As I sit writing this, the sun has just risen over the jetways of SFO. It’s been 3 days since I was last in this terminal. I’m heading to New York for yet another work event. And today is my fifth anniversary as an Adobe employee.
It’s been a pretty amazing 5 years. When I first joined the company, CS3 had just been launched. The tablet I am writing this blog post on didn’t exist yet. I was rocking a red Blackberry Curve for a phone and thought it was the best thing ever. (And actually it was pretty good. I can’t count how many times I dropped that thing and it just kept on working.)
Adobe’s business has changed pretty dramatically since then. There’ve been some days when I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to get paid to do what I do, and some days when I wondered what the hell I was doing.
Throughout all the changes, and the highs and lows along the way, one constant has been the amazing people and customers I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working with. A smarter, more caring, and more dedicated group would be hard to find.
What the next five years will bring, who knows? One thing I do know is that I’m looking forward to the ride.
So HTC’s newest flagship phone – the HTC One – was released this week and lucky me, HTC sent me one as part of their launch. I’m a longtime fan of HTC phones, having used the Nexus One, the Inspire HD, and more recently the One X, but the HTC One is a big leap forward from all of these.
Short version: This phone is excellent. It looks, feels, and performs beautifully, and I just love using it. For more info, read on.
Out of the box, the HTC one feels great in your hand. It’s metal, not plastic, which means it’s a bit heavier than my One X, but not too heavy. The screen is beautiful. And the audio volume and quality are a big step forward.
HTC has a nice setup process that allows you to import data from a wide range of accounts. One new thing I found was the HTC Transfer Tool. As you might expect from the name, this transfers some data and settings (although mostly system stuff), including messages, contacts, music, and photos. After downloading the app onto my old phone and pairing the devices, it worked like a charm. Being able to transfer data across two phones without cables or using a computer was very nice. I just wish it included all my apps, not just HTC’s stuff.
For the rest, Google’s setup added some more apps and settings onto the one, and then finally I went into the Play Store and re-downloads the rest. it would be nice if setting up a new phone was a bit more seamless, but you only have to do it once per phone, so this isn’t that big of a deal. Plus it gives me the chance to re-evaluate what apps make the cut to go onto the new phone.
Using the HTC One
With the phone set up and my apps reinstalled, I could start to give the phone a real workout. Here are my impressions after three days with the HTC One.
There’s a few little things I’d like to see improved, but even so this is easily the best Android phone out there. Sorry, Samsung fans. Given Sense UI over TouchWiz I’ll take Sense any day.
And speaking of UIs, Sense 5 has gotten a nice overhaul. Lots of little tweaks and additions, a new icon set and font — overall a very clean and modern feel to it. I love the upgrades to the Gallery, bringing together the photos that I have in various places, like Flickr, Dropbox, Instagram, plus several others. The email client works great with both my home and office email accounts and looks nicer than the last version.
There’s been a lot of talk about the “UltraPixel” camera and how HTC is focusing not on pixel count but overall photo quality. I come at this from the perspective of what they call a “prosumer” photographer and as such I have a pretty high quality standard. The HTC One is as good as a camera in a smartphone is going to get, but it’s not going to be replacing my Nikon D5100 anytime soon. Here’s a sample indoor shot:
The audio quality, as I said earlier, is really excellent, as is the screen. Colors just pop and animations flow smoothly. Battery life is about the same as most phones in its class – decent but not spectacular (about 8 hours of moderate use). I turned down the default brightness to help with battery life but I haven’t made use of the built in “power saver” features.
Although overall I’m very happy with the HTC One, there are a couple of things I’m not completely thrilled with. Primarily, the new home screen. I’d like to be able to do more customization that it allows. The clock and weather widget, for example, can’t be customized at all. And the new BlinkFeed is frustrating, because while I really like the look, I’d like it a lot more if it would display my calendar first all the time and then my social updates and news. My phone is a work tool as well as a social one and access to my calendar is pretty critical. Not having that in my home screen is a big minus.
This is mitigated somewhat by being able to add my calendar notifications into the lock screen. I can live with that.
Also, the whole HTC Zoe Share thing. I still don’t quite get what the heck it is, and I don’t see a need for it. I have plenty of other ways to share my photos and videos already.
None of that is a show stopper, although I do hope HTC continues to work on BlinkFeed to give us more options there.
Anyway, those are my impressions after a few days of use. I look forward to a long and happy life with my HTC One, and would definitely recommend it if you’re in the market for a new phone. Even you iPhone users should take a look.
For an in-depth review, you might want to check out Android Central’s complete rundown.
One last note: I’m pairing my HTC One with a red Cruzerlite “Bugdroid” case. It’s a simple TPU case that doesn’t add a lot of extra bulk but offers some basic protection. Plus it’s cute.
Over the course of an exceedingly hectic and travel-filled March (four cities in three weeks!), I finally got the chance to attend SxSW Interactive. I was there for work (Adobe did a 2 day event as part of the festivities) and didn’t get the full SxSW experience.
Despite spending most of my time there snapping photos in a hotel ballroom, I did manage to get out a little, and I came away convinced of two things:
1) I want to go back next year, and
2) SxSW is what you make of it
There’s plenty of articles out there taking about SxSW from every possible angle. Depending on who you listen to, SxSW is anything from a 4-day partyfest to the most important event of the year for anyone touching the interactive world.
But ultimately – SxSW is a lot like Disneyworld. You can focus on a lot of different things when you do a trip to Disney. So much so that two families might have completely different experiences even though they’re both in Orlando at the same time. And you might come away hating the trip, or loving it, or wanting to do everything different the next time, or not wanting to change a thing.
So too with SxSW. And count me as a fan.
It’s the end of February and my last post was in 2012. This is one of the longest dry spells I’ve had on the blog.
There are a few posts rolling around in my head; making the time to type them out has been the challenge. In the meantime, though, the cherry trees are blooming on my block and here’s one of them:
Ingress has become something of an obsession to the folks over on Google+ in the last month. Like many, I waited more than a little impatiently to see if I’d be one of the lucky ones to get an invite to the currently closed beta of Ingress.
And a few weeks later, I did. Lucky me! Now I’d finally be able to see what all the buzz was about.
The initial experience of Ingress is slick and well thought out. You run through a set of tutorials that show you what to do, and you choose whether to become one of the Enlightened or join the Resistance. Easy enough.
Then you’re out in the world, with your smartphone and the Ingress app, getting engaged in the battle. That’s where I ran into trouble. I found a number of portals quite easily – there are four within a block of my home, and two more by my office. The only problem is, the battle has been advancing while I was waiting to play. As a lowly Level 1 newbie up against enemy portals several levels higher than me, I haven’t much of a chance to successfully attack them, and successful attacks are necessary to advance in level.
That creates a frustrating Catch-22, and I don’t know whether I’ll keep trying or not.
I’m disappointed, because I love the idea of Ingress. A game that requires real-world engagement instead of sitting home in front of your computer is a great idea. The mythology around Ingress is a lot of fun. But the barrier to entry, especially for places like the Bay Area with a lot of geeks, is a real issue.
I made one humble addition to Dawn’s genius: the orange zest. If you have the time, try to use real pumpkin, it makes a difference. If you really want to be hard-core, make your own crust, although personally I went with one from Whole Foods. Avoid graham cracker crusts though.
15oz (by weight) cooked pie pumpkin
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Zest of 1 orange
3 large eggs
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
Prepping the pumpkin
If cooking the pumpkin from scratch, use a sugar pumpkin weighing about 1.5 pounds. Cut it into quarters and remove the seeds and stringy bits from the center of the pumpkin. Cook the pumpkin by covering the pieces with foil and baking at 400 degrees for about an hour. At 30 minutes turn the pieces to get the sides done evenly. Allow to cool, and then scoop the cooked meat out from the skin. Discard skins and any brown bits.
If you absolutely must use canned pumpkin, make sure you buy 100% pumpkin puree with no additional ingredients.
Making the pie
Put cooked pumpkin into a food processor, then add the heavy cream and honey. Blend thoroughly until the mixture is completely smooth. Add all the other ingredients, then blend thoroughly a second time. All that blending adds air, which will make the pie light and fluffy.
When done blending, run the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, then pour it into your pie shell. Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with whipped cream for that extra dose of awesome.