our brains need the time to reset just like the gadgets and computers we use and operate. by experimentation i’ve learned that a minimum of 2-3 weeks vacation twice a year pretty much does the trick. think about it, in today’s day and age we are always on, always connected, always tapping into sources of data to keep us engaged. from the moment we wake up and check our smart phone which aggregates data from multiple social and professional networks, to email, text and voice mail – we are constantly engaging with our peers, families and consume multiple sources of data, easily streamlined for our convenience, easily shared and re-propagated. and this is just the digital disturbance 🙂

the human story for today is our need to focus. the need to do just one thing at a given moment and stick with it for many hours. developers know how to do so (hey nir, can you turn off the music and ask andrew to put his headphones on please?). i know that for me playing music does the trick and specifically practicing yoga. calming the mind is an art that requires constant and un interrupted practice. i cannot imagine the brain enjoying 100% capacity at any given moment, just as much as it enjoys 0% capacity. the truth is pretty much always in the middle. face it, we have learned to respond to these interruptions better than focus, and it goes back to the days where the telephone was invented.

sleeping is the best time for the brain to not consume new streams of data and process all it has been bombarded with, make new connections and archive/store the data. from a quick survey with close friends and family, i learn that sleeping patterns are very much affected and do worsen with time. how many of you out there in the internets sleep with the TV on?

this is why i take two long breaks from my work and focus on relaxing my mind and body, explore new geographical areas of our planet, meet new people, study a new language, and more often then not play/write music and expand my photography skills. this works in phases though and i find that it takes some time to re-adjust the mind and relax – slow down. the longest break i have ever taken from life was a 3 months trip to brasil. no iphone, no laptop, no internet connection. would you be surprised if i told you that it did not take long to re-adjust to the new situation and that i loved it? i took my best photos and wrote my best music while taking these breaks from life.

much like a hard reset, browser cache cleaning and the application of a new style sheet – one may immerge back with fresh energy and a newly re-wired brain. so – for the sake of your career, mental health and own happiness – plan on taking a longer time off. you deserve it.

top picks for 2010 from the appStore

2010 has been an incredible year for the mobile space, and as crazy as things may appear, this is only the beginning. with the advent move of the smart TVs and slated devices, we are bound to see more innovation for both corporates and consumers alike.

here is my short list of top apps for the iphone first, at random order:

skype: veteran at it’s field. skype is affecting the bottom line by saving money. $3/month for unlimited calls in the US, the ability to work over 3g and soon facetime is where the industry will be, no matter how much carriers want to extort the end users. bar none, skype is keeping us all connected. with PBX integration and a future IPO this company will continue to dominate and lead the way in it’s field.

facebook: this facebook app is a fantastic example of how apps can pack zest with style. this is the top used app because it’s well done. nothing much to say, we are all on it and loving it.

foursquare: i am a big fan of the NY based company. real time, location based (and soon NFC), 4squre has started something great that is echoing throughout. mayorships, badges and a solid business plan. i hope for more goodness from these guys.

fotomecha: probably my favorite camera app (for still photos) in the appStore, because it allows me to be creative and capture moments i.e. more than one moment, and create a flow in time.

itimelapse: for video capable iphones, this app allows timelaps video creation with some nifty features for creative control. you need to be patient and stable, or maybe you need the glif.

FiRe: top recorder which integrates well with soundcloud. i use it often to record music,conversations etc. these guys are fantastic with performance and know the audio frameworks well. money well spent.

SPL meter: i use this app to know when the sound around me is affecting my hearing. hearing gone bad cannot be regained. those tiny hairs in the hearing tube will not grow back. sounds particular and you may call me old fashioned, but no concert/club in the world is worth loosing our hearing for.

goodreads: bar none, the top app to sync your pdf files for offline reading. i also sync movies to it and this is the reason i get more done. 30m on the subway is a great time to launch this app (both iphone and ipad). with the ability to sync documents from dropbox, google docs and others, this app packs a punch of useful features.

airphones: great little app that turns the iphone into a wireless headset over wifi. you will need to install a server on your mac or windows machine.

mobile mouse: while you have airphones streaming audio from your mac mini, which is hooked up to a 50″ plasma, you will need to launch a browser and go on this app is the best i’ve seen and worth every penny. again, you will need a server running on your machine.

Google music – with hopes for innovation

Google’s new advent move into the world of streaming music is exciting. Well, not quite yet… but the idea of some innovation around music delivery (and maybe discovery) can POTENTIALLY be exciting.

What are we looking at here? As most things go – we are looking at Apple delivering over 1M songs per day (do the math) directly into iPod/iPhone etc. Apple also just relieves Ping, their brand new, let’s live inside iTunes social networks that spirals around music (great niche if you ask me).

What can google do that’s creative, innovative and will convince people to use their service and BUY music (at some form) from them? First, is a platform that is built for android based phones where you can interact with your media (discover, stream, share and sync). Second is pricing. Beating Apple’s pricing is tricky and I am not convinced it will be done – there is a better battle ground on platforms. over 200K android based phones are being activated every single day – more than enough for Google to capture a nice market share. Couple this with the advent of Google TV where you will be able to stream your music from droid to the TV, snyc em all over the net, and you have a really tight, head-to-head competition between Google and Apple that will benefit us all.

How can Google make this service better? One answer lies across the pond where a company named Spotify is making big moves and capturing the imagination and pockets of the audience. Spotify is a brilliant combination between iTunes and Pandora. With Spotify you can the choose any song you want to play and it will stream right to the Spotify player. Pretty neat right? With Pandora you can create a playlist based on a song, which will, eventually, be played down the play list. Spotify is instant gratification without the need to pay.

It is says that Spotify has been trying to make a move into the US, but had hit some walls, and/or is working diligently to negotiate the terms and fees and bla bla… long-short, no iphone based spotify nor desktop in the US as of yet.

I hope to hear great news from Goolge in regards to this up and coming service. One way to make it kick ass is add a new layer of interactivity. Think of what MTV did back in the 80s when they added the video to the music. Companies like Lucid Technologies, with their product KOI are doing the same thing, allowing musicians to interact with the songs as musicians and not only listeners.

Why Apple TV and Ping will fail

Major snore from Apple in my opinion. I think that the event itself, and the fact it was streamed to Mac machines and Safari browsers only is THE reason why Apple had failed and will continue to fail (in my eyes) with the latest announcements. I am talking about a close eco system and spoon fed experience.

Apple failed with the TV expenditure. Steve did not show us numbers, but clearly it was a failure. The big changes were sizing, pricing of shows and streaming, as opposed to storing. Is that what the users really want? To a certain degree, yes. Users do not want to worry about storage, they want to pay less for a device and for content. Apple did deliver on this, but it will not be enough, I believe, to be a killer device like the iPhone, and take over the living room with a storm. WHY? Because of the closed eco system and spoon fed experience.

Apple did a great job in educating the users and providing a great user experience across the board. I argue that user experience is what Apple is really selling and why people are using it. Coupled with the motivation to challenge and innovate, and you have a winning strategy.

This does not and will not work for the TV because only Apple fanboys will forget everything they know, and start a fresh with Apple TV, and forget all they know and do with their many years of habit. The TV is one area where users do not want to get the Apple filter applied to. Users don’t mind it with their iPod shuffle. They don’t mind it with their Mac OSX based machines, and to a certain degree they agree to it with their iPhone (mainly because Android did not step up it’s UX game to be considered a worthy competitor. yet).

Apple will gain a small market share and will have to come up with something much better than that to capture the imagination of the bigger market. I believe that can be done by turning the Apple TV into a real entertainment center to compete head to head with the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo Wii as a console, introducing the iOS appStore for the TV. That can be killer. But even that is not enough. An Apple TV can only be better than, let’s say, a Mac Mini hooked up to a TV, if it is open. By open I mean I can do whatever I want to do, as opposed to whatever Jobs wants me to do (buy his content that he chose for me).

Examples for this behavior are ample and sad. Apple removed Camera+ from the AppStore recently because TapX3 released a hack which allows you to fire up the camera from the volume button. Apple initially declined the feature, claiming it will confuse people. So Apple is stepping up to the plate as our parents (more like a big brother), deciding what is confusing for us. Clearly, releasing the shutter speed in an ergonomic way may confuse us. I feel over estimated, and I do not think it is for Apple to decide for me what’s confusing and what’s not.

Apple’s attempt at social media is probably the most interesting news to date from that event. A social network around music, which is mutually exclusive from Facebook. Did I snore yet again? While I do believe this is a GREAT idea and a fantastic opportunity for Apple to increase sales on iTunes – the segregation is peculiar. Even worse – who wants to live inside iTunes? Though revolutionary, iTunes is hate by many. Looks and feels old and clunky. Navigating through your music sucks and discovery with genius is, well, boring…

Apple’s notion that people will have iTunes open to see what their friends are listening to is optimistic at best. Not web based, not facebook integration. Only one hope – it integrates with iTunes on your mobile device. I cannot imagine myself opening up iTunes when I want to listen to some music, and getting up to speed with what’s going on with my music buddies.

Apple can definitely relax a little. Let go of the grip and think of a more open way to provide users what they do best. Or not. My personal opinion is that they will not do that, and continue to thrive with a small market share that pays hefty sums to be a part of the cult.

– plug your guitar into your iPhone and rock out!

AmpliTube iRig is just one of those ideas that can make people buy an iPhone. not often do i get to see apps for mobile that can serve as game changers and this is – in my humble opinion – is. as a life long big fan of music, i both play and compose music, and let me tell you: owning equipment is not something i enjoy. in fact, i do not have an amp for my guitar because i can’t be bothered to carry it around… let alone have multiple effects, pedals and what have you.

AmpliTube iRig may have solved this problem by creating a digital instrument encapsulated in an app, that holds various effects and amps, and it runs on your iphone. to make things sweet, you purchase what they labeled the iRig: a small device that allows you to plug in your guitar to the iphone, and then have the wet sound routed out to your headset or home stereo system (wet means sound with the effect and/or amplification applied to it).

how fantastic is that? for a fraction of the cost you now have minimized your setup to the iphone and the iRig. i love it!

some questions before the video:
1. what about latency? it is fair to assume it is not an issue, otherwise the app would fail and there is no room to create it from the get go.
2. how quality is the quality of the sound? yet to be seen (or heard). as far as the audio samples on their website – it sounds freaking awesome and top notch.
3. where is the competition? seriously, hats off for the vision and innovation of this company.
4. what’s missing? battery power that will have the iphone last longer than several hours of playing around. maybe it will run better on the iPad 🙂

video time: