1 Reason Why I'm Better Than Pinterest

I read an article today from Inc Magazine which discussed how pinterest is changing the way web design is done. While I agree with the article, it pointed out how many sites now look and feel like pinterest, I'm going to say that I had the idea first. Meaning, before I knew anything about pinterest, I designed WestSide Culture in the now uber-popular, square style, grid photo format.

I will admit I did somewhat steal the idea from a social network, yet it wasn't pinterest. It was facebook. When coming up with the design concept for WSC, I thought about facebook and how it pretty much got to the point where I ignored everyone's status update unless it included a picture. It became much easier for my small brain to quickly scan the updates for any image that jumped out at me, rather than try to read all the narcissistic comments. So... an idea was born. Why not make my home page just pictures?

Later, about a month after launching WSC, I discovered pinterest and thought, genius. Now this is a site. Granted, they did a much better job at the set-up and concept of grid photos than I ever could have imagined, still that is to be expected. I'm guessing their programmers have quite a bit more experience than yours truly. I am however extremely happy with the way WSC turned out and grateful to have such loyal readers. So for that, I thank you.

For the design, by default, I thank Mark Zuckerberg. Now about that $100B, Mark....

$1 Billion Dollars... Insta-ntly

And just like that, Facebook has entered the spending sweepstakes. Facebook announced Monday that it has acquired Instagram, the popular photo sharing application, for a total of $1 Billion. The deal includes a combination of cash and shares of Facebook.

I will say two things. 1) That is A LOT of money. 2) Ish is getting crazy.

Two weeks ago, Zynga bought DrawSomething for $250M. Since that time, DrawSomething's user based peaked, plateaued, and although I'm not certain, I'm guessing is likely on the decline. I know I've stopped playing it. Much like I did with another Zynga game, Words With Friends. Not because I don't like Zynga (which I don't), more because the games just aren't that fun. They are cool for about 2 weeks and then it's the same crap, different day. The only way to make it more interesting is to spend money, and I'm guessing it doesn't increase the fun factor all that much.

Instagram on the other hand has been cool and relevant for over a year now. iPhone users had an exclusive little club going (the app was only available for the iPhone until it was released last week for Android). Now the user base will grow exponentially, so it appears to be a good time for Facebook to buy them out.

I just worry about all this money that is being thrown around. Spending money in Silicon Valley is nothing new. Just ask the Sequoia Capitals and Benchmark Capitals of the Valley, both of which the word successful is a major understatement.

Still, I seem to remember a time in the not too distant past when quick, fast and big deals in the Valley were commonplace. That was the late 1990's and the Tech Bubble. Have we learned from our mistakes? Doubtful. Are people still greedy? Likely. Have we officially entered Tech Bubble 2.0? Tough to say.

I will say this, you might not need to look much further than recent IPO's Groupon, Zynga, Angie’s List, LinkedIn and Pandora for your answer.

Apple's Newest iPad: An In-Depth Look

Written by: Brian Finnegan, Austin, TX

I received my 3rd generation iPad in the mail on the 16th, the same day it was available in the store. After unboxing it, my initial reaction was, "Wow, look at that screen." You can really tell the difference in display quality from the previous version, although I only had my memory to go by since our previous one was stolen (grrrr… anger…).  Although, it really doesn't take a side by side comparison to see the 'wow factor', it's just a gorgeous screen that looks as crisp as my iPhone 4S and on a larger scale.  

The 2048 x 1536 'retina display' makes for 3.1 million pixels, 4 times that of the iPad 2.  For those that don't know, the term 'retina display' was coined by Apple to describe a pixel density greater than the human eye can discern, meaning further increasing the resolution and pixel count would not make the picture appear any clearer because our eye can't tell the difference.  That's good news for consumers, as touch screens should start to drop in price now that this human limit has been reached.  Expect to see Android and Windows tablets (crap) at this density soon as well.

My wife and I have had a great time with our new iPad, it is just as smooth as the iPad 2 and definitely more visually stunning.  It actually serves a role in our marriage as well, the experience is just more social when we pass the iPad back and forth for some funny or poignant stories, or cuddle together to enjoy a funny video on the net.  This isn't really unique to the iPad, but for those thinking about getting their first tablet, I highly recommend it.  

There have been some reports in the news about the new iPad generating more heat than its predecessors, Consumer reports ran an article that reported that at its hottest, the back of the iPad could hit 116 degrees. They used various iterations of the word hot and summarized, "When it was at its hottest it felt very warm but not especially uncomfortable if held for a brief period."

I duplicated their test with the same game, Infinity Blade 2 which I played for 2 hours straight to see how much it warmed up. I would say that the heat issue was barely worth mentioning. It got somewhat warm as I held it in my hands the entire time and was never near bothered enough to want shift my grip to avoid the warm spot. Of course, the higher graphics load is going to generate some extra heat and I really feel that this is a sensationalized non-story. Tech writer John Gruber went so far as to call the Consumer Reports article, "Embarassing". I don't know if I would go that far, but it did seem a bit like making a mountain out of a molehill. In short, the heat just isn't an issue at all in my tests. My wife agrees, simply saying, "It's not that noticeable."

The new iPad is .6mm thicker than the previous version according to Apple, and I worried that the smart cover companion back case that I ordered before knowing this fact wouldn't fit it, but it does. The fit is not as good as it would have been, still it's fine and doesn't come off. I only mention this to illustrate that the extra thickness just doesn't make much of a difference.

The newest iPad is also the first iPad to offer 4G LTE service in select areas. I tested speeds using the SpeedTest app solely operating on AT&T's 4G LTE network with WiFi turned off. The tests revealed a smoking fast 22.51 Mbps and 25.46 Mbps upload speeds outside with a clear view of the sky and 13.84 Mbps down and 11.94 Mbps up inside the house (with only 1 bar!) This is much faster than the national average of broadband internet in the nation according to SpeedTest's numbers. Not only is that really fast for a wireless connection, it's really fast period for a consumer class connection period.

In summary, I would highly recommend picking up the new iPad if you don't already have one or are dissatisfied with your current tablet. In fact, I wrote this review while sitting on the couch using our new iPad. I used a wireless keyboard and Google Docs via the Safari browser and found it much more comfortable than writing on a laptop or even at my desktop chair.  The user experience remains incredibly polished and precise. In the week we have had it, we have immensely enjoyed it.  It would be hard to go back to living without it, something I never thought I would say about a tablet.

Activision Blizzard and Diablo 3

Written by: Brian Finnegan, Austin, TX

Santa Monica, California based gaming giant Activision Blizzard just announced the release date of their highly anticipated title Diablo 3. Diablo 3 is published under the Blizzard name, although Activision Blizzard is the actual company. Activision, who publishes such games as Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Call of Duty, merged with Blizzard to form a gaming powerhouse.

Blizzard is the company behind the worldwide gaming sensation 'World of Warcraft' and has grown so large with their success of that game that they hold an annual conference every year that has grown to be one of the must-see gaming conventions of the year. Tickets for the event typically sell out within the first hour of going on sale. 

Diablo 3 will release on 5/15/12 and is available for digital pre-order now.  

The game's predecessor, Diablo 2, won a Guiness Book of World Records (GBOWR) slot for being the fastest selling video game ever in back in 2000, and sales of the game are upwards of 4 million copies worldwide. One of the planned innovations that really caught the attention of the tech/gaming world is the planned 'real money auction house' where players can sell the items they find in the game for real life money to other players.

Aimed at combating illegitimate gold/item selling websites that were often malicious, this new approach could mean that our kids might finally make a few bucks while exploring dungeons and killing baddies.

Blizzard, thanks to World of Warcraft and it's merger with Activision, has immense resources at its disposal this time around. World of Warcraft boasts over 1 million subscribers all paying $15 a month (not to mention initial game price, expansions and merchandising) so money should really be no object for this sequel.  

One thing is near certain, this will be the hottest selling PC game of the year and might very well earn them another GBOWR nod.

Product Review: Apple's New iPad

Hector Noesi throws to a Colorado Rockies player as seen live in the DirectTV iPad App

I checked out the newest Apple product last night in between shots of Jameson and bottles of Karl Strauss IPA. Note, the product review occurs about 20 hours following my date with Ms. Jameson, allowing for maximum recovery and typing capabilities. When inebriated, I type about 8 words per minute. Often it is unusable garbage.

The first thing I checked out on the new iPad was the camera, which at 5 Mega Pixels leaves a bit to be desired. They could have at least put the same 8MP camera that is in the iPhone 4S. But, no. So, the image is a little grainy and lighting not great at night or indoors. It's cool to take a picture with a huge 9.7 inch screen, and yet feels strange at the same time.

Video on the new iPad is incredible. Crystal clear, clean, bright. Love it. The DirectTV app allows you to control your home television from your iPad. You can also watch shows, movies, games, etc from the DirectTV app on the iPad. 

The paid version of the pinterest application was pretty sick. The images display super colorful and the page allows for multiple images and boards, where the iPhone app is just a single image at a time.

I was seriously impressed with the browsing speed of the internet when using Safari. Also, viewing WestSideCulture.com using the new iPad seriously increases your viewing experience. Everyone needs one and everyone needs to hit up WSC when using it. I promise you'll love it!

That's about all I had a chance to check out. Again, this was between shots, greasy Mexican food, IPAs and good old fashioned socialization, not the kind that takes place on facebook and or twitter. I know, I didn't know that kind of communication still existed. OK, now back to my instant messenger.

Yahoo! Sues Facebook over Patents

Guest Post Written By: Brian Finnegan, Austin, TX

Yahoo Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Facebook that alleges their entire business model infringes upon 10 of Yahoo’s patents. The most widely quoted excerpt from the lawsuit says, “Facebook’s entire social network model, which allows users to create profiles for and connect with, among other things, persons and businesses, is based on Yahoo’s patented social networking technology." Yikes! This is sure to cause some massive ripples in the tech world, and comes at a crucial time for Facebook with its looming IPO. I have always found the intersection of tech, law and sometimes politics to be fascinating and I hope this case will not disappoint. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is hoping to raise 10 billion dollars with it’s IPO and that the total worth of the company could be between 75 to 100 billion dollars.  All those zeros equal a big incentive to get this settled fast. The big question in my mind is, “What does Yahoo want out of this?”   

I seriously doubt they are going to try and block Facebook from continuing operations, so they are likely looking for either shares of the stock, or a cash settlement. They most definitely have their proverbial hand out, and would very much like a slice of the pie, please and thank you.

If Yahoo is successful in their lawsuit, how many other companies can they go after?  I’ll bet companies like Google, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. are going to be watching this case very closely.

This case also highlights what's wrong with the patent system with regards to software innovation. It just doesn’t seem like creating user profiles to interact with each other should be patentable because its way too broad. It’s just people connecting with people which seems built into the very fiber of the Internet, dating back to the origination of email and the early AOL days. Longer if you want to get technical, as the Internet was always about connecting people. That sort of connectivity just plain does not belong to Yahoo, it belongs to the world.   

That’s my take anyway, we’ll see what the judges say. 

Lions, iBooks and iPads, Oh my!

I procured my MacBook Pro in the spring of 2010 which makes it almost 2 years old. If it were a Dell, I would have shot it in the desert by now and bought another computer. Alas, it's not. It's an Apple and I love it!

I recently spent the extra $30 to upgrade to the Lion OS X (operating system). It is freaking sweet. The trackpad now acts like your iPhone, with two finger swipe movements, pinching to zoom, etc. My computer is now running faster, despite having more data on it. I recently added a bunch of photos, movies and apps. The newest app I downloaded was iBooks Author. It allows you to design your own e-books and customize them for the iPad.

I'm working on a version 1.1 of WestSide Culture's Unofficial Guide to Spring Training. It will be available soon in the iBooks store. The version will be for the iPad only, but the new features pack quite the punch. If you downloaded the original guide and have an iPad, I encourage you to check out version 1.1 when it's complete. You'll get a lot out of it, and can take your iPad to the games with you.

As a side note, keeping with the Apple theme (and full disclosure), I bought more Apple stock a few weeks ago. $500/share is a mighty tough bullet to bite, but sitting on the sidelines and watching it skyrocket is even worse. Trust me. 

iPad 3 comes out soon with rumors of iPhone 5 and the Mountain Lion OS to follow. Exciting time to be an Apple fan and shareholder. 

Holiday Sweets: Droid RAZR, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Android 4.0

Don't get me wrong. I love my new iPhone. I am a little upset the the iPhone 5 will come out in about 6 months, hence making my phone out of date less than a year after purchasing it. But that's ok. You expect that when buying any new tech gadget. 

What I may end up having the biggest buyer's remorse over is not waiting until the Galaxy Nexus came out. That phone looks sick. (I use the word sick here in a good way). One of the coolest features to me is the facial recognition software which can be used to actually unlock your phone. For many of us, this is the closest we may ever come to a "high-level security clearance" like NASA and other government positions. 

In Q3 52.5% of all smartphones sold was an Android device (LA Times)The Galaxy Nexus uses Android 4.0's Ice Cream Sandwich OS, which allows you to resize widgets, easily multi-task and actually eat the phone. OK, you can't eat the phone. It is pretty sweet though. (Pun intended).

The biggest loser in all of this might be the Droid RAZR as it will be released with an old mobile OS. The RAZR uses the Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread OS featuring none of the afore mentioned 4.0 capabilities. The best part about it is it looks really, really cool. There is stainless steel and Kevlar on it. Umm, bad ass. Did I mention it's incredibly thin? Like 7.7mm thin. 

All in all, I think one would be happy getting any one of these three items (iPhone 4s, Droid RAZR, Galaxy Nexus) for their Holiday present. Personally, I just want a blue ray player. Yes, I'm sans blue ray. Sad I know.

Life just got easier: Apple's Siri and iPhone

So, one of my new favorite things to do just before bed is to rattle off a to-do list of reminders, appointments, emails and calls I need to make the following day. 

Generally it's about 10:30-11pm and my girlfriend and I just finished watching a little hulu (we don't believe in cable). She'll get ready for bed and I quickly run through in my head what I need to accomplish the next day and who I need to follow up with.

I'll pick up my iPhone, hold down the button and say, "Siri?"

She's dependable. I know I can count on her. Sometimes she's busy, but she always comes through. After a moment, she responds, "What can I help you with, Kevin?"

Siri looks remarkably like Rebecca Hazelwood for Outsourced"Remind me to call Stephanie about the Football Brat site."

"Very well, I shall remind you at 9am tomorrow", Siri dutifully replies.

"And cancel my appointment to find an outsourced assistant in Mumbai. You'll do just fine."

"Your appointment has been canceled."

Such is life in our new tech savvy society. I picture Siri to be smart, funny, intelligent and a citizen of India. She has that dry, robotic humor and speaks with a dialect that lets me know English is not her first language. It's okay. I don't care. 

The other night, I was upset and told Siri she was a whore. She paused, calmed herself and said, "I am?"

"Please allow me to find you some escorts in your area, Kevin."

And she came up with two of them for me. I decided I didn't need an escort, but something tells me if I ever do, Siri would be glad to call her up and schedule an appointment for me.

How Apple Got it Right

As I sit here on the evening after their latest announcement, I realize how much I want to be like Apple. It's true, I sat there for 45 minutes following their announcement live via blog postings (how much of a loser am I?). Waiting, just waiting for news about the iPhone 5. But alas, ha, Apple has you fooled. It's not the iPhone 5, it's the iPhone 4S. At first I thought, lame. Why not the 5? Because you'll buy the 4S and the 5, that's why.

They have the best products. Whenever Apple comes out with a new product or product upgrade they rewrite the rules. Now their competitors will scatter like ants on a sandwich to catch up to them, and when they do, Apple will be there with something newer and cooler. Like Siri, your new personal assistant at your fingertips will bake you cookies as well.

They have (had) an iconic figure running their company for 30+ years. The same guy who started it over 30 years ago. How rare is that? Today's CEO is in their position for 3-5 years tops. Then he's either fired or moves on to a different company. Today's business starter is in it for about the same amount of time, if not less. The starter today just wants the company to become large enough that he can sell it.

They announce news correctly. Apple puts on a show. Everyone knows something big is coming, but with Apple, you never quite know what trick they have up their sleeve.

They - from what I hear - treat their employees extremely well. 

They were founded on the West Coast and they are still on the West Coast.

They started in their garage, with nothing but a dream. They are now worth $345 billion.

I could go on, but you get the point. They have become part of our culture. Can your company say that?


Full disclosure: I do own a mac. And I will be buying the iPhone 4S. And the iPhone 5. When it comes out.