the screen. Apple is finally delivering a device with a larger screen – something Android users have had options for going on roughly three years. I know that Apple could have delivered a larger screen as well before now but had concerns about pixel density, screen quality, and how applications looked on the device. With Apple, form, function and appearance (the experience) drive decisions – not the opinion of analysts. Also, Apple is constantly refining its products and incrementally reducing the cost without dropping quality (the recent upgrades for the Macbook Air and iMac are good examples). And, this brings into sharp focus the vital difference between the three companies I’m referencing in this email… Apple is the only one of that group that combines hardware and software in their unique mobile devices (I’m not counting Google glass in this example; but then, I don’t know who manufactures that hardware, anyway). Google and Samsung have an uneasy alliance that benefits one another. Apple stands alone. And, maybe thats another reason why the Apple eco-system still feels “tighter” and has a more “finished” feel to it. It also makes it easier to identify with a company that brings the whole package to a market. Google is close (I thought (really believed) it might happen with the acquisition of Motorola – maybe it still will given all the IP Google stripped from it), and that will take me to the ASUS Chromebox, shortly. And, Samsung is working diligently on its own Operating System (“OS”). That is going to make things VERY interesting. Combine their breadth of quality products with an eco-system and… well, …wow…

I talk about this stuff with people daily. Most throw the words Google, Gmail and Android about indiscriminately. They are the same (company/products), but different, right? I love Google. They frustrate me. I want the Android Operating System to be awesome. However, the fact is I am one of those people that will barely scratch the surface in terms of App usability (just like I am with Apple). In fact, other than texting, a flip-phone is probably better suited for me. So, when it comes to Google, I focus on Gmail, Google Drive, and related products. They really are “good enough”. My driving complaint with Gmail is I can’t use multiple email addresses and keep the emails separate like I can on Apple’s Mail or Outlook. Otherwise I would probably use it and do everything from the cloud. Mind you, it bugs me that I can’t use Apple’s iCloud version of Mail for other domain email- for example, brian@unsinkablebriancork.com – (that makes no sense to me at all other than realizing they don’t want you to use their mail on just any computing device). I REALLY wanted Outlook/ Office 365 to work. But, you can’t import contacts into it with contact images intact. That is jaw-dropping and a deal-killer. How is that possible in this digital age?  By the way… Despite goofy stuff like that, the company I’m really watching is Microsoft. I respect the CEO, a lot. More on that later. Possibly over beers.

I’ve just taken a pause, here, and am trying to come up with a reason for focusing on the three companies I have and just realized I’m at the risk of ending-up in a rabbit hole. Now I just had the comforting thought that I actually like and appreciate all three (really, four) of them (the companies). I value Google’s pioneering spirit; I appreciate the breadth, quality and visceral nature of Samsung products; and, I fervently love the Apple experience. Each company satisfies something in almost everyone. However, I have a feeling Microsoft and its evolving Windows is going to get cool (again). They are going to rise as a big turnaround story of relevance.

In any event, I discussed my recent experience with the ASUS Chromebox on Linkedin yesterday. I’ve cut-and-pasted below:

“I remain an Apple loyalist if not evangelist. Earning the mantle of “Apple Fanboy” is no easy task. It means you are expert. And, being expert includes understanding other company’s products. So, I’m exploring the ASUS Chrome Box. This is a VERY inexpensive desktop computing device with a small footprint with an all-Google eco-system. I connected it to a dated HP monitor with an HDMI cable and it fired up in roughly five seconds. It found my internet connection, bluetooth keyboard and mouse easily. I plugged-in my gmail information and I was set-up and in-motion. I recommend it. That said, I think the Apple experience remains superior.

There are several manufacturers of Chromebox. ASUS appears to have the best model. Samsung is getting involved. HP will. Dell did it with a very impressive fob-like device called WYSE Cloud Connect that is similar to the Google Chromecast, but gives you the same result as a Chromebook or Chromebox. Just plug it into a monitor or TV via USB. Very cool. Possibly innovative if part of the definition is usability, mobility and possibly the word, practical.

NOTE: I had a neighbor recently ask me what computer he should ship his daughter off to college with. I told him to purchase an HP Chromebook. She probably has a Gmail account and will use Google Docs for school work. Many/ most colleges leverage the Gmail platform. The Chromebook is sturdy and very inexpensive. Chrome as a browser and OS is fine. Its about a quarter the cost of a Macbook Air.

I am constantly trying to use Ubuntu. I have an Ubuntu box. I have a Lenovo Yoga (stupid name, but terrific hardware), and a Samsung all-in-one desk top. I spend a great deal of time banging around on all of them. But, I always go back to Apple products because they “just work” for me. Some how that is Apple’s differentiator. Others will say its advertising and marketing. But, I do think its our native ability to recognize quality. And Apple has figured out how to make the experience simple and elegant. As soon as someone else – probably Google, Microsoft or Samsung – can match the experience, the devices will all play nice together and all we will care about is the color of the device. But, as I just finished that last sentence, I realized the same argument exists for automobiles. I drive a rigged-up Jeep Wrangler (because I’m a poser) and tell everyone that in Milton, “the Wrangler is the new Porsche”. I also drive a bad-ass Ram 1500 (“El Rojo Grande” to my Lacrosse players). And, we could compare and make the same argument for technology devices as we do for high-end (or, any-end) automobiles. It comes down to style, taste and expectations. There is not a lot difference between cars by class. It comes down to performance and taste.

By the way… I add this with nothing but respect and admiration as my intention… The best strategy Google has deployed today is its mythology around recruiting people. They have created a desire for Google as a cultural phenomenon that is cult-like and unprecedented – creating a associative brand that is awe inspiring. Its cool to work at Google. Its hard to work, as in difficult, at Apple. Soon, its going to be important to work at Microsoft (maybe it always has been – Balmer was just a problem).

More later.

I appreciate you. Oh… And, I miss you as well.

– Brian

The aforementioned email from the indefatigueable, and certainly, redoubtable, Nicholas Johnson:
AreyoureferringtotheChromeBookortheChromeBox?  I believethereisonlyoneChromeBox – which is specifically designed for business.

As far as the Chromebooks go, I have the Samsung and love it, and I’ve implemented the HPs for a couple friends who have nothing but good things to say.  My wife had the Acer and hated it. The trackpad was all screwy. What’s the purpose of the device?
Also, I thought about you recently when reading an article about iOS and Android – http://www.androidauthority.com/real-secret-apples-success-389676/
I think it is fairly well done in terms of maintaining objectivity (difficult on a blog called Android Authority), and it highlights the reason for Apple’s success – unmatched marketing and promotion, not technical prowess.
I hope things are getting better for Joanne. Take care.

Thanks,

Nicholas T Johnson

[REDACTED] mobile

apple has my back (up)

December8

Readers know that I’ve set aside my beloved Apple-oriented hardware (iMacs, Powerbooks, and iPhone) and have been working enthusiastically to drop the Android Operating system onto desktops. Never mind it’s already being done on a few laptops, and now tablets. I wanted a fast-starting and nimble desktop with a LARGE screen. So, being me, I set forth to make it so.

Along the way I started experimenting with different Operating Systems like Windows 7 and the Linux-leading Ubuntu (the truest form of Open Source that also works for the non-geek community).

All of this necessitated a broadening investigation into numerous applications for productivity and peripherals.

Apple was (well… is) great with everything wonderfully integrated in terms of how all your computers, iPhone, iPad, and iPod(s) can sync flawlessly (more on that in just a moment). But, I had already had to start using MissingSync for Android to sync my HTC EVO 4G to my Apples. In fact, much of this started because I was so fed-up with AT&T’s failing network I did not hesitate to jump over to Sprint and try an Android device. Thusly, the transition, or migration to other Operating Systems was really quite systematic, adventuresome and revealing.

So… The Ubuntu Operating System is pretty cool, and has become quite refined. You can’t use widely recognized email clients like Outlook or Thunderbird with it – although it comes with it’s own unique product called Evolution that is reasonably robust and packed with great applications. I’ll go into details around that some other time, maybe. And… Aside from the fact that it really does represent all things evil that are Microsoft (beginning with it’s foundation having been blatantly stolen from Steve Jobs) Windows 7 is actually pretty good. I’ve gotten accustomed to it, and I feel very comfortable.

Well… That was until I tried to use another third-party application called: syncing.net to sync my contacts, calendar events and tasks to my HTC EVO 4G. Things worked pretty well until we maxed-out our initial license (I have twelve people with about sixty PC’s and other devices) and needed to upgrade. Somewhere in the process data got crossed or corrupted and we found our computers involved with a horrific cascading event of lost data and information. All twelve of my people were stuck with contacts, calendars and other information getting erased when their newer PC’s went on-line and synced (this never happened with Apple’s).

Fortunately we had one lone PC in my own office that had not been synced for a few days. It had fairly recent information residing on it’s Outlook. Santi (yes, the very son of Raymond St. James, himself) suggested that I turn-off the office router and harvest the information from Outlook. That worked-out fairly well and we set ourselves to rebuilding other files. But, we were unsure how to sync all of our information around the world and rest assured it was safe.

It was starting to look like we might have to go with (gasp!) Microsoft Exchange – and, my people were quickly preparing to rebel against the insanity, clamoring for their Apple’s).

Out of desperation I tried Mobileme (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL769). Check it out. Do it! It comes with a Windows version (that halo effect continues to work it’s magic [read more about that here. seriously. do it now!]). I don’t know how many computers it will cover. But, for the moment, it appears to be working pretty darn well – all Apple-like.

Ironically, this means I’ve temporarily jumped off the Mac platform to Windows in an effort to expand my technology utilization horizons, and now find myself now requiring an Apple product to save my butt, and make things work.

Oh… And, I’m sure you have, collectively, followed Apple’s stock and know that it broke through three hundred and twenty dollars ($320) recently (and, thanks to the aforementioned halo effect, will continue to move North). Every day we draw closer to the Bank of brian (more about that later).

Apple always has my back.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

androids can't dance

September17

Nicholas Johnson was keen enough to share an Android Users Guide with me.

It’s pretty cool and lays-out how to access and use many features associated with the Android Operating system.

While I was investigating the section relevant to “calendars”, I was struck by the thought that I don’t like their look and feel. And, now I realize that I am of the opinion that Android is not “elegant”. You have to take more steps to make it work – as opposed to it working the way you might expect an extremely well designed piece of software to function. Also, many of the apps and features have an “etch-a-sketch” and “washed-out-Google(y)” appearance. It’s reminiscent of Windblows (although that was more “grainy”) prior to Windows 7 (all of which was stolen from Steve Jobs any way). Now I need to look deeper, and might even hesitate to use the word: “prior” until I can verify. I will say, under any circumstances, that I like what Android does with Map-oriented apps. It’s at least as good as anything found on an Apple device. The “Directions” feature is particularly easy to use and relevant.

So.. Now I have to decide whether I’m enjoying my Sprint driven EVO 4G more because it’s just something different than my iPhone 4, or the Blackberry 8900. Maybe I’m just relieved to be off of the over-populated AT&T network. Perhaps I simply like the craftsmanship of the HTC handset itself.

I still think Blackberry users are simply insecure (read more about that, and, here). We, the collective “we”, that comprise Prudent and Optimistic Gentlemen, might suspect the iPhone and related Apple products are simply superior and facilitate domination in many facets of life.

What makes my opinion worthy of consideration, other than my perspective is simply reasonable? I’ve owned and operated all the handsets discussed in this Blog. Most of the readers of this Blog likely have not.

More later.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

are computers portals to chaos or confusion?

August27

I’m thinking it was either early  2001 or 2002 when David Gardner, the co-founder of The Motley Fool, and I were hanging out here in Atlanta in a local hotel bar pondering optimistic investment options, when it dawned on me how technology is, and will remain, a two-edged sword.

Between the two of us we had six gadgets scattered across a small table that included bulky cellular telephones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s), and one pager (his, not mine), and a camera (again, his not mine). Since, statistically, the odds are good you are reading this blog, and you are at least thirty four years of age, you are probably thinking back with the vision of a similar array of your own.

I was telling David how one of my investors (think Palm Pilot and then PalmOne) that I was coaching and a company I was recruiting for called Handspring had collaborated around the Handspring Vizor devices (that, as you might know, then evolved into the Treo line of products) working with a cellular company to form (what is now) a “smart phone”. The Handspring was a PDA that you could now also use as a phone using a Sprint snap-on module (and, yes, I was an early adopter)! So, you had the least amount of “stuff” you needed to do a lot of business on the fly. By the way… The Handspring  and Palm collaboration realized one of the first efforts to utilize USB connectivity for synchronization, and worked brilliantly with the Macintosh operating system out-of-the-box.

I was pondering my gadgets when I looked at him and asked:

“Do you think all this technology simplifies your life and business, or creates more stress and confusion?”

That was another of my “Forrest Gump” moments as we subsequently witnessed that Motley Fool take a lead in driving a great deal of attention around convergence and mobile technology platforms.

With the advent of Apple’s iPad (and, obviously the iPhone) maybe the answer to my question today is: “as complicated as you prefer”.

I think Nicholas Johnson would appreciate that because he likes to fidget and tweak stuff, in the spirit of all things Windows and Google. He is also apparently offended by things “that just work (a la Apple).

And, this will bring me around to what is currently a continued bastion of confusion – the PC (to be sure all computers are, essentially “PC’s” – some are just more PC, or useful, or work, for that matter, than others) – all of them aspiring to be compared to an Apples.

I have an iPhone and I’ve owned hundreds of computers (mostly Apples).

Here is another question in this time of economic uncertainty, continued efforts around convergence, mobility and the unending quest for what the real “truth” is, any where:

“are computers portals to chaos or confusion?”

Today, if you are under forty years of age, and asked a question, you will almost always go to Google.com for the answer. And, this might be where we realize the true cost of chaos. There is an old rule that allows: “if it’s in writing, it must be true”. Print is a powerful tool or weapon – and, misinformation can be the result.

Picture the twenty five year old “techie”, all-sophomoric, to be sure, at a cocktail party when they get challenged with a great question. The first thing they’ll do is whip out their Treo (well… maybe not) or Android device, fire up Firefox and google the question. Whether the information they find is accurate or not, it will often be touted as gospel and spread like wild-fire.

Think about it… If you Google a topic, most of what you read as a result is from blogs (sic), websites designed to influence thinking, white papers based on uncertain facts, “chat” responses posted on written articles of uncertain origin, etc. Other sources of information those which you find on MSN that can include media-hyped head-lines about the stock market and other economic reporting that is rarely based in fact. And, this is what forms our thinking and opinions daily. Wikipedia might have some credibility due to its community-based self-regulation that suggests some integrity from the intellectual community. But, how do you know if you don’t balance the information against information possibly found in a library or research facility.

I studied Social History (not a widely promulgated course-of-study, and some what “unofficial”) – or why things happened at Radford University and through other programs most of you won’t have access too. And, that has helped form my super powers perspective and position as a heterodox and contrarian. For example, if I read about a certain stock on a blog or through an oped, I know how to verify the information – and, first via skepticism. I focus on what most people don’t realize what they don’t know.

I also ask a lot of questions and always cross-reference. And, that is where I’ll end this piece and hope you pass this on as both a historical perspective of reference, and a warning around how to absorb knowledge, form your own super powers for good use, and be part of the solution, and not the problem.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

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"What am I looking at?", you might wonder.

Lots of stuff.

Meanwhile, here, I discuss events, people and things in our world - and, my (hardly simplistic, albeit inarticulate) views around them.

You'll also learn things about, well, things, like people you need to know about, and information about companies you can't find anywhere else.

So, while I harangue the public in my not so gentle way, you will discover that I am fascinated by all things arcane, curious about those whom appear religious, love music, dabble in politics, loathe the media, value education, still think I am an athlete, and might offer a recipe.

All the while, striving mightily, and daily, to remain a prudent and optimistic gentleman - and, authentic.

brian cork by John Campbell





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