Which Web Browser Has the Edge?

I was intrigued when Microsoft announced that a brand new browser would be available with Windows 10, as I have extensively used all of the major browsers on Windows for years and none address my (apparently) stringent requirements.

I work in a fast-paced environment with frequent disruptions and constant deadlines. As a product manager in the tech industry, I perform a wide range of functions that demand enterprise-strength applications. Many applications are desktop-based; however, many have moved to the web over the years or involve the web in some manner.

While TCP/IP, HTML, and related standards have enabled browser makers to mostly deliver on the promise of the agnostic application platform, as well as work toward a platform for a consistent user experience, there’s still no one-size-fits-all browser.

Having worked with a wide array of web-based business applications, I’ve experienced applications that require specific browsers and versions from Internet Explorer (IE) version 6 and later versions of IE and various versions of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. None yet have required Apple Safari.

As the browser makers continue to address incompatibilities in their browsers, they’ve also attempted to address other lingering issues in how favorites/bookmarks are managed as well as a method for recovering multiple tabs that users have open and running on their desktops when the browser crashes or the machine locks and has to be rebooted (thus bringing down the browser with it).

The end-user experience in regards to these features and related use cases is the focus of this blog.

In the “old days” if you had 5 tabs open in a browser and then the browser crashed, the browser would not provide a method for recovering the lost tabs. The next time you’d launch the browser after a crash (or perhaps computer reboot), you’d be back to square one – with no simple way to get back to your 5 web pages.

Google addressed this issue in Chrome a few versions back. If you were to close the Google browser today with multiple tabs open, the next time you started the browser, you’d have the option of having it load the recently closed pages in tabs.

Blog_Wordpress_Browsers_ContinueLeftOff
The “Continue where you left off” option allows you to close several browser tabs and then restart the browser and have all of these tab pages reload.

If you don’t see the previously opened tabs, then you simply go to Chrome’s Settings\Recent Tabs to recover your prior browser session.

If this doesn’t do what you need it to, you can use the Chrome History feature in Settings and crawl through a history of visited sites to recover your recent links. A little cumbersome, but works well in a pinch.

Google Chrome provides the option to open a set of tabs that have been recently closed.
Google Chrome provides the option to open a set of tabs that have been recently closed.

So why not just use the Bookmarks or Favorites feature available in every browser to save a page or a group of websites?

First, browser crashes happen randomly and the user often haven’t made a decision whether to save open pages as bookmarks before a crash happens.

Also, I’ve personally never been a fan of bookmarks because, in most cases, I don’t need to permanently save a link; I just want to save it long enough to read the content and then decide whether to save it or not. Sometimes I need to save a page as a bookmark – like the link to my company’s web-based expense reporting app, as any process of monetary reimbursement is important!

I did stumble upon a clever application called Pocket that takes a unique approach to addressing part of this problem. Pocket saves all of your web page articles to a portal page on the Internet, so you can create a “for later” reading list and backup your open pages at the same time. However, you have to remember to go back and check Pocket on occasion to review your unread pages. If you’re like me, you’ll soon find your Pocket page full with an overwhelming reading list. Notably, Firefox does come with Pocket as a standard feature, as opposed to a browser add-on or separate app.

Firefox has an option called “Show my windows and tabs from last time” that functions similar to options in Chrome and Edge. When I open a set of pages, close Firefox, and then reopen Firefox, these pages have been remembered and Firefox reconnects to all of them. Good show.

Blog_Wordpress_Browsers_FirefoxSettingsShowWindowsFromLastTime
Firefox can load a set of tabs from a previous browsing session.

And Firefox’s Group Tabs feature almost looks like it could be the feature that would address my use case requirements, but it’s not intuitive so I can’t really make a determination without investing more time.

Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, has features to address some of the use cases described here. You can configure Edge at startup to open a set of previous pages OR a specific set of pages. This is effectively the same as the options we observed in Chrome noted earlier. But I want both of these capabilities at the same time.

That is, I want to shut down a set of pages and have Edge reload them next time I start Edge AND I want another set of pages that I always use to start at the same time.

What am I asking for, then, from my “dream” browser? It’s simple:

  • If I close a multiple-tab browser session on purpose or by accident (or by crash), I want the option to reload that set of pages next time I start the browser.
  • I also want to have the option to load a set of pre-defined pages unrelated to the multiple tabs session I had open.
  • I want both of these capabilities at the same time.

One way to address this would be to implement a feature that provided the ability to save browser sessions as themes. For example, I’d have a “Company Intranet” theme with tabs/pages to the sales portal, the development project portal, and the HR benefits page, I’d have a “Personal” theme with tabs to personal sites that I use on a regular basis, and perhaps a “Social Media” theme with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and WordPress sessions.

With Edge, you can choose to start a set of previous pages OR a default set of pages.
With Edge, you can choose to start a set of previous pages OR a default set of pages.

None of the major browser makers provide this full functionality – or at least in a way that meet my specific (but reasonable) requirements. So today I’m using (or having to use!) all four to maximize my productivity.

A properly implemented themes capability could motivate me to settle on a single browser and not employ all major browsers to do my web work. Browser makers, can you feel me? [If so, feel free to contact me via Twitter!]

“Test Your Knowledge of Host Systems” infographic

Mankind has been automating tasks with computers to achieve greater efficiencies for about eighty years now. Today we rely on computers for any number of personal and business tasks – creating a document, building a spreadsheet, managing personal finances.

Most people are familiar with the personal computer and the types of work we accomplish with them and the entertainment they provide. There is, however, another class of computers that we use just as much that operate behind the scenes to run our utilities, make our travel reservations for auto, hotel, and air travel, and order goods at point of sale (POS) devices, to name a few.

These large, “enterprise class” computers have been marketed using varying terminology – mainframes (aka, Big Iron), mid-ranges, servers, distributed systems, and many others. As a general group, though, we often just refer to them as “server-based systems” or “host systems”.

Ultimately, these systems are just big servers that scale to run large quantities of transactions at any one time on the server side, while providing reasonable response time to users who are accessing these server-based applications from their client computers. Think of when you buy something online and thousands of others around the world are doing the same thing at the same time.

To illustrate the concepts discussed, we created the “Computer Host Systems” infographic. Take a short journey with Shonda, an IT administrator in a large company, who recently added responsibility for the organization’s mission-critical applications to her list of duties, and therefore has to quickly come up to speed on the different types of host systems and applications in use.

After many mergers and acquisitions, the organization has a wide range of systems supporting the business function and operation. By the end of Shonda’s journey in our “Computer Host Systems” infographic, you’ll both be in-the-know about the most common host systems (also referred to as legacy systems) running the global economy today.


ComputerHostSystems

And the Winner Is…

Welcome back to part two of the great graphical website builder shootout. We ended our last blog with a promise to continue with our project of building three similar websites using three excellent website development tools and then publish final results, including a winner in the Great Graphical Website Builder Shootout.

An important approach to take with any significant project is to break it up into digestible chunks. Hence, I had spent some time creating sample content for the site as well as searching Creative Commons for license-free graphics that would fit the site’s theme.

For review, our website needs to have five sections – Home, Services, Blog, Support, and About – and also needs to be able to provide functionality that supports the various services provided by the site. In some cases, we expect our development tool to provide controls (like a calendar control) to enable this functionality. In other cases, some custom development may be required to achieve optimal functionality.

The most advanced functionality required is online scheduling, where site visitors can view available times and schedule a time to receive assistance with their specific technology problem. I’m highly skeptical that any of the three companies being reviewed will provide this functionality out of the box.

With that, let’s take an in-depth look at the 3 development tool contestants and how they fared in this shootout…

Squarespace

Squarespace provides an excellent drag and drop tool for developers to quickly assemble a website. I spent several hours putting together a slick-looking Tecteen.com site (while dealing with interruptions) and searching for existing images that were labeled “licensed for reuse” in Google’s image search feature. Altogether I spent about 4-5 hours from zero to published with Squarespace.

You start by choosing one of the provided templates to begin building your site. Squarespace makes it easy to switch to a completely different template; however, the number of templates to choose from for our particular scenario was smaller than the other providers I reviewed. Hence, I ended up being a bit limited by the template we chose. If I had been creating a website for a restaurant or online store, the templates provided would have been a better match with this business.

Squarespace had some nice surprises that I could see coming in handy for many site builders. The first was a simple tool for creating a business logo. I tried it out and was able to put together a decent-looking logo in a matter of minutes – no graphic design skills required! You are even allowed to take the logo with you if you were to decide to move your website and no longer use the Squarespace service.

I also liked the announcement bar feature that enables you to place breaking news or promotional content at the top of your site. The image further below provides an example of what this looked like for the Tecteen site.

The Squarespace site builder was free to use during a trial period that ended too quickly. Since I was working with all three tools at the same time, it took me a while to get through using the various tools to complete each site and document nuances in this blog. When I returned to my Squarespace site after several days, the service informed me that my trial period had ended and that I needed to upgrade to a paid plan to continue.

You can spend a fair amount of time customizing certain aspects of the site’s look and feel in the “Style” section of the tool, as more than 30 options are currently configurable.

Weebly

Weebly also starts with choosing a template for a site, blog, or store. I was able to choose from a wide array of professional-looking themes.

Weebly’s interface for building websites is straightforward and simple. Drag web controls onto your edit area and then modify control properties. Click on a mobile or desktop icon to see how the site pages display on the pertinent form factor. Nice.

For each page you create, you can choose one of four page layouts – how the text, images, and other content are laid out on the screen. This limits your options when creating pages, but also minimizes complexity.

Weebly doesn’t provide a “build your own logo” option, so we built several of our own custom logos to try out in various situations. I spent a fair amount of time creating a logo for the site while we I was creating the Weebly version of the website. You can hire a marketing firm or graphic designer to design a logo for your company or choose an option that’s easier on the budget by creating your own.

I was impressed to find that Weebly offers a control called Bookings for adding a scheduling tool to the website. However, as I attempted to implement it, errors occurred and it appears the service costs $30 per month – spendy for a small business.

Wix

Initially I was going to review only SquareSpace and Weebly for this blog, but then a Wix television commercial caught my attention (yay for TV advertising generating a genuine lead) and knew I had to include it in this shootout.

Wix has a wide range of website templates to choose from. The advantage of starting with a template is that you can get from ground zero to having a published website pretty quickly. The disadvantage is that you’re often locked into a site architecture that’s less flexible. A lot of small companies begin with a simple template, and then when budget becomes available move to a more advanced web platform – and also to a team of web developers to manage it.

We’re starting out small, though, so an existing template is the right way to go. The Wix library included a “Computer Repair” template, which is a level closer than templates from the other providers to building a site that meets my specific requirements.

Wix packages their plans in 5-tiers, ranging in price from $4 to $40 per month. You can earn discounts by paying the yearly cost upfront. Wix payment and pricing options are available here: http://www.wix.com/upgrade/website.

In general for all providers, the longer you commit, the cheaper it is on a monthly basis. The catch is that you have to pay a lump sum up front to realize the savings.

Summary:

Here are some samples of the home pages created from the three providers. They look totally different from each other, largely due to the templates available from each provider and then the initial template with which I started. So one key to a successful website is starting with a template that more closely matches how you envision customers using your site.

The home pages for the sites developed with SquareSpace, Weebly, and Wix tools

All three providers supply far more functionality than I can describe in a short blog. My goal has been to define a project of reasonable scope and then see which of the three tools was best for this particular job. You might find that one of these three or a perhaps a completely different one meets your specific requirements better.

In addition, all three companies are quickly moving forward with new innovations to make the lives of website creators easier. So your experience may very well be different and/or better than the one I had. I will provide updates/corrections to this content if the service providers or readers report inaccuracies.

And with that, drum roll please…

Wix came out on top for creating the type of website required for this project (technology services provider). Squarespace and Weebly enabled me to complete the task with ease as well, but Wix included a few more capabilities to garner the top spot. Here’s a summary of some of the key features and scores to better quantify key features leveraged to build the site:

Great_WebsiteBuilder_Shootout

 

 

Who Will Win the Great Graphical Website Builder Shootout?

Modern business runs on the web. If you own a business, you don’t have a web presence, and you’re not familiar with terms like “SEO” and “PPC”, then you’re either in a business that benefits little from the Internet (which, frankly, would be difficult to imagine) or you’re losing business to the competition.

Businesses have many options available for joining the Internet revolution and creating a web presence. Most large businesses have a team (or army) of web developers who are experts at creating complex websites and invest in expensive website development tools, like Adobe Dreamweaver.

Smaller companies may have a developer or two on staff or they may outsource web work to contract developers. The smallest of businesses – aka, Mom and Pop shops – rarely have the budget to invest in expensive web development resources, so they either end up with a very basic website (created by an internal hobbyist) or have no web presence at all.

If you don’t live in the technology space, you may not be aware of a thriving industry of simple web development tools to address these challenges small businesses have in creating a professional-looking website. These website development tools have been available for as long as I can remember.

Naturally, the tools were initially rudimentary, but have matured over the years to offer advanced functionality and now you can set up a professional-looking website in no time at all. These tools are generally free, as these providers make their money providing related services.

To give an example of the timeline involved here, I used an AOL website creation tool back in the mid-90’s to set up a wedding website and then leveraged another called Homestead to create a personal website in the early 2000’s.

You just need to find a reason to create a site, which, frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult to do. Do you have a small business that needs to reach more customers? Do you have a big event upcoming that you’d like to highlight and share with the world? You can accomplish some of these with existing services, like Facebook; however, if you really want to do your event justice, you’ll likely want a dedicated site.

I recently had the occasion to set up a website with my technology-savvy son and performed quite a bit of research on new website development tools to determine the best one to use. Naturally, more tools are available than anyone could possibly review or use; however, I narrowed our test bed to three that seemed to come out on top in just about every review that I read – Wix, Weebly, and SquareSpace.

And we have a real purpose for doing so, which enables us as reviewers to provide context. The goal was to develop a website for a small IT (information technology) business a friend of mine is starting. He’s an expert in smartphones of all types – Apple, Android, Windows – and wanted to bring his business to the web to leverage his skills to generate business helping people with their technology challenges.

This is a great scenario for evaluating a product like a web dev tool. We have a real-world project that is limited in scope, but just enough work to ensure each tool gets a proper workout.

Weebly_Interface
Weebly’s website development tool

In more detail, the goal was to create a website/presence that would get a small business on the web and allow users to contact and schedule an appointment for getting their technology problem resolved. A neighborhood genius bar if you will.

The typical first step in setting up any business on the internet is to come up with a domain name. A domain name is exactly what it sounds like – the name of the business or a slight variation thereof as it exists on the Internet. You’ll need a unique domain that isn’t already registered by another business or individual.

Note that you can register (pay for) a domain name with a traditional domain registrar, like Network Solutions or GoDaddy, and then transfer that domain to your website builder service provider. Or you can do everything through the website provider, but you could save a few dollars per year by keeping the domain and website builder providers separate.

The next step in the project is to brainstorm what content and services need to be available on your website. Typical content might include an About section that tells your company’s story, a Contact page with information for customers to contact your business, and a product information page. Typical services are a calendar tool for users to schedule an appointment online and providing free file storage (ala, Dropbox).

SquareSpace_Interface
SquareSpace’s graphical website development tool.

The website we’re building will initially contain standard content categories (About, Contact, Blog) and a limited set of IT technology services – online (phone, chat) technology recommendation consultations, onsite “secure my router” help, “build me a computer”, and a few others. We’ll want to be sure these services are clearly documented on the site.

We’ll use the following criteria for evaluating each website builder tool’s value:

  • How intuitive is the web development tool to use?
  • How quickly did it take to go from zero to published?
  • Does the provider provide value-added services that obviate the need for custom development?
  • What support channels are available and how good are they?

In the interest of staying within industry recommended blog lengths, I’ll break this review up into two blog postings. Yes, I know it’s not fair for you to have to wait for the final verdict, but this is kind of how the world works – you know with click-bait and all everybody trying to get ads in front of your eyes.

Graphics with examples of the three website development tools being reviewed are interspersed throughout this article.

Wix_Interface
Wix’ graphical website development tool.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll continue with our project of building three websites using these excellent tools and then publish final results, including the winner of the Great Graphical Website Builder shootout! Thanks for reading thus far…

An app for personal food management

My personal life is just about as busy as my professional life. With two working professionals in the household and kids with continuous events and activities, my spouse and I rarely encounter the prized “dull moment” (but when we do, oh, how we savor it!).

As our work and personal lives get busier – think Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, football, soccer, basketball, baseball, orchestra, band, school, homework – we’re constantly looking for ways to be more efficient in how we get stuff done.

As you’d expect, we leverage latest advancements in technology to make our lives easier. We have smartphones for communicating in real-time via text messaging, we use GPS apps to ensure we can get to where we need to go, and even added a smart watch recently to see how this tool could save us even more cycles.

One ongoing challenge that we’ve only incrementally addressed is what I’ll call “food/grocery management”. This is the process of procuring food to maintain a household as well as managing food waste.

The process of procuring food has improved over the years in a number of ways. Grocery stores in the U.S. are open longer for those who can only get to the store later in the evening. And grocery delivery services are now past their early-growth stage and have become a mainstream alternative to having to visit the grocery store.

With regards to food waste, recent studies have shown that the average American family throws away more than $2,500 per year in food. It may seem unimaginable that the number is this high; however, it begins to make sense when you think about all of the 3-5 day old food that ends up in our yard waste bin because the idea of eating leftovers is frequently unappealing.

A lot of this wasted food is certainly safe to eat, but it’s much easier for Americans to justify avoiding food poisoning versus saving a few dollars. That is, we’d rather throw away perfectly good leftover food than risk 24-36 hours being miserable with food poisoning.

As a technology product innovator, I’ve come up with a technology idea to address these problems. Through all of my research online, I’ve not seen the market produce a comprehensive solution for this problem yet, so I’m assuming the specific implementation I’m going to cover here has never been done – although I would also add that with so many innovators out there, it’s difficult to invent something that isn’t already in progress in some form or been done.

Ideas for the app name for the “personal food management” market segment application: the Grocery List app, the Food Management app, Grocery Management app, Family Food Management app.

People will use an application only if they find value in it. So it must either save significant time for the user and/or allow them to save money. Others may have altruistic reasons for leveraging a technology solution, like the ability to avoid wasting food, but usually these do not trump the more typical value propositions of  saving time and money.

In the technology industry, product managers are responsible for understanding market happenings, identifying needs that a technology solution could address, and then working with developers to create a product to (hopefully) address these needs. A simple example is spreadsheet software that enables anybody to efficiently categorize and visualize information. I frequently leverage spreadsheet software to categorize data and illustrate points with others. It’s safe to say that spreadsheet software is an invaluable tool for me.

I am in the process of investigating this food challenge further; however, I have plenty of personal experience to draw from on the subject. As a product manager, I must gather and document specific information before moving forward with an idea. Here’s a subset of the type of information I research for any project, with a focus here on our original challenge – grocery management.

USE CASES/SCENARIOS:

OLD PROCESS: Current grocery process is for family members to write down additional items they need on the paper grocery list on the fridge (if they remember). When it’s time to buy groceries for the week, dad/mom grabs the paper grocery list near the fridge and goes to the store to buy groceries for the week. After shopping for 2 hours, (s)he comes home with everything from the paper grocery list. Unfortunately, needed items are missed because the kids forgot to write them on the list.

NEW PROCESS: Dad/mom logs into the Grocery app on this mobile phone to bring up the family’s customized grocery list for the week that includes all of those things that family members have texted to the list, including those items added while dad/mom is at the grocery store. Dad/mom comes home with all necessary groceries and all family members get what they want (unless dad/mom chose not to get the Twinkies).

CONSIDER:

Kids with phones: Sammy has just eaten the last yogurt container in the fridge. She might tell mom/dad that they need more yogurt or she might write it down on the paper grocery list by the fridge. If mom/dad isn’t readily available, she may not remember to tell them at all. If Sammy is feeling ambitious (she’s a teenager, after all), she may write “yogurt” on the paper grocery list near the fridge.

Kids without phones: A lot of kids have smart phones these days, if for no other reason than to be able to text a parent from school. Younger kids are with a parent when they’re young and most don’t own smart phones. In other cases, younger kids (7-10 years) can borrow mom’s or dad’s phone to add to the grocery list.

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC:

The target market is busy adults who have sophisticated grocery shopping requirements. These scenarios involve adults are usually parents with multiple children, are concerned about children eating healthy, often try to cook at least a couple of family meals each week, spend between $700 and $1,200 on food monthly, and may even shop at multiple grocery stores, including online grocers, to meet their unique family food requirements.

REQUIREMENTS:

  • Grocery List app database would be maintained in the cloud. Security of this data is less of a concern because few care that you consume prune juice.
  • The app installs on each phone in the family, so when they need something, they simply text what they need to the Grocery List App’s text alias.
  • The app has to notice buying patterns and add them to a time-based grocery list. For example, milk is a staple for our family. We consume about the same quantity of milk each week. Hence, milk would go on the list of weekly groceries that get ordered on a weekly basis.
  • Is integrated with calendar app to know when a family member or the entire family is going to be out of town. This will obviously change what ends up on the grocery list and when it needs to be fulfilled.
  • Reminds you when you are near a store that carries something on your cloud-based grocery list.
  • Allow you to check off each item on the list as you go through the store (or order online).
  • Provide the option for customers to have groceries delivered, pick up groceries themselves, or a mix of these. For example, I like to pick out my own fruits and vegetables because grocery delivery services have proven that they cannot (yet) provide this service. You’d think a grocer called “Amazon” would be able to provide decent bananas!
  • Notify the person doing shopping in real-time when something new gets added to the cloud-based grocery list (say, via text) and require notification acknowledgement.

So we have the beginnings of a grocery management app with some good functionality to save us time and money. We haven’t yet discussed how to address food waste issues, so I’ll cover that later as we get further down the road with this app.

What else would you like to see the app be able to do for your specific grocery shopping requirements? Please leave a comment and we’ll get working on the app!

 

Going Multi-platform Mobile

When Apple initially released the iPhone back in 2007, our family jumped on the iPhone bandwagon. The iPhone could do just about anything we needed the device to do: check email, make phone calls, send text messages, and surf the Internet on a relatively fast (for the time) 2G or 3G network. The industry had come a long way since the Palm Pilot!

Fast-forward a couple of years down the road with the kids a little bit older and now it was time to think about giving our 11-year old a cell phone mainly for communicating, but with perhaps a side benefit of entertainment in the form of games and YouTube videos. The kids had been ensconced in technology from a young age – Wii, Xbox, Leapfrog, Nintendo DS. So a cell phone would be a natural fit for kids from generation “T” (for Technology!).

In fact, our older son had always been fascinated with electronic “appliances” – washing machines, dish washers, laptop computers, and his favorite of all, the vacuum cleaner. This young boy was so mesmerized by vacuum cleaners, that he once surrounded our Hoover with alms as if making an offering to the vacuum gods. The bestowal included some high-end sandals Mom had bought for him, a stuffed animal, and a paper plate of food!

We were pretty well invested in Apple when it came time to provide him with a phone. We used my wife’s upgrade through our wireless provider to get her an iPhone 4 and we gave her iPhone 3G to my 11-year old son. Since I had committed to a two-year contract with my wireless provider, I continued using my iPhone 3G even as far more advanced phones hit the market.

My older son was so interested in computer technology that he had become the family’s IT administrator for anything related to our mobile phones. When Mom or Dad ran into an issue with their iPhones, he was certain to be able to address the issue, which was often pilot error. So he had quickly learned how to use the devices, but also how to manage them with iTunes, how to properly back up the data, and plenty of more things that Apple and our wireless provider would prefer that customers “do not try at home”.

When it was time for son #2 to get a phone and my upgrade was available, we had to make some bigger decisions about which types of mobile devices to buy. Apple was no longer the only game in town. Blackberry was still around, but Android had earned significant market share and Microsoft had improved its Windows Phone platform to the point where the new Nokia smartphone was the phone to beat for camera aficionados.

The $64 million question was do we stay with all-Apple ecosystem (get further tied into Apple!), switch to a different platform that might be less costly, like Android, or do something completely different and go multi-platform?

I had been reading a lot about all of the latest devices and had heard good things about new Nokia devices for Windows Phone. Mom wasn’t likely to want to switch to something other than an Apple device, but our older son was more interested in tinkering. He’d already jail-broken his old iPhone 3G, added Windows to his OS X install on his MacBook Air to make it a dual-boot device, and had created several Linux and Windows virtual machines with Virtual Box (to name a few). The Android platform sounded like it would be right up his alley.

Picking a single platform and ecosystem (and putting all of our mobile eggs in one basket) could certainly simplify our lives quite a bit. We could all use the same phone charges, purchase apps from the same app store, and manage it all with the same tool.

In order to feed our older son’s thirst for mobile “appliances”, though, we decided to go the more risky multi-platform route – iPhone 4’s, an HTC One X Android device, and a Nokia Lumia 900 Windows phone! I use the term “risky” because it’s often difficult to manage one computing platform vs. several; however, it was the right thing to do in the interest of furthering our son’s self- (but fast-) paced technology education.

We’ve been using this mixed-platform configuration for quite some time now. Our older son has taken his passion for mobile technology much farther than I ever imagined, having owned 3 different Android phones in the past 18 months. In addition, he’s maintained his knowledge of iPhones, and is also very knowledgeable about Windows Phone. He also maintains a YouTube channel with videos on a range of technology subjects, but especially things mobile.

In a future blog post, we’ll take a closer look at where each platform shines and where they don’t quite measure up.

Driving Under the Influence of Automation

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, what is currently being referred to as “driving under the influence” was referred to as “driving while intoxicated” or DWI (dee-wee!). Back then, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was a strong force, as many mothers had suffered the loss of a child in tragic car accidents.

Fast forward to 2013 and I’m watching a story on the news where a woman under the influence caused a crash that killed some innocent people. 2014 and we’re still killing and maiming people with cars. Clearly, stronger laws against driving while intoxicated (or driving under the influence) have not solved the problem. Addictions are difficult to regulate!

This cold reality makes me think – makes me KNOW – that we need to come up with technology to fix this problem. Through all of the marketing, through all of the efforts made to make people aware of the dangers of drinking and driving and what do we have to show for it? Continued death of innocent people and destruction of property and people’s lives. Ugh. This sucks.

The good news is that smart people are hard at work on this problem. This time it’s not just sociologists and mad moms; it’s technologists and scientists. And they’re making some serious progress, as you’ve likely seen with the Google Prius self-driving car over the past two years. And now in 2014 most car companies have continued to add new safety features that make driving incrementally safer and are working on advanced safety features that will ultimately reduce the chance of any of us being in a car accident.

We still have a long ways to go, though, and I worry that others are going to suffer if we don’t act quickly to motivate auto companies and perhaps more importantly, care buyers, to demand revolutionary advances in safety vs. the incremental improvements we’ve been seeing.

It’s true that technology can’t solve every one of society’s problems; however, for this particular problem engineers have shown that technology, along with appropriate social services to assist people in battling their challenges, will have a positive impact on traffic deaths and property damage similar to how the polio vaccine has had a positive impact in the overall health of the world’s population.

My brother is the victim of a drunk driver. One could argue that the perpetrator got off easy – he was killed instantly – while my brother continues to suffer the effects of the accident, with nagging wrist (broke both) and hip (replaced twice already) injuries. And now I’m reading my Facebook feed and see just now a post from a friend from the past whose brother was killed in a preventable accident two years ago. Ugh. This sucks!

Are you MADD enough yet to support the bringing of safe auto technology to the market faster? I know I am.