Product Feedback: Sometimes the Customer Does Know Best

If I like an application or see one with potential, I usually write the author or company that made it with a feature suggestion explaining why I want to do it, and how it would add value to an application — sometimes a great amount of value. Occasionally, I’ll receive a human written response that explains upcoming features along those line, says they’ll consider it, or explains some technical limitation. Either way, I will have to wait months if not years to see a feature added if it is ever added at all. I appreciate the feedback to my feedback. It lets me know the company or individual is receptive to comments.

One of the things I cannot stand is when a company sends me is an automated reply thanking me for the feedback. Big companies, I forgive slightly more, but small shops should probably take a minute to let users know their breath wasn’t wasted if they want to foster a good relationship with their customers.

After a programmer makes a great app, their next challenge is getting the word out. Unfortunately engineers tend to think differently than mere mortals: in general, the more brilliant an engineer the less likely they are to have the social skills to market their great apps, I have found.

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Tricks and Tools of the Tech Trade

A few days ago I was in a Costco and I came across a display of solar portable panels with a company representative giving demonstrations to whomever would stop long enough to speak to him. Me, being always curious about the current state of various technologies, stopped to speak with him. After discussing the power output per panel, how many it would take to power my laptop (4) and how the system worked, he asked what sort of engineer I am. I admitted to him I wasn’t an engineer (at least in the sense that he was thinking), but I knew a bit about pretty much anything with electrons running through it.

Last week, Dice’s Mark Feffer sent an email to me asking what my specialty is. Meanwhile, I have met at least 3 other people in the IT field this past week and a half. All of them eventually asked what my specialty is. The thing is, my specialty is actually the opposite of a specialist: I know most if not all of technology available, what is coming and what is possible now to integrate them. This allows me to do my job of recommending electronics and computer technology pretty well.

How do I do it? Read on to learn what resources I tap every time it is time to buy any electronics…

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A Quick DRAM Speed Note

RAM Speed Calculation

I see a lot of confusion about this subject so here is a quick guide for finding out what sort of RAM your computer takes. Let’s say you are out at a store, and see what looks like a great deal on some more RAM for your computer, but you don’t know what type to get. To find out what memory “PC#-XXXX{X}” your computer needs but you don’t have a manual handy, do the following:

If you know your data rate (1066 or more commonly 1333 these days) multiply it by 8 and round to the nearest hundred (but most manufacturers round down) and you can figure out what goes in the XXXX{X}. A data rate of 1333 * 8 = 10664 or “10600,” the “#” is for the data rate type. So  PC3-10600 (SO-204pin) is what 2011 MacBook Pros take. It is DDR3  1333 Memory.

My MacBook Pro (2009: 5,5) takes DDR3 – 1066. Using a quick bit o’ Math, that translates to PC3-8500

Macs Are Easy

If you happen to have your computer handy and you are on a Mac, you can also open the System Information Application located in

Applications/Utility/System Information (System Profiler in previous OS X releases)>Memory

or

Apple Menu>About This Mac>More Info…>Memory and it will tell you what type of DRAM it takes and how many slots are full.

Where to Buy

Among my favorite Mac hardware resources is Other World Computing because their prices are competitive and they stand behind their products. I had purchased RAM from OWC that ended up being defective. I did not find this out until my new installation of Leopard started crashing under heavy memory loads. (they change how OS X uses memory to use more of it if available, and when I upgraded the memory that was usually not used in 10.4, was activated in 10.5 to speed the system up.) But this discovery took place over a year after I purchased the memory from them. I was hoping “lifetime guaranty” meant what it suggested—a hassle free exchange. It took one phone call, my invoice number and about 10 minutes for them to cross ship a replacement set out to me. It was truly hassle free. Since then they are my first consideration when buying new memory. So, if their prices are within $10–15 of competitors, I go with them.

mApp Confusion! or “Mobile App Overload” (Solution)

Everyone makes Mistakes. It is inevitable. If you never make a mistake you are either unrealistic with yourself, you never try anything new (which is a mistake unto itself), or you are an alien whether you realize it or not. My mistake in relation to this article was not keeping up with all the apps flooding out of the iTunes Music Store.

So, when it came time to actually look for apps, I had almost no clue what was out there. Nor did I know how much trouble it would be narrowing down the multitude of choices when it comes to singling out one of potentially hundreds of apps that perform the same basic function. Just type in any common task or remotely popular thing into a search in the store and often you will have to click “Show 25 More” more times than you’re willing to in order to see all the choices. Just to test this, as I was writing I typed “job search” into the AppStore search: I had to click “Show 25 More” 10 times before I ran out of apps. On top of that, how does one narrow down your search especially in light of scams on any store that allows buyer reviews? I eventually found salvation that came from an unexpected source…

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“Fraud in them thar ratin’s” or Combating Fake Reviews

With a world of buying choices at our fingertips for anything from eye liner to refrigerators it’s no wonder more and more web sites are adding user reviews and ratings systems to help guide people to the better products. But like all noble pursuits, there are those that “game the system” and use the very resource meant to help people in order to deceive them into parting with their hard earned money. This article is targeted at software developers that create fake favorable reviews and consumers who aren’t familiar with the ways to spot false reviews. Also, I include a message to online retailers/app stores, etc. that do not police their own reviews to strike down false reviews meant to help or hurt a product, and include techniques to ease the burden of self-policing. Note, this article is applicable to practically any site/store that allows reviews of any type of product.

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How to write a product review to help people decide if they want it.

I have a bit of time so I’ll post an observation. I’ve been reading reviews for various apps and items in various places. And the most helpful and informative reviews look at both the positives of an item and the negatives. The open discussion of what you like about something and what you do not like add to your credibility. What makes reviews even more helpful is when a person makes suggestions on possible ways to improve the product. They help both the people considering the purchase of something and the creator improve their product.

I’ve been doing this a while (reviewing on places like Amazon, B&H Photo, MacUpdate, Apple’s iTMS and AppStore, etc.) and this is the most helpful format I’ve noticed and followed myself in whole or in part. If you have any questions why it is structured this way or why certain topics are suggested please post a comment. Thanks. Now the suggested review format:

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