Author Archive | Harry McCracken

The New Features in Jawbone’s Up App Are All About Eating

Jawbone
Thanks to wearable fitness gadgets such as Jawbone’s Up and Up24 wristbands, it’s now very easy to get some sense of how many calories you’re burning as you go about your everyday activities. But figuring out how many calories you’re consuming–and other aspects of your eating habits–is still work.

Jawbone’s smartphone apps, and the ones which work with other gizmos such as FitBit, include tools which let you log your meals. I frequently get excited about using them. And then, once I start keeping a food diary and remember how much fumbling around it requires, I slack off.

With a new update to its iOS app, Up 3.1–Android version in the works–Jawbone is trying to make tracking what you eat easier, and to help you use that information to lead a healthier lifestyle.

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TechReads for July 16, 2014

Technologizer TechReadsWhy that Comcast rep wouldn’t let Ryan and Veronica just cancel. (Adrianne Jeffries/The Verge)

Because doing so would cost him money.


Fox tried to buy Time Warner. (Andrew Ross Sorkin/Michael De La Merced/NYTimes)

Anyone who wants to buy Time Warner should read the original AOL Time Warner press release, which I annotated in 2009.


Apple-IBM deal is bad news for BlackBerry. (Ingrid Lundgren/TechCrunch)

Just what BlackBerry needed: more bad news.


Here are the sites Google is hiding under EU “Right to be Forgotten” law. (Jeff John Roberts/GigaOm)

Gone from the Google index, but not forgotten.



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One New Slingbox Caters to the Masses, the Other to High-End Users

Slingbox M1

Slingbox M1

When it debuted back in 2005, the original Slingbox–which let you pipe your TV signal at home over the Internet to a distant computer or smartphone–helped invent the whole idea that you might be able to watch your favorite programs anywhere. After being bought by satellite-TV hardware company EchoStar, however, Slingbox went a long time without changing much–until two new models showed up in the fall of 2012.

Now Slingbox is changing again. The two new models–the Slingbox M1 and SlingTV–are close relatives of the low-end and high-end models from 2012, the Slingbox 350 and Slingbox 500, respectively. But the M1 aims to be even more of a mass-market gadget than the 350, and SlingTV adds more features to the already-fancy 500.

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At Comcast, You’re Not Just a Valued Customer–You’re Also an Indentured Servant

My friends Ryan Block and Veronica Belmont decided to cancel their Comcast service and switch to Astound, a smaller cable company available here in the Bay Area. So they called Comcast–and talked to a rep whose job was clearly not to help them cancel but to prevent them from canceling.

Here’s audio of part of the conversation. If you’ve ever had to deal with a recalcitrant rep at a giant pseudo-monopoly, it’ll leave you speechless, but not surprised. (Ryan shares more details here.)

My blood boils just listening to this, but all through it, Ryan is remarkably calm. It’s all reminiscent of a famous 2006 encounter with AOL support which was remarkably similar, except that the customer was less serenely polite than Ryan.

Anyone want to make any guesses about how often encounters like this happen? Or whether they’ll be more or less common if Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable goes through?

As Dan Gillmor said on Twitter…


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TechReads for July 14, 2014

The password is dying. (Christopher Mims/WSJ)

And to prove it, Mims shares his own Twitter password (which is christophermims).


Technologizer TechReadsBringing back Prodigy. (Benj Edwards/The Atlantic)

One man wants to breathe new life into a very defunct online service.


Should Yahoo and AOL merge? Will They? (Kara Swisher/Re/code)

Maybe! Maybe not!


Does anyone want a smartwatch? (Kevin Roose/New York)

Still the most important question about the whole category.


Germany considers regulating Google like a utility. (Ingrid Lundgren/TechCrunch)

Um, fabulous idea.


Samsung figures out its smartphone future. (Brian X. Chen/NYTimes)

Squeezed by China on the low end, Apple on the high end.


Sapphire screens: both neat and impractical? (Brad Molen/Engadget)

The multiple challenges of a technology Apple is supposedly about to embrace.



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The Unbelievably Epic Quest to Restore Your Faith in Humanity

...or, barring that, to at least get you to click on a headline.

Restore Your Faith

First a disclaimer: I never lost my own personal faith in humanity, and therefore don’t need to have it restored. Generally speaking, it bumps along at about the same cautiously optimistic level, regardless of what I’ve recently read online.

I am, however, fascinated by the fact that so many articles published over the last couple of years have introduced themselves to prospective readers by declaring their power to restore lost faith in humanity.

Whether a site is offering up a tale about kids returning a lost iPhone or an ad for life insurance from Thailand or drawings of superheroes punching Hitler, it’s not the least bit startling when it declares that the item in question will restore your faith in humanity. Without trying very hard, I’ve collected dozens of examples at a Pinterest board, which–just to encourage people to click–I’m calling “This Pinterest Board Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.”

Pinterest

Journalists, of course, have always written headlines which attempt to yank you by the lapels and shove you into their work, as Annalee Newitz of io9 points out in her recent history of clickbait. (She begins it in 1888, and rightly considers yellow journalism to have been an early instance of the form.) But the potential upside of that instinct grew far more powerful just a few years ago, when social networks such as Facebook and Twitter became major sources of traffic to online content sites.

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TechReads for July 11, 2014

Technologizer TechReadsAmazon tries to negotiate with the FAA over drones. (Donna Tam/Cnet)

The can now fly at 50mph.


Five points that mattered in Satya Nadella’s Microsoft memo. (Ina Fried/Re/code)

Big changes are yet to come.


How much is Uber worth? (Bill Gurley/Above the Crowd)

A cogent (and exhaustive) argument that it’s worth a lot.



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Satya Nadella’s Microsoft Vision is Strikingly Different From Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft Vision

The era of devices and services gives way to mobile-and-cloud productivity
Satya Nadella announces Office for the iPad at an event in San Francisco on March 27, 2014

Satya Nadella announces Office for the iPad at an event in San Francisco on March 27, 2014

At 6am this morning, Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, sent his colleagues a long memo spelling out his vision for the company. He was thoughtful enough to post it on Microsoft.com for the rest of us to read, too.

The memo contains no shockers: Instead, it spells out things Nadella has already said, only at greater, more ambitious length. But I am struck by this bit near the top:

Microsoft was founded on the belief that technology creates opportunities for people and organizations to express and achieve their dreams by putting a PC on every desk and in every home.

More recently, we have described ourselves as a “devices and services” company. While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy.

At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.

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TechReads for July 10, 2014

An interview with Satya Nadella. (Josh Topolsky/The Verge)

Good clarification on consumer/business divide–or, as Nadella maintains, the lack thereof.


Technologizer TechReadsLinkedIn launches a new Connections app. (Ingrid Lundgren/TechCrunch)

Another example of the current trend of “unbundling” mammoth services into specialized apps.


Microsoft Flight Simulator is coming back. (Dean Takahashi/VentureBeat)

The company’s second oldest product after its BASIC, I think.



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TechReads for July 9, 2014

Technologizer TechReadsComputer Space, the first arcade video game. (Mat Smith/Engadget)

Featuring a nice plug for this Technologizer story by Benj Edwards.


 The truth about smartphones(Ben Thompson/Stratechery)

Explaining Samsung’s bad quarter.


Amazon might want to give Hachette authors all the revenue from their e-books. (David Streitfeld/NYTimes)

The ugly negotiations continue.


JibJab’s “This Land” video turns ten. (Robinson Meyer/The Atlantic)

I disagree with Meyer’s contention that it wouldn’t be a hit today.



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