Friday, January 12, 2018

MoviePass - Fulfilling those 2018 resolutions!

A deal between MoviePass and Costco was quite popular, and extended beyond the holidays.

Unlike many, I am a pretty big believer in New Year's resolutions. I give them thought in the weeks leading up to the beginning of the year, and don't feel the need to finalize them until sometime after the year has started. I like to spread them around between categories including the more typical health and fitness, professional, hobbies, and to me, the most important, fun!

Like many other to-do-list advocates know, there is great value in making sure at least a couple of my New Year's resolutions are very achievable, if not already in the bag. For 2018, one of those has been obtaining and using MoviePass, which I had become aware of during 2017 but had not acted on. In what seemed like a deal too good to be true, MoviePass requires a modest monthly fee (around the price of seeing one first-run movie), but then lets the holder attend theatrical-release movies (2D only) at the clip of up to one per day for no extra charge. This seemed like something I had to get going on for 2018!

So with the resolution of "get a MoviePass and use it a lot in 2018" I took advantage of an even somewhat better deal (available in December and early January but expired as of the 10th) and ordered a pre-paid annual MoviePass for $89.99 to Costco members. (See graphic and link above.)

So I now have hands-on experience with MoviePass, and can relate a mostly positive outcome but can also offer some advice. First, the good news - as you wait several weeks for the fulfillment cycle to get your MoviePass card (essentially an "ATM" MasterCard debit card) you will no doubt have questions and one will be, "What theaters accept the pass?" From my experience, and in my community, the simple answer is "all". That includes a favorite "indy" (aka "art house") venue and the multiple second-run theaters around town.

The bad news, though readers may not foolishly make this mistake, is the MoviePass is for one person, only. Maybe as the result of being part of a "couple" all these years, somehow I managed to figure the MoviePass I was buying through Costco was going to be good for two people, i.e. two simultaneous admissions. It's not!

When the one-card/one-person rule dawned on me, it was time to order another one for my partner. Not ready to make a commitment to a second annual pass, I ordered a three-month pass directly from the company, for $30. That was several weeks ago, and I expect the card in the mail any day now. However, that's where a final piece of advice comes in - be patient (or more accurately, forgiving.) I found their web site to be pretty glitchy and incomplete, and was faced with an inexplicable error message the first time I tried registering card number two - thankfully, it went through the following day, triggering a confirmation email and initiating the two-week (hopefully) wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail.

(BTW the patience/forgiveness thing was not applied universally. A recent Marketwatch story chronicled frustrations on the part of other would-be users. See "Thousands of MoviePass customers have been charged for cards they never received.")

Four movies in the first 11 days of the year - as captured in this iPhone screenshot. "Check" on this one for 2018!
I promised that "forgiving" advice was my last, but let me add another tidbit or two. Since using your MoviePass is a two-step process, first comes confirming the movie on your smartphone (I forgot, smartphone-less individuals need not apply). Then, interacting with a person in the box office who will swipe your card comes next. Don't worry, all the theater personnel know what a MoviePass is, so don't be afraid to ask for their help!

As they used to say closing my favorite movie-reviews show, "We'll see you at the movies!".

Friday, December 22, 2017

Looking ahead to 2018

Three months later, and I am still working away with my Rocketbook Wave, and making new discoveries

Wow - it's hard to believe it's been nearly three months since my last post! That's definitely a record for my now well-over ten-year-old blog, and not a record I am proud of. On the other hand, I guess it shows I had better or at least more diverse things to do, which is true.

I am still set on following up more on my Rocketbook experiences, as promised in my September post (see The Rocketbook Wave Notebook). My discoveries have been mounting, like the smaller version of the notebook (Rocketbook One) which is not microwave-erasable. And that Frixion pen eraser? It's all about friction-generated heat. (Maybe the name Frixion should have given me a clue.)

But the big experiment set to yield results in early 2018 is my seeding the market, so to speak, with gifts of the Rocketbook Wave to four "trusted advisors". They don't know they're getting them yet, so shhh...

And Happy Holidays to all, and see you back here next year! 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Rocketbook Wave Notebook

The notebooks from the future 
I commented in a post a couple weeks back about my personal e-reading and writing habits. In a play on Back-to-school and inspired by an NPR story, "Two of the Three R's..." I reviewed my latest note-taking preferences, including the Rocketbook Wave notebook, which I had received as a gift over the summer.

I had a great theme for a full blog post recounting some of my experiences with Rocketbook Wave. But after continued and varied experiences I have decided to save that theme for a later post, with some notes here to start the ball rolling on a multi-post series.

Pilot's webpage displays FriXion brand pens in all shapes and sizes

The erasable notebook's secrets to success seem to start with the (included) Pilot FriXion pen. I find I am reminded (maybe too much) of the old "magic behind the LaserJet" spiel, where the story begins with the toner cartridge (and the same could be said of story behind HP's inkjet cartridges). As far as Pilot writing instruments, I remember my awareness of the company going back to pre-HP and pre-LaserJet days, in my first "real" job in 1976. Some fellow employees in the office were pen/pencil freaks (there are a lot of them out there), who were going nuts over Pilot mechanical pencils. Reading the company's fascinating history on their website, their founding in Japan in 1918 was followed much later by a US-based entity established in 1972, meaning I was getting the word not too long after this.

With my first FriXion giving up the ghost, a trip to Target offered a few FriXion choices - I settled on this variety pack.
More research (coming) is needed to determine the history of the FriXion pen, but its overall claim to fame, outside its association with the Rocketbook, and as seen in the screenshot above, is its erasability. Remembering back to the "erasable pens" of my youth, which included a grit-filled eraser that obliterated not only the ink but a layer of the paper (substrate in the jargon), the FriXion has a friction/heat relationship that interacts with the ink. Which leads to a reminder of the "invisible ink" of my childhood, but now we are heading for a real rathole!

I can't wait to learn and experiment a bit more, in preparation for another blog post, which will be coming soon!
The back of the package led to some interesting insights as well as questions.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Two of the Three R's - commentary on my own E-reading and -writing

 "In the Age of Screen Time, is Paper Dead?" - This NPR story got me thinking about my own habits

A fascinating story on NPR got me thinking about my own experiences and habits when it comes to my own reading via in paper and electronic formats. Written/recorded by Steve Drummond, "In the Age of Screen Time, is Paper Dead?" fits very well with a regular theme in Jim Lyons Observations since its beginnings well over ten years ago. In his story, Drummond explores the role of print and paper in education, which I might add is appropriate for the back-to-school season.

I will leave it to my readers to get to Drummond's story. I think they will find it to be an interesting summary, including a bit the commercial push for paper. It triggered in me thoughts about my own experiences with both reading in electronic format, and in writing (note-taking specifically), that I wanted to share here.

I have been teaching for University of Phoenix (UOP) for about the same length of time this blog has existed, and we have seemingly ALWAYS used e-books, predating my arrival on the scene. UOP is known for being a pioneer in online higher education, and even when teaching in "ground" environments (what we call their in-person, classroom modality), e-reading, via licensed and DRM-enabled PDF versions of popular textbooks and articles, has been the norm.

However, as a professor ("facilitator" in Phoenix parlance), I am often given access to the hard-copy version of the texts, which I find especially useful for reference during the online discussions which make up much of the learning model at UOP. While nothing beats the electronic version of the text for searching, in contrast, there is nothing to compare to the ability to flip through the traditional hard-bound book, even in a sometimes semi-random fashion, for gaining overall familiarity with the material. So me? I like (and even can say, I need) both formats to do my best work. And I have learned over the years that some students go the same route, buying their own hardcopies even when access to the e-books is provided as part of their student tuition and fees.

As far as my reading - for pleasure, in addition to my avocational and professional reading - I use a combination of the "big screen" (desktop and laptop web browsing), mostly for articles and the like, and my portfolio of Kindles (yes, I own and use several). I have been a Kindle owner since the beginning (even finding myself using the "big screen" version of Amazon's cloud reader from time to time, though rarely if ever using the iPad/iPhone app), I notice that my habits have changed relatively recently.

Have had it since Xmas - thrilled to borrow an ecopy so I can start reading it!
Self-observation (just read a book about that) indicates that I have a growing preference for Kindle when it comes to reading books. Especially in the avocational and professional categories of my must-read list, I enjoy the "highlighting" (and future recall) capability of the Kindle. Combined with a growing comfort with Kindle's user interface (a product, no doubt, of Amazon's ongoing - if not always obvious - software and hardware tweaks, as well as my own Kindle reading experience, which must be going on 10,000 hours), I find myself seeking out the electronic version of traditional books I already own or have borrowed from the local library. It also helps that my library (in conjunction with Overdrive) has enhanced both the size as well as usability of their e-book collection in recent years.

Good old hand-writing in a notebook is great for
note-taking, if I can read my writing later!
Going back to the NPR piece, space is given to the argument, based on studies, about old-fashioned physical writing, as opposed to typing in some form, and it's link to higher rates of learning and retention, at least as confined to note-taking. I can't imagine doing something like this draft in long-hand, having relied on word processing - remember that term? - for decades now. But for short, more spontaneous things, I find myself back to doing more physical writing with words on paper. This is despite the challenge of reading my handwritten notes, following years of underuse of my "scribing" skills! I believe that for me the value in the hand/eye/brain relationship, in synthesizing key themes in something like a lecture, or also, for example, in laying out a plan with its lists and diagrams. Having just acquired a Rocketbook Wave notebook (soon to be the subject of a dedicated blog post), I expect to bring back the physical writing even more.

To recap, for me, my preferred mode is e-reading, up and continuing to go farther up. And as far as note-taking, I feel I am having a bit of a renaissance with the good old-fashioned kind, as long as I remember how to do it!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Google Glass is back! Let's hear it for understanding and meeting user needs

Google Glass is back! This time it's the Enterprise rather than the Explorer edition.
I feel a special bond with last week's announcement that Google Glass is back. In coverage from The Verge  (see above), Wired, and many other publications, as well as on Google's own blog (BlogX on Medium), "A New Chapter for Glass" the reincarnation of Google's once-controversial wearable has been well covered but I would like to use a couple of paragraphs to explain why this re-launch is special to me.

I was one of the original Glass Explorers back in 2013, qualifying (based on Google's instructions) with my tweet on why I should be one of the first Glass users. In my tweet, I played the Baby Boomer card, and how I could evaluate and write about the new product's capabilities based on first-hand experiences through the eyes (literally, one eye) of a boomer. The Glass Explorer "honor" meant that I qualified to pay Google $1,500 for one of their early units, and that sum didn't include transportation. I was required to travel, on my own dime, to pick it up, with San Francisco being my lowest cost and shortest distance between three cites. In their gorgeous offices overlooking San Francisco Bay, I had my Glass unit "fitted", and was given some basic instructions. On that momentous August 2013 day, I became one of the first people outside Google to try out Glass in what was basically a beta test program for the company. Putting it in another way, yes I was one of the original Glassholes!

Getting ready for the game - an early Fall 2013 visit to a Boise State football game, with Glass!
As a career marketing guy and for the past decade-plus, a graduate-level marketing professor, what did I take away from my days as an Explorer before the program wound down several years after it started? While lauding Google's ability to generate attention, excitement and even emotion (where do you think that crude nickname comes from?) in what we always called PR but now refer to as "earned media", I also decided the product didn't do that much for me in the end. Hands-free photo and video capture had its attractions but the lack of control worked against wanting to opt for Glass rather than my ever-more-powerful iPhone and/or standalone camera. Speaking of control, the voice-activated mode (e.g. "Ok, Glass, take a picture...") worked pretty well, and pre-dated the Google Home as well as Amazon Echo - though Apple's Siri set the stage a few years prior to Glass. Things like searching Wikipedia or using Google Maps were possible as demos, but were much more practical on other devices. The requirement to have an iOS or Android phone to control and add connectivity for Glass was expected, but like with the Apple Watch which followed it, became a "knock" in some camps. So all in all, my sale of my fairly well-used Glass for about $1,000 as the program began shutting down netted out as a relatively small cost for my two years with Glass.

It was lots of fun, and admittedly somewhat prestigious (in the right circles anyway) to be one of the first users, and for me, this did indeed satisfy a big user need - being "the first kid on the block" to have this much-hyped gadget, which many people were aware of because of all the press coverage Google received. (There was no advertising as far as I know.) However, the novelty wore off and I realized there was really little I could do with Glass that I couldn't do with another gadget, and its predicted status as a "dust collector" became true in my case, until eBay came to the rescue.

Now, Glass is back as an industrial tool to help workers do their jobs in manufacturing, healthcare and other industrial settings. Using their Partners Program as their sales channel as well, Google is recharging their Glass efforts with wind in their sails provided by very thorough customer research and employing partner firms to tailor solutions. From the aforementioned BlogX post, Glass Project Lead Jay Kothari's words on preparing its "second act" for market could bring tears of joy to an old Marketing Professor's eyes:

Back in 2014, my team was at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio, watching how mechanics assemble and repair airplane engines. Airplane maintenance is a complex and specialized task, and any errors can lead to expensive delays or having to conduct the entire maintenance process all over again. The mechanics moved carefully, putting down tools and climbing up and down ladders to consult paper instructions in between steps.
Fast forward to today, and GE’s mechanics now use Glass running software from our partner Upskill, which shows them instructions with videos, animations and images right in their line of sight so they don’t have to stop work to check their binders or computer to know what to do next. Since using Glass with Upskill, they estimate that they have not only reduced errors at key points in the assembly and overhaul of engines, but that they have improved their mechanics’ efficiency by between 8–12%.

Google could only be so successful by emphasizing one of the four "P"s of marketing - promotion. Ultimately Product and Place over-ruled and sent them back to their labs to work on specific, robust solutions for solving real user needs. From the looks of it, they are well on their way to making Glass a success!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Apple iPhone celebrates 10 years

Mossberg was in classic form in nailing it on the iPhone - it's not just a phone!

Apple iPhone celebrates 10 years today and I've been using one about 98.5% of that time. I remember when one of my marketing students (the local variety) had one that he showed me during a class break shortly after the launch, and I resolved that I had to have one too! I was already an AT&T Wireless customer and felt I'd missed the boat on cell phones up to that point, and that this new Apple gadget would help me catch up. I remember being particularly intrigued with the two-finger, in-and-out interface for viewing photos.

Early on, I remember reviewers as well as a jealous neighbor expounding that the iPhone's "telephony" (remember that word?) capabilities were not all that impressive. Again, coming from behind in that field, I was happy enough, but I was more inclined to take the "big picture" view inspired by Walt Mossberg (see above) that it was not so much a phone but more a revolutionary pocket computer.

I had fun taking my new iPhone on the road to an industry conference, in Vegas during August believe it or not, but had to live through having a dedicated BlackBerry user tell me how it was a nearly useless toy and that it couldn't come close to matching his device's built-in contact directory. (Again, more on that "phone" thing.) But later in the summer I also remember having a few young techies from a Portland startup visit me in Boise on their way to a Denver industry event, and their favorable impression of the device's technology (especially that two-fingered thing) renewed my faith!

Later in the year, after speculation that it was a bit over-priced, Apple did a price cut, and rewarded existing owners with a gift card, which I used to help my wife do her own catching up, this time in the iPod department (remember the iPod?). And also, near the end of the year, I remember being at a niece's wedding and enjoying being in the "iPhone club" when owners would notice other owners (which was quite infrequent except at something like a millennial-oriented event like the wedding) and offer a nod, wave or some other acknowledgement.

The year ended, and things like apps, and yes, printing, were still in the distant future, but it was great to be an iPhone early adopter. And now, looking back, who knew its impact would be so far-reaching? I recommend a nice summary in USAToday, "The iPhone’s smartphone revolution in 4 graphs", which boils down the trends to sales numbers, time spent on mobile devices, and consumer expenditures, and also includes a clip of Steve Jobs introduction speech. ReCode has a series of tweets also well worth reviewing, if only to answer the trivia question, what do the iPhone and gum have in common?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

We didn't start the Fire...

My early-2015 "ColorFest" - A new lime-green Kindle Fire, along with Chromebook and Mouse
Wow - I haven't done one of those song-title-tribute headlines for quite awhile, and for that matter, I haven't been posting much at all lately. With that in mind and risking that I might have a little rust showing, my recent upgrade to a new Amazon Kindle Fire had that Billy Joel classic rattling around in my head.

Readers of my blog may recall that I've been an Amazon Kindle owner/reader since its inception. (See "Observations: Amazon's Kindle Stirs Up E-book (and Printing and Imaging) Excitement" from 2007.) And while I have had lots of experience using both the E-ink and color ("Kindle Fire") versions (and even do a significant share of my reading on the Kindle Cloud Reader running on my Chromebook), it's those lollipop-colored versions of the Fire that have recently gained my affection. The colors, and also the clever pricing that Amazon offers. This time, the new Fires came with an irresistible deal to spread the purchase price over five months, meaning that my new one at $49.99 would require a monthly payment of $10.00 for five months, automatically charged to my Amazon Visa meaning a 5% cash-back credit coming my way too! The State of Idaho (finally, starting on the first of May this year) gets their share with Amazon now charging 6% state sales tax, added to the initial payment, when my new Fire shipped, was $13.00, and now with four $10.00 payments upcoming. How painless can it get? (Of course I did the mental comparison that the payment would be less, sometimes far less, than my monthly e-book purchases.)

The new Fire is officially, in Amazon-speak, an "an All-New Fire 7 Tablet with Alexa, 7" Display, 8 GB, Punch Red - with Special Offers." I love the punch red! In the painless department, the new one asked me if I wanted to "restore" the Fire I was replacing, and I said "sure", which meant starting out, it had exactly the same setup, including apps, that I was accustomed to. A few password updates and I was in business with my "James's 4th Fire", according to Amazon. And so far, it's noticeably faster and a pleasure to read on, as well as being an adequate email and social media checker.
The "restore" option was a huge plus (and nice surprise)
As far as what others are saying about the new Fire 7? Brian X. Chen of the New York Times wrote a review entitled, "What You Get (and What You Don’t) From a $50 Amazon Fire." It is a realistic view of the product, i.e. don't expect a top-of-the-heap tablet for $50. Which I didn't, and I am happy!
Amazon's Fire 7 - and by their count my new one is "James's 4th Fire"