All posts by Chris Pirillo

You Don’t Need to be in New Jersey for a New Jersey

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of DICK'S Sporting Goods for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’ve been called a “fair weather fan” in the past, but only because I’m from Seattle and I consider rain to be more than fair. While I may not follow any team in particular throughout any given season, I do not feel terribly out of place when I choose to support any given regional team.

If that sounds terribly general, it’s because I’ve lived in a variety of places throughout my life. In fact, I grew up in a state that did not have a team in the NFL – so, that made it somewhat easier for me to adapt when the Seahawks became “my team.” I was happy that they made it all the way to the Super Bowl a couple of times in recent years, if only because such positive attention serves as a rather palpable morale booster.

I prefer seeing any kind of sporting event in-person, though that’s not always possible (or practical). For some reason, the same energy never translates on TV – no matter how large the screen happens to be. Of course, you’d expect to see fans decked out in gear in any stadium on game day, but there’s plenty of logo play well off the field as well.

Not only does DICK’S Sporting Goods sell the latest NFL jerseys, but they have a “Jersey Report” which tallies the sales in aggregate. You can see which player (and team, vicariously) is number one on any given week – and, of course, encourage everybody you know to help boost your favorite player at any time. At the moment, there is only one Seattle Seahawks player’s jersey that has cracked the top ten – but I won’t rest until we’ve dominated the entire list.

Not to deflate you, but the Seahawks are unequivocally the best. Quivocal all you want – what I have written is true. Everybody I talk to around here happens to agree with me as well, so the scientific data is there to back up my claim.

In all seriousness, DICK’s has perfectly combined the activity of showing your support for any given NFL player or team with the prospect of seeing how your choice stacks up against others who find themselves in your situation. You can sort by several data points: overall, offense, defense, rookie, and team rankings (by week, 30 days, or season starting on draft day).

I may never play for the NFL, but I can try to help “my” Seattle Seahawks move from fourth place (as currently seen on the “Jersey Report”) to where they should always be: number one. I found it quite interesting that they weren’t already! 

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Tech Gift Ideas for Dads & Grads

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cobra. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m not the best driver in the world, but I’m also not the worst. I’m okay with calling myself an average driver with average needs.

I stick to the posted speed limit, I yield to pedestrians, and I stay within the lines (not just in driving, but in coloring books as well).

There are certain features I wish my car carried with it – not the least of which is a warning light that would illuminate whenever I was about to obey the law and incite a fellow driver’s road rage. They’re probably working on that in a lab indirectly somewhere right now (along with edible turn signals since drivers don’t seem to use them for anything else).

Heading out with the family? Heading back to school? Dads (and grads) could use better tools to further enhance our driving experiences, but we’re not necessarily the kind who will pull over and ask for directions. Sometimes, you have to gift us with technology before we will accept it into our lives.

I was sent an Escort Max 360 radar detector, and my immediate thought was: “I’ve never felt like I needed one before, so how will this tool actually help me as a driving dad?” Then I saw the “Posted Speed Limit Data” feature and got very excited. Yes, this device knows the posted speed limit in your location and will warn you (unlike your car) when you’re going over.

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I’ve wanted something like that for the longest time, and I can’t tell you (as someone who respects the law) how genuinely excited I was to see this. Yes, it’s a system with dual front & rear detection, arrow indicators to point out the source of a radar, GPS-powered for rejecting false alerts, and lightning-fast data detection – but all of that intelligence means nothing if you’re playing fast and loose with the rules.

Yes, I’m a stickler – but that’s what keeps me (and others) safe on the road.

I also like planning ahead, so my trunk has a tiny kit with all sorts of emergency accessories in it. As soon as I saw the Cobra JumPack – Tiny but Mighty, I knew it would be a permanent part of my prevention pack. With it, you can not just rapid-charge your favorite mobile devices, but actually jump start your car multiple times (on a single JumPack charge). And it has a little LED flashlight built-in!

Okay, the smallest things often get me the most excited. Does your portable battery pack have an LED flashlight built-in? Didn’t think so. Oh, and it also comes with jumper cables – without any worry about needing another vehicle to help you start moving again.

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You don’t need to wait for a specific occasion to gift a dad or grad the right tech tools – they may not know that these experiences exist, so why wait another day to enable them to become a better-prepared driver?

I wouldn’t recommend waiting too much longer – because they probably needed these tech tools last week at some point.

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You Can’t Find a Smarter Thermometer

This post was sponsored by Kinsa Health. All opinions and experiences are 100% mine.

Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with a happy and healthy daughter. Jedi has only suffered through one cold, although using the word “suffered” doesn’t seem like an accurate portrayal of the experience. Throughout the absolute sniffles last year, she remained rather bubbly for a baby. We weren’t even sure if she was sick – but the congestion pretty much solidified her condition as a flat fact. What a trooper!

A couple of days ago, Jedi woke up quite hoarse. We weren’t sure what to make of it. Just the night before, she had been her regular ol’ self. Sure, she’s prone to expressing random screams of elation – but we didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary with her behavior (or her voice). Immediately, we turned to our digital thermometer to see if she was running a fever. Fortunately, she was registering in a normal temperature range. We remained concerned.

There’s a myth that’s been circulating on the Internet for decades – that I love tech. However, I simply do NOT love technology for the sake of it being technology. That’s a pointless proposition (and an empty passion). I love what technology does to empower us, and absolutely loathe how some use it to destroy others.

It’s with that approach, I look carefully when it comes time to find tools to better fit my needs. Otherwise, I’d be like: “Oh, it’s new tech – it must be good because it’s new tech.” Or: “Hey, it runs on batteries – it must be more amazing than anything else.” Yeah, no. There’s more to it than that.

As luck would have it, Kinsa had reached out to me recently to ask if I’d be able to take a look at their “smart” thermometer. Smart? I already know how to interpret numbers, and my current thermometer isn’t broken. Well, it’s not the thermometer itself that’s necessarily smart – it’s the system tied between the Kinsa Smart Thermometer and its corresponding smartphone app (available for iOS & Android).

And, before I forget to tell you, they’re offering this product at a reasonable $19.99 (instead of $24.99) if you happen to get a Kinsa Smart Thermometer through me.

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Normally, you would take a child’s temperature (or your own, perhaps) and be done with it. But what about tracking data over time without a struggle, keeping it organized to report to your physician, or being aware of what all symptoms combined may mean without having to do further research? What about being aware of localized trends that may further pinpoint a likely illness? Yes, you could probably spend hours upon hours of research (because, we all know that a parent has nothing but extra time on their hands) – or you could get it all done in about a minute.

What’s your time worth to you as a parent (or a person, for that matter)? Sometimes, the worst part of a child’s illness is not knowing or not having enough information that you can use to better diagnose (or help your child care provider help remedy the situation with recorded intelligence). We felt helpless when Jedi was sick – not just because she couldn’t communicate effectively with us as an infant, but because we wanted to help her feel better as soon as we possibly could.

An app in conjunction with hardware may not get you (or your child) well any sooner, but it will give you far more insight to better lead you to making decisions as parents. Ignorance is not bliss – it’s dangerous when you’re speaking to the health of yourself or your loved ones. This is a tool to combat ignorance with actionable intelligence. Smart technology isn’t smart unless it helps you make smarter decisions – and that’s why the Kinsa Smart Thermometer is now in our array of parenting tools.

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Oh, and Jedi’s voice is making a recovery; she likely has laryngitis, so we’re keeping her hydrated with plain ol’ water and trying to keep her from using her voice as much as we possibly can (though, reasoning with a 1.5 year old is quite often an exercise in futility). I’m happy to say we didn’t have a chance to give this smart thermometer a full workout this time around – but the next illness may be right around the corner.

Kinsa does meet ASTM and ISO standards for professional accuracy, and may take a quick 10 seconds to get a reading. You can use it orally, rectally, or under the arm; we opt to go with the least invasive measurement option. You can use disposable plastic tips, too (though the device is water resistant and can be cleaned without worry). Use it to track any member of your family – unless one of you never gets sick.

And if you always have a fever with the only prescription being more cowbell, there may be no hope for you. Pac-man fever may still be treated with a 99.9% cure rate, though. This smart thermometer may not be able to detect or diagnose either one of these afflictions. Sorry. Maybe in the next iteration?

Get one now (with a 20% discount) – before you need it.

MacBook Pro 15″ with Retina Display Review

MacBook Pro 15″ Review: 7 Things I Like

  • It’s a portable workhorse – I use it for video, primarily
  • The display is everything I’d want it to be
  • The screen sits firmly in place – not much wobble in use
  • It processes videos faster with every Final Cut Pro X revision
  • Keyboard is same as wireless keyboard – muscle memory
  • Plenty of accessible ports for me
  • A logo isn’t screaming at me when I use it

MacBook Pro 15″ Review: 7 Things I Don’t Like

  • UI rendering isn’t as snappy as I’d like it in OS X Yosemite
  • The chassis gets dirty easily
  • The screen gets inexplicably crapped-up regularly
  • The built in FaceTime camera is only 720p, horrid low light perf
  • The built-in mic picks up fan noise
  • The HDMI port is output only, not input
  • Clean design, but not readily (or easily) upgraded

Windows 10 Potential Gotchas

I think that if you’re going to use Windows 10 on a regular basis (or at all), you owe it to yourself to read up on a few new aspects and features of the OS:

I used the word “potential” intentionally – as it carries double-meaning in this context. Windows 10 has the potential to either elevate or further sideline Microsoft Windows – and I’m also highlighting potential snags to those who blindly agree to Windows 10’s terms without understanding the consequences (or don’t perceive these features as “gotchas”).

Either way, Windows 10 is full of potential.

Hat tip to a top patron Steve Mannering for the link to better deconstruct Microsoft’s updated privacy policy for Windows 10.

iMac with Retina 5K Display Review

iMac with Retina 5K Display Review: 7 Things I Like

  • Every detail is sharper, even when zoomed in a bit or scaled up
  • Future-proofed with 4Ghz Intel Core i7, 32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3, AMD Radeon R9 M295X
  • The 1TB SSD is ample for my needs
  • Plenty of space on the screen to eliminate need for second monitor
  • Clean design: front, back, side – all around, well done
  • Ability to run Windows side-by-side (or within, thanks to Parallels)
  • For my average needs, it’s just as powerful as a Mac Pro
  • Giving one away at http://deals.lockergnome.com/

iMac with Retina 5K Display Review: 7 Things I Don’t Like

  • Speed bump over Mac Pro 2008, hardly perceivable in software yet
  • Apple logo in front – I know it’s an iMac, you put your logo on the back
  • The 720p webcam seems to be in radical need of an update
  • The fan kicks in quickly when watching video, especially in Chrome or Flash
  • USB 3.0 ports already seem outdated with USB Type C around the corner
  • Unless something changes, this is my primary Mac desktop for another 4 years
  • I still feel a need to plug in an external mic for all recordings
  • Giving one away at http://deals.lockergnome.com/

iPad is Not Failing

iPad sales are flat, but just because more and more people aren’t buying a new iPad is not indicative of a failure on Apple’s part.

Quite the opposite.

People seem to be quite content with their old(er) iPads. They’re likely not seeing the value in buying a new one if the old one is serving their needs. In many ways, users may be treating iPad like it’s a classic PC – not expecting to upgrade this computer until it breaks.

People continue to use iPad as a PC replacement, too – including buying items through Apple and generating revenue for the company in tow.

How is that anywhere near a failure?

Yes, the onus is still on Apple to drive value (and revenue) through hardware improvements, but even when it can’t sell a user the latest iteration… at least that person is probably happy with their current iPad.

I don’t think a happy user could be categorized in the “failure” column. If anything, Apple needs to further adjust its expectations and create more value in services, software, and ecosystem to compensate accordingly.

Can Windows 10 Save the PC?

TL;DR: Yes.

You know me (or should know me): I suck at the maths. I also understand that statistics can be twisted to accommodate any view.

So, I always take these kinds of industry updates with a grain of salt.

No doubt, an average user doesn’t need the PC as much as the PC needs a user today – and if you don’t understand that, then you fail to understand where consumer technology is (and where it’s headed).

If anything, our definition of what a PC is (and what it is not) needs to evolve – just like the value prop for Microsoft Windows needs to evolve.

Indeed, Microsoft is pushing the ball forward with the pending release (and promise) of Windows 10. In using recent Insider builds, I’ve been surprised at both performance and usability in various modes – and remain hopeful that existing cruft will continue to be cleaned up with incremental updates.

But what about the PC? Can Windows 10 save it with the Save button that’s represented by a product that isn’t actively used by most users today?

Let’s change the Save icon from a floppy disk (?!) to something else and expect that people are going to be okay with the change – or, we can keep the Save icon as a floppy disk (?!) and make sure that our existing users don’t lose their calm.

That’s the riddle Microsoft is actively trying to solve.

For Microsoft Windows 10 to succeed, it has to push past the classic PC paradigm – and, in doing so, can “save” the PC for the average user. We have to be shown that Windows isn’t just for the “computer room” anymore.

The desktop and laptop will still continue to have a place in this world for professionals (which is a term, by the way, I believe also includes those who live for modding or playing video games as though their life depended on it).

Windows 10 will give Microsoft an opportunity to better bridge the gap between yesterday and tomorrow – recognizing that simplicity and interconnectivity are paramount as the industry moves forward.

You simply can’t expect the PC’s design (as we’ve used it and known it for decades) is going to be able to make the transition, however. No product from any company could surmount this monumental change in modality.

I do, however, believe that Microsoft’s effort with Windows 10 can help change the perception of what a PC is (and can be).

If It’s Not an iPhone, It’s Not an iPhone

Apple’s new iPhone ad is making waves – some like it, some don’t.

I guess I’m ambivalent?

They’re telling the truth.

Which, I suppose, is rather outlandish for an ad.

At least, that’s what we’ve come to expect from ads: lies, overgeneralization, mistruths.

They’re speaking less about the iPhone and more about the phones that have been iPhone’esque. If you want an iPhone experience, get the iPhone.

In 2001, I remember being pulled into one of the first Pocket PCs I held. It was everything my Palm device was not. I wound up getting pulled away, however, when I found a third-party Palm OS device that offered “more” than my current Pocket PC. I spent every waking moment trying to get that Palm OS device to work more like my previous Pocket PC.

Then I realized: if I want this Palm OS device to be more like a Pocket PC (or something more like Windows Mobile), why wasn’t I just using a Pocket PC outright (or something running Windows Mobile)?

So, I went back to the world of Microsoft and was happier for it – until the first iPhone was released, that is.

Apple does offer something that other players do not – a value that (I’ve argued) continues to help make it stand out in the field. Most users don’t know why that’s valuable outright, and Apple is trying to communicate that clearly with the “part” language used in this commercial.

This commercial doesn’t mean squat to someone who already gets it – but it’s going to get someone like my parents thinking differently instead of assuming that an iPhone is exactly like the unending array of Android devices available today.

By telling the truth.

Imagine that.

Who Watches the Apple Watchers?

My experience with the Apple Watch has been both good and bad.

Being someone who is overly critical of both UI and UX, I simply haven’t found anything in hardware or software to be either confusing or an eye sore. I’m a bit disappointed in raw performance and data accuracy, but those are separate issues that can and should be addressed.

The first iteration is unnecessary and “expensive” for people who do not wish to actively track their personal data – and I expect that with the addition of more sensors, the Apple Watch is going to become more valuable.

Slagging the Apple Watch wholesale because it’s not perfect seems to be the thing to do, but I’m not going to do it. Mind you, it’s still not perfect.

Like Jim Dalyrimple, the Apple Watch has given me personal motivation to do something about my health. It’s not that there was a lack of personal health trackers before the Apple Watch (just the opposite) – it’s that there was a lack of usable personal health trackers that worked well enough for me to wear past a week.

I have to trust that every part of the Activity tracker is accurate – though it’s not always able to catch my pulse, you have to choose the most appropriate exercise in the Workout app for it to record properly, and it always reminds me to stand at 10 ’til even if I’ve been walking around the house for the preceding 20 minutes and having just sat down.

So, even if the stats aren’t 100% perfect – I’m now aware of just how much my heart rate goes up when I do my daily live tech videos for patrons, and I’m back on the glider for 30-45 minutes a day. Months before the Apple Watch was released, I mentioned several times over that I hoped it would help motivate me to lose the weight that I had re-gained over the years.

I’ve struggled with weight gain and loss several times over, promising myself that once I’d lost the fat I’d keep it lost. Obviously, I keep breaking that promise.

Prompting and motivating me to modify my lifestyle is enough for me to consider the Apple Watch a success. Why would I want to return to not knowing, not doing anything (even though I know I needed to do something)?

I’m now able to look at data that I was generating, anyway – and actually take action on that data (or lack thereof).

Will I take the Apple Watch off after I feel I’m back to where I should be in terms of weight? No.

Even before the Apple Watch was a possibility, I thought about using live, interactive video streaming to motivate me to workout daily – but that option was wholly impractical before Meerkat or Periscope were (recently) on the scene.

So, now, with the Apple Watch and Periscope, I’m now streaming my gliding sessions – pushing my heart rate slightly higher by interacting with those who tune in and gathering questions for the day’s AMA video and podcast. Not only does the chat help time fly, but I use it to gather intelligence for the other things I have to do that day.

Thanks to a very imperfect Apple Watch and its companion phone that allows me to get work done while I workout, I’m hoping that this recent change will become a permanent one.

Only time will tell.