SwiftKey Flow Public Beta Available

I personally have used the Swype keyboard on my android phones since it was in beta. It was exciting to see SwiftKey launch its own variation on this type of keyboard. Swype has always had issues differentiating between “if” and “of” and other similar letter combinations. It was a nuisance to go back over every message and proof it for these typographical errors. I used SwiftKey 3 for a few days to test it out a few months ago. Their prediction is vastly superior to Swypes built in dictionary and word prediction. SwiftKey learns from your writing style and increases it prediction accuracy over time. There are even options to scan your text messages, emails, and facebook posts to learn your writing style. I didn’t mind letting it scan my text messages, but I was not interested in it reading my emails and facebook posts. A major difference between Swype and SwiftKey Flow is the option to never lift your finger until your done typing. Using Flow you simply move your finger across the space bar and move on to the next word. Being used to lifting a finger to either allow Swype to insert a space or manually hitting the space bar, it took some time getting used to swiping down to the space bar and continuing on. Once you get used to this method of typing you will notice a nice boost in your typing speed.

Being a Beta (the first Public release) there are still some issues to be worked out. Currently once SwiftKey predicts the incorrect word the only way to change it is to stop typing and delete it. There are ideas being thrown around in the VIP forum on how to fix this. The two methods I liked are either you swipe left from the delete key to remove the last word typed, or be able to swipe up to the prediction bar to the word you want, then continue on with your message. SwiftKey also has problems properly predicting words that have two of the same letter together like “too” and “fell” which becomes “feel”. It is also currently having issues with words that incorporate an apostrophe. Surely the SwiftKey team is working on ironing these issues out and the release version of this keyboard will be fantastic.

Overall I can see myself using this keyboard going forward. Even in its Beta form it is more fun, and more accurate than Swype. If you do not currently own SwiftKey 3, now is a good time to grab it. It is on sale for $2.00 in the PlayStore at this LINK!

The Flow Beta can be found HERE!

Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, Smartphone

In my household there are three MS Windows 7 desktop PCs, one MS Windows XP laptop, one Debian Squeeze laptop, one MS Windows 8 pen tablet, one MS Windows 8 slate, one Android smartphone, two iPhones and two iPads. Work provides another MS Windows XP (soon to be MS Windows 7) laptop. Strictly for media access, I have an AppleTV and a TiVo Premiere. Finally cancelled the DirecTv service this week. I am also in the process of rebuilding a FreeNAS box for media storage. Nowhere near the ridiculousness of some households, but enough to be annoying at times. One of the iPhones and most likely the pen table are on the way out.

All of this begs the question – what is this crap used for?

The real answer is that there are a lot of unused cycles on this equipment. Two of the desktop PCs, the AppleTV and the TiVo are strictly for media playback (Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, iTunes) and this averages less than four hours per day. I have been looking in to open source media players but have yet to use one.

I like using my Debian laptop but the battery doesn’t last very long. The iPad has the battery life but not the functionality of the laptop or the slate. I read and send the majority of my personal email on the Android phone. I maintain four non-work email addresses and do not use a mail client other than mobile. The slate device is very functional, but if you go the MS route, there is licensing to consider. I mostly use open source products to meet my personal needs.

What is your primary device? Discuss.

– habanero_joe

IT Today

It is my intention that this post will ruffle some feathers in the IT consulting community.

Over the past (nearly) 20 years of working at IT in one capacity or another, I have been a customer purchasing services and on the other side of the fence as a vendor selling services B2C and B2B.

A perception that has been solidified is this: many vendors still feel that high markups on hardware sales is acceptable. This thinking has to change. Hardware is a commodity. End of story. Take the time to get a reseller account with a distributor (Ingram Micro, Tech Data, etc.) and get wholesale pricing. If the customer pays you less for hardware and software, there will be more money available for labor, support contracts, etc. While you are working on the reseller account, think about how to reduce overhead in your business. How many employees do not generate revenue? Can their tasks be outsourced for less money? Do you REALLY need to high square-footage office? Certainly not once you trim the office staff. Reduce expense and increase the money in your pocket.

Now get out there and build relationships!

– habanero_joe

Product Review: Cowon O2PMP

Note: to achieve the appropriate reverent tone, read this post in the same manner as a Catholic priest holding Mass in Latin

There are many, many PMP (personal media player) devices on the market today and many are pretty decent and get the job done. Good or bad, the iPod seems to be the gold standard against which all others are compared. And to be honest, the interface is pretty easy to use one-handed while driving.

That notwithstanding, there is another device that deserves serious consideration; the Cowon O2PMP.

Cowon Systems (South Korea) was started in 1995 with a primary focus on software development. The company released their first audio player in 2000, the CW100. A key component of the Cowon PMP is the JetAudio software application. The Cowon O2PMP was first produced in. Device specifications include a 4.3″ screen, flash-based storage (8GB, 16GB, 32GB), USB 2.0, TV output, SD card slot (up to 16GB), voice recorder and several other features. The device comes preloaded with a very diverse support of audio and video codecs; FLAC, MKV, MP3 among the most common in use. Advertising claims battery life of 8 hours for video playback and 18 for audio playback.

Unfortunately Cowon O2PMP production has been discontinued. This is a tragedy… However, there are still decides to be found on the used market for under $150. When you get a device, go to the Cowon website and make sure you load the latest firmware.
I have owned two of the 32GB models. Still not sure what happened to the first unit, after flawless performance for over a year I had completely drained the battery on a long red-eye flight. I ran through all the troubleshooting steps and it has not worked since. Unit #2 has been working as I expected for about six months. I travel a bit for work and this makes the flights bearable. I watch movies, TV shows and listen to music and audiobooks. For anyone used to watching video on an iPod, the Cowon screen seems huge by comparison. Much closer to an iPhone display. Battery performance is as advertised and it easily charges completely overnight while you are sleeping. Media management is as easy as you please. Unlike Apple devices which require iTunes, the Cowon devices work with any OS (I have tested various Linux and Windows). Plug the included USB cable in to any available port and the OS recognizes the device as a removable storage device. You will quickly find folders for Music and Video, and a few others. Simply copy your media to the appropriate folder, wait for the file operation to complete and eject the device. You are ready to go. The built-in speaker is good for low noise environments, but a good set of headphones will make the experience that much better.
As stated, there is amazing codec support. If you have never used the FLAC format, it is better quality that a typical MP3, by far. As for video, AVI and MKV work flawlessly. Note: resolutions above 720p will not render well and the video and audio will almost certainly be choppy and unviewable. Another big benefit over an Apple device is that you can load media from any source. No pesky messages about your library, computer not authorized, etc.
The only issue I run into form time to time is navigating on the touch screen. While the layout is very intuitive, I occasionally have a hard time scrolling through the media lists. Certainly the pros outweigh this.

Final thoughts, the device size, battery life, storage capacity, and available playback formats make this an excellent device for the frequent traveler as well as the casual home user.

– habanero_joe

Public WiFi – what is the cost?

Question for the readership:

What is the true cost of providing public WiFi (unsecured) in say an airport?
Leave answers in the Comment section…

In this age of 3G, MiFi, etc. does anyone really need to pay to use WiFi service to get work accomplished? Sure I’ll connect all day long if it is free. A good WiFi connection is usually faster than my 3G BlackBerry or Droid Pro connection. But I refuse to pay for this.

On a recent trip, the hotel I was staying at, charged €6 for 30 minutes of WiFi which is close to $17 per hour. The Burger King less than a block away had it for free and served beer, cheap. Another hotel on the same trip had it free in the lobby. Good enough… Based on my fairly extensive domestic travel, it seems that the ‘higher-class’ the hotel, the more it charges for what is a simple service.

I realize that there are real non-recurring and recurring costs but these days, every business needs some sort of Internet connection for daily operations.

I will now step down from the soapbox.

– habanero_Joe

Working For Corporate IT

Background: I work as a manager for a public regional financial institution, managing a team of business analysts. I have held this position for just over seven months. Previously I had worked as IT Director for a medium-sized private company in charge of all aspects of data and voice for approximately ten years. During this time I always thought: “I wonder what it would be like to work for a big company…?”


I have approximately fifteen years of technical/IT experience and I have always enjoyed being hands-on, first as a technician and then later as an IT manager. My preference is virtualization, storage, security and networking, specifically planning and implementation of new or growth/replacement scenarios.  While I am the first to admit I don’t care for the daily user helpdesk issues, I certainly enjoy the technical aspects of pure IT. While I have some minor programming training, I have never been a developer or application guy.

So on to the new position: I am now 95% pure management and all that entails. The majority of my day is spent on project conference calls and attending various project and administrative-type meetings. While the change in role has been interesting it has quickly become routine. I travel fairly often and spend a lot of time in hotels and airports. After seven months I am also quickly loosing touch with technical knowledge and it is a struggle to stay interested in what I do everyday. It will come to no surprise to anyone who has experienced this, but corporate IT is typically much more siloed than any small business. The most obvious separation is between infrastructure and applications.

In the corporate application world one benefit is the available resources for development and testing. The drawback is that the requirements to push a new product to production are rather inflexible. Production loads usually have to follow a scheduled calendar cycle. In the small business environment I was used to, “testing” often meant making a production server backup, loading the new update and crossing fingers that it worked. We had had a backup right? On tape… The corporate methodology pretty much ensures that the new app or upgrade will work successfully when moved to production. Of course all of the server virtualization options now make this much easier for everyone.

Overall environment comparisons:

Small Business (non-public company)- flexibility in position, more control over resources,  less restrictions and regulations to deal with, faster move to production, less resources.

Corporate (public company) – rigid org chart, many regulatory controls, more teams with less responsibility, much higher level of security, slower pace, more resources available

So the bottom line is that if you are faced with making a voluntary or involuntary decision to move from a private company smaller environment to a public corporate environment (no matter the position) make sure you ask plenty of questions to ensure that you fully understand what you are getting in to. And count on your life changing!