Saturday, September 28, 2013

Catchy Names for Products

As I've said before, a key ingredient in having a successful consumer product is finding a really catchy name. Some more examples:

  • Bit Torrent
  • Chromecast
  • Flavorizer Bars

How Concerts Have Changed

Went to my first large-scale rock concert in decades, with my daughter. The National, it was fun and pretty good. Interesting how things have changed:
  • No smoke--of any kind
  • Wide range of ages
  • Photos are allowed
  • Band endearingly thanks you for listening

Net IRR of bankrupt companies

I've always wanted to see a study of the net ROI of companies that go bankrupt, or all-but-bankrupt (e.g., Blackberry). Many other examples, such as Borland, GM. I seriously don't know whether all the paid-out dividends over the years make it okay.

The study I would like to see: if you invest 1 year after IPO, and hold till liquidation, how does the investment perform?

Auto Responder App Review: Auto SMS

Very nice app, displaced an incumbent. The basic use case for an AutoResponder is--when someone texts or calls, and you are otherwise occupied, it sends them a text with a predefined message. Various applications, including long bike rides, and when driving.

Standout features for Auto SMS:

  • 1x1 widget--very convenient
  • Expiration timer--a nice touch
  • Lots of configuration options, variable by Profile
  • Ability to read out messages
  • Unlimited or at least very high number of custom profiles
  • Other unrelated features, the most important of which is Scheduled Texts. This allowed me to delete a separate app I had for that sole purpose.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wells Fargo's Hair-Trigger Fraud Detection

In 25 years, I've probably had half a dozen credit cards that I used regularly. Travel within the United States has never been an issue. Most of that time, I have been a light traveler, maybe 2-4 trips per year to other parts of the country.

In the past few years, we've been using a Wells Fargo 1% cash back card as our primary. That's about to end, though, because they have the most ridiculously, over-sensitive, false-positive-generating, and uncorrectible fraud detection. As best I can tell, any time we are more than one state away from Minnesota, all transactions are declined.

The first couple of times it happened, I thought it was a fluke. But it happens Every. Single. Time. The only solution is to call and explain. I've asked if they can tweak my profile. "Nope, that just how our fraud-detection works". Well can I at least notify them online? Nope, gotta call. Is there a special number I can call, and bypass IVR hell? Nope, just call the regular number.

Three strikes, you're out Wells Fargo.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

For the first time in a while, I've found a new app that is worthy of a review. The app is "Bedside (Night Clock)". The name pretty well describes the basic use case --a clock app to use on the nightstand.

  • It has the basics covered--large, dimmable digital clock. It also has an extensive list of options for customization.
  • A very nice one of those custom settings is the option to have the app automatically set silent mode when the clock is activated, and turn off silent mode as soon as the app loses focus. This seems to work perfectly.
  • The absolutely compelling feature is that it allows for a whitelist of phone numbers that will ring through. This is a total must-have for any parent.
  • Regarding the dimming...it has a dim setting, but as I have found with most app dimming, it does not go far enough[1]. My standard for dimming is that, if lying in bed with the clock at the edge of my peripheral vision--I should not be aware that it is on. It should be just bright enough that to read it with night vision. Unfortunately, the built-in dimming does not achieve that standard. However, by cranking down the transparency on the font, and playing with the color mix, I was able to achieve my goal perfectly.
  • Another nice touch, that every app to which it is relevant should have, is the option to override the system rotation setting. I force it to always go landscape, even though my system setting is no rotation.
  • Icing on the cake, it has a setting to brighten automatically come morning, a very thoughtful little touch.
  • Finally, as noted, it has a host of preferences, none of which seemed relevant to my use case, but may be to yours.
All in all, I think this is one of those apps I may well still be using 4 years from now.

[1] I believe that is due to a built-in Android limitation of minmum 10% brightness.