iOS Country Restrictions

Recently my partner and I had a major change in our lives: we moved from Mexico to the US. Besides the fact that an international move has its major challenges in practically every area in life, there is one minor detail I didn’t count on: iOS’ country restrictions.

You see, Apple assigns you a “national” iTunes store according to your credit card’s country of origin. It doesn’t matter if you are now living in a new country, are an exchange student or what have you. Your iTunes store will not change countries unless your credit card does.

That wouldn’t be a major problem, except for the fact that I’m fairly new to the city/country, and don’t yet have a local credit card (though it’s on its way!). Therefore, cool services like Car2Go, Zipcar, and oh! Starbucks Rewards US, are beyond the reach of my crazy-for-iOS fingers. Bummer.

On the other hand, my partner decided to jump the Steve Jobs ship, and moved over to the dark side: Android. He now owns a shiny new Nexus, and as much as a I hate to admit, he has the full US-tech experience that I don’t. He doesn’t have the restriction I do. I’ve never personally owned an Android phone, but just the fact that he can find parking through a local app and I have to circle around for more than 15-min in downtown Seattle to find a spot, makes me want to have one too.

Fortunately, I don’t have to jump over to the dark side since it will be sooner rather than later that I can make the switch to the US iTunes store. But that just made me wonder, what about iOS users who are staying in another country for a short period of time, a few months or even a year? They will have to miss out on local experiences just because they won’t have a local credit card. Did Apple ever thought about this? Is that a deal-breaker for iOS users who want to enjoy what local apps have to offer?

I’ll ask around and tell you the answer soon enough.

Out of Stock: iPad Mini & iPhone 5

iPad Mini
iPad Mini

It seems it is an entirely new era for Apple. Even if the world hadn’t learned about Steve Jobs’ passing away and Tim Cook taking over the direction of the company, one need only take a look at the latest developments chez-Apple to notice things have definitely taken a new direction.

First off, the iPhone 5 has taken heavy criticism. Even though people stood in line for hours outside Apple stores around the world to get their hands on the new iPhone, many have also felt there hasn’t been true innovation in the latest iPhone model. Other than it being slimmer, lighter and of course taller, there are other things that haven’t really changed. To be fair, the new aluminum model maintains the innovative model, and an easy grip.

The real annoyance was with the new Apple Maps application. Routes, streets and general addresses are inaccurate and practically unusable.  I have personally tried to use them several times, and there’s an even number between failure and success to find my way thanks to the app. Tim Cook had to publicly apologize to all users, saying that in truth, the new Maps app has fallen short from high expectations. Samsung of course took huge advantage in this flaw to start campaigns like “With Samsung, you know where you’re going”

iPhone 5
iPhone 5

What does really come as something new, is the iPad Mini. When Jobs was still around, he often refused the idea to come up with a smaller iPad model, mainly because he did not want to “go down” a level and compete directly with the Kindle Fire. Still, interestingly enough, after Tim Cook announced the new tablet, there was mention that Jobs was “reconsidering” his statement days before he passed away.

However, the iPad Mini is much more affordable, and even though it is not equipped with retina display, a great number of users are extremely satisfied with the mini tablet. Online sells have run out of stock [fortunately I could get one of the last online purchases of the iPad Mini myself – does it show that I’m an Apple lover?]. To play devil’s advocate, nothing can be perfect forever. There are bound to be flaws, even from the greatest companies in the world.

Both products have run out of stock mostly as soon as they are released in different parts of the world. Not to mention the never-ending lines outside retailers. If you ask me, the video shown at the Keynote by Cook on the new opening of an Apple Store in Barcelona was a tad much, even tacky if you will.

Just to sum it up, as they say “God – or the devil? – is in the details”, as is Tim Cook or Steve Jobs once upon a time. Can you tell the difference yourself?

watch?v=SvAjFZ0gWNc

Self Improvement Everywhere

Technology has always been there to make our lives easier. Get things done quicker, with less hassle and of course with better quality. But today, with a smartphone being a lot of people’s personal savior, apps do almost everything, everywhere.

However, something that can be noticeable and trending in the last few months is self-improvement. Being apps, or gamification features in certain brands (like Nike +), their ultimate goal is to make you stick to your goals and always be looking for self-improvement. This results in a win-win situation: you get things done in a better, faster way and brands have you engaged.

As mentioned before, Nike + has a very interesting gamification plan. It gets you to buy the appropriate gear to be in the game, or at least download their Nike+ app for iOS (iPod nano, touch and iPhone included). Personally, I’m hooked with this game plan. Not only do I now save Gym money, but I actually use my gear and run 15k a week. What keeps me going? The fact that I can track my progress and share my results with my friends via social networks. It’s nice to see a histogram of your performance and then compare the actual results in your every day life.

Now, as far as self-improvement apps go, there are several start ups with this idea in mind. For example Lift. As described in Venture Beat, Lift is a one-year-old start up in San Francisco that is looking to make people seek self-improvement –guess post it notes on your mirror aren’t cutting it anymore–. You set up alarms and tasks so you know what you have to do, when you have to do it; and of course, it exposes you in front of your friends via social media. Avoiding the judgmental finger perhaps? Well, apparently with this and many other examples, it does help to be in the spotlight, whether you’re doing things right or wrong.

Brands call it engagement, people call it motivation. Whatever the point of view is, in the end, you achieve your goals and thank a brand for it in the process.

After a $500,000 Price Tag, Digg is no More

Digg- Sold
Digg- Sold

Article first published as After a $500,000 Price Tag, Digg is no More on Technorati.

After being born in 2004 as a very promising start up, and taking over $45 million dollars in rounds of investment, Digg has finally come to a halt. It has been sold for merely $500,000 by New York startup incubator Betaworks.

Betaworks reports Digg will go back to being a small start up with News.me building it back up. Mashable also reports that a series of troubles have hindered Digg as a company, going from poor traffic, changes in management and overall staff, including Kevin Rose’s departure back in 2011.
Digg was a great place for link building, news sharing and community creation. However, similar companies stepped in to make room for competition like Reddit. This is also the other side of the technological story: companies might grow exponentially, but they also can plummet with the same speed.

Today we have other social networks that focus more on visual aids and rich media rather than just text in order to succeed. Take Pinterest as an example: it has become the third most important social network almost overnight, all thanks to its image & video curation. Facebook has also taken upon itself to evolve into a more rich media related network by purchasing Instagram.

Some others have chosen niche markets in order to survive, just like MySpace. We can only hope that Digg does come back into something stronger.

Learning How to Code

There are several multimillion dollar industries around the world. Some more respectable than others of course. Technology and software development is one of them (the respectable ones that is). In fact, so many people from other fields have turned to look at software development because of its massive growth.

Of course every major company, whether it’s directly involved with software or not, is looking for programmers every day. You’d be amazed at the great shortage of programmers and software developers there is in this city alone. Not to mention Silicon Valley; filled with HR bilboards trying to convince Stanford students and other qualified talent to join the different companies in the Bay Area.

So, what to do if there’s great demand but low offer? Instead of depending on other people to be qualified in time and on top of that, choose you as their workplace, people are starting to learn how to code on their own. Of course it can’t be done overnight, nor can the learning process be as complete and thorough as in college. It’s a matter of picking your battles. Entrepreneurs and other non-engineer people are choosing the programming language of their preference (or rather convenience) and have started teaching themselves to do it.

Codecademy
Codecademy

But just how can one teach oneself how to program in a very technical language, from scratch? Take it from me, it’s no easy task. However, there are two very good ways to do it (both of which I’ve done): take a qualified online course, like the one offered by Codecademy or ask someone who is already majored in software development or programming to teach you step by step.

Like anything new, you have to practice and practice for it to become an excellent skill. You could almost build your own basic version of software, or a website, or an app. However, keep in mind you will always need to have an expert by your side.

Road MX 2012

It’s been said several times that Guadalajara is the Mexican Silicon Valley. During the mid 90’s this was just starting out to be a catch-phrase for foreign investment in the city. It was nicknamed so because large companies like IBM and HP had settled here instead of Mexico City. Still the phrase “Mexican Silicon Valley” was something that was out of reach for the majority of the people living in the city. It was just reserved for people working at any one of these large companies.

However, thanks to technology and of course fast pace investment, this phrase is now a reality to many people, reachable for anyone with an interest in the field. It is now also called the Start Up culture. Of course, the international mecca of start ups resides and will reside for time to come in Silicon Valley itself, in California. The whole of the Bay area is to thank for this lifestyle. Yes, I call it lifestyle because not only does it affect the work place, but your whole life in a very positive way.

Today, the Start up culture is on the rise in this city. So much so, that many more start ups based in California are setting up shop here. Even better, many of the start ups created here are setting shop in California! It’s a two way process. For example, OVIA [now Wowzer] was co founded by a group of former students from ITESO who started their HR company here and then established their commercial office in Mountain View, California.

These developments have created a community of Start up junkies here in the city. Which is why “Start ups on the Road MX” was created. It has had more and more visitors and participants thanks overtime. This year, it was held at the Hilton Hotel. Created by a non profit community called Suma Valley, the event had several important speakers like Bismarck Lepe from Ooyala, Gris Cuevas from Linked in and Rodrigo Martínez from Wowzer itself.

Community Management Done Right - by Gris Cuevas
Community Management Done Right – by Gris Cuevas

Gris Cuevas’ presentation in particular was of special interest to me. She spoke about the importance of every entrepreneur and business to be aware of their community and to tend to it. Thus, Community Management isn’t just about posting on Facebook and Twitter. It’s about so much more than that. [Ask me about her PDF presentation]

Interesting talks by interesting people in a very very interesting community. Good thing the Start up culture is on the rise.

TEDx Zapopan, Independently Organized

My dedication to watch TED talks started at an Innovation course when I was in college. The main idea behind these talks (even mentioned in their logo) is to share ideas worth spreading. All kinds of speakers with different backgrounds, topics and fields of study have spoken here. Anything from religion, to innovation; from ancient history to modern and advanced technology. The beauty of these talks is that it recognized work done by thousands of people around the globe.

Adalberto Flores - Director of Operations Ooyala Mexico

TED started out being specially organized conferences that had tremendous logistics and organization. However, many people around the world felt like they needed such an event to be close to them, to be hosted in their cities and countries. Thus, TED developed TEDx – Independently organized events.

Darius Lau - My Ex classmate and CISCO prize winner

One of my former teachers from college, Daniel Pandza, decided to go forth with this independent license here in Guadalajara (or Zapopan, the neighboring county). At first it seemed to be a longshot project. But like all things innovative, there was disbelief at the start and complete confidence in the end.

Jorge Sánchez - Agencia Espacial Mexicana

Finally, twenty speakers from all of Mexico were gathered under one roof at Tec de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara (my alma mater) to speak about their struggle in life, and how they followed their passion to become who they are now. Every speaker that went by just made the event more and more interesting. It was as if like the passion fever was spreading from one person to the next.

Rodo Padilla - Mexican Sculptor and Designer

The room was filled with an entrepreneurial audience (yours truly included). I met many of my old classmates (it was like a mini reunion after graduation), I met with other entrepreneurs from the area, and even former co-workers. All of them had but one thing in common, passion for what they do.

Patricia García Torres - Steinway Artist

Although the event started at a little past 5pm, I was there earlier to help out with the logistics and get a bit of an inside scoop behind the scenes. One by one, the speakers came in and were redirected to the make up room (yes, believe it or not, they also have their make up privileges). I spoke with a few of them and was amazed at their current projects (many of which were not exactly spoken about during their talks).

And so, the event was a complete success and ended until 10pm. An event that we usually saw in class through the Internet, one that seemed so far away, was finally here and I was part of it. Here are some of the speakers who were present at the conference, and you can watch the entire talk here. Cheers!

New Metrics, New Social Strata

It has already been described in dozens of books and reviews. Daniel Pink made sure to exercise the disruptive hemisphere of the brain with more than just a single book, and the world has now seen it make a huge difference in our society. Even though we are still under the capitalist model, social strata have begun to morph into more than just financial divisions and capabilities. There is now a new scale: creativity.

Employment may appear to have moved overseas, away from “the developed world”, leaving the West with unemployment rates. What is also true is that it’s not about the numbers, but rather the types of jobs that have remained. More intellectually capable, creativity based and psychological capabilities have remained. So much so, that the # 1 buzz word on LinkedIn profile descriptions is: Creativity.

The traditional model has passed away. Perhaps people still mourn the “good old days”, but this does not mean that it is the beginning of the end (or the total end for that matter); this means that the metamorphosis of the mind has finally begun to take place.

New things can be born out of this new structure. Even metrics have changed. A year ago, tech conoceurs would not have even guessed what TPS meant. It means “Tweets per Second”, and it is a record now held by a Japanese film with a total of 25,088 TPS.

A networked society, as described on the previous post, is now capable of going beyond the physical reality into an informed, educated, creative, holistic environment. So I ask, why if there are a zillion more possibilities with these new models, are people still mourning for the good old days? Don’t look back, rather look forward and see what you are missing.

Technology: Friend or Foe?

As we were finishing up on some details at the office the other day, I turned around and asked my partner, “Do you think technology is causing a greater gap between developing and developed countries?” His answer after thinking about it for a few seconds was that it was closing the gap rather than making it bigger.

Then recently, quite a cultural mishap occurred while at Latin America’s largest book fair. You may have read about it by now and the thousands of jokes that derived from the incident. But the true point in this situation (at least for me) was not the fact that a public figure was embarrassed and perhaps even humiliated in front of millions of people. The true point is that he was mocked by people that are just as guilty as he is: lack of lifelong readership background.

Makes me wonder, that even if we do have modern gadgets like the Kindle that will carry thousands of book titles for us instead of pounds of physical books, we are still not motivated to get involved with culture or education. Developed countries still read in average 30 books per person, per year. A recent study even said that 1 in every 10 Icelanders, there’s a published author. In other words, developed countries not only get involved with culture, but actually produce it.

Technology is being distributed all over the world. Even Latin America has sky rocketing numbers on smartphone usage. So what are people using smartphones for (or other gadgets for that matter)? Technology might be a great tool to simplify tasks and get better results, but in the end, that’s just it: a tool. A tool cannot do the job itself. A tool cannot think; a tool cannot set goals and pursue objectives.

So to answer my own question, yes, technology will help (and is helping in some cases) to close the gap between developing and developed countries. People aren’t. Words of change and action can be spat out over and over again, but it takes people to do it in the end. People, make yourselves proud.

The World as Seen from Multiple Screens

Have you ever sat down and thought about how evolution speeds up as time goes by? Think about it, the dark ages lasted for centuries, then each era seemed to be shorter. In the last hundred years we’ve had more progress than anything before that. It was only fifty years ago that there was a big cube in the living room, broadcasting the same content to millions of families at a time, without people having any control over what they watched. Even marketing seemed pragmatic and programmatic. Just watch Mad Men on HBO… how marketing has changed since the 60’s.

Now look at us. TVs are no longer giant, heavy cubes; they’re flat panels hanging from stylish walls most likely to be hooked to different devices or smaller screens. Plug in a digital camera, a PC, a smartphone and now even a tablet. And even when all of the above can be taken everywhere with you, the interesting part is not only being connected 100% of the time, but rather that you have customized content no matter if you are out for a jog, at the office, at your leisure or plain out bored.

Personally, as time passes by, I find myself to be surrounded by more and more gadgets. In my “engadgeted” world I can practically do anything with a decent Internet signal. What’s more, each little piece of machinery offers a different experience that cannot be equaled by any other.

This said, what would happen if all of a sudden all of our gadgets were taken away from us? History tells us that we’re perfectly capable of surviving such “catastrophe”, but how would we cope with hole left in us all? Would panic surround us? Would we remember quickly enough how to do things analogically? I recall this video  not long ago in which several old gadgets were shown to seven-year-olds just to see if they recognized them or at least knew what they were for. The items included a walkman, a vinyl record player, a tape recorder and an old computer. Not a single participant knew what they were for.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vvqM8YCp-s]

Let’s just hope progress keeps constant and we enjoy our present and our future. In any case, just remember how to read a book in regular pages, how to write by hand and how to walk to the nearest pizza place and get it back home. Can’t harm us, right?