Smartphones: Essential Tool or Luxury?

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal has commenters doing their typical rant about how others are idiots.  I wonder.  Here’s my take as I commented there:

The tools have simply changed for those of us who earn our living in the service economy. I use my iPhone 4S for my email, calendar, GPS, Twitter account, and LinkedIn updates, among other things.

In the ’80s I needed a desktop computer and a laser printer. In the 90s, laptop, internet and color laser printer. A smartphone and blog/website in the next decade became indispensable. I’m sure in the next decade, it will be a chip-enabled pair of carbon fiber Google Goggles that will allow me to multitask while listening in on interminable conference calls. With added sound, I’m sure I’ll be able to conduct simultaneously translated speaking engagements with audiences in other countries, rather than having them listen in on headsets as they did in South America in 2008.

Economists used to say “guns or butter.” Now apparently, it’s phones or food

Yes, all four of us have smartphones in our family, and although I “occasionally” go ballistic at my children’s multitasking while we watch t.v. together (almost never at the dinner table, which is a no-no), I also am proud that my children know how to use their iPhones to navigate in new cities, read the New York Times or Kindle books, keep in touch with friends they’ve made at schools in other states, and keep their parents informed about where they are and what they’re doing.  I managed to thrive without computer, wireless phone, or internet in college, but that world is long-gone.

How much do you and your family spend each month on cellular phones and service, and is it worth it?


Minecraft: Waste of Time or New Career Development Tool?

Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal on the popularity of Minecraft really got me thinking:

Minecraft fans make Minecraft baked goods, create Minecraft pointillism art and marry each other in Minecraft weddings.

And they create parody music videos of hit songs, rewritten to feature Minecraft characters and themes. Some, like Mr. McLemore’s, have reached views in the millions, at times rivaling the viewership of the original song’s video.

A parody of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” has racked up more than 37 million views. Another video, parodying Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love,” has more than 54 million views.

One version of Martyn Littlewood’s parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” has been viewed nearly 10 million times. The video, called “Form This Way,” plays like a love letter to the game, following a gamer as he purchases Minecraft and then logs on: “I’m so in love with this game / Don’t care if I sound lame.

Instead of Lady Gaga’s character giving birth to evil, as happens in her video, Mr. Littlewood starts his story with a little guy lifting up his mining pickax. “Oh a zombie run away! Found a sword, I’m gonna slay!” the song goes. “Oh a creeper stay away!”

Mr. Littlewood, of Nottingham, England, says he gets anywhere from £700 to £1,500 (about $1,100 to $2,300) a month from sales of the song on Apple’s iTunes music store. “It just about covers monthly bills—or at least the rent,” he says.



Here’s what I commented:

My son and I have an ongoing negotiation about how much time he spends on his Xbox and Minecraft on his computer. He’s an excellent student, and also plays on both lacrosse and soccer teams. Still, until reading this article, I was generally of the opinion that it is a waste of his time. But because it is my fault I got him originally hooked on Legos when he was little, I must accept some of the responsibility. The $10 I spent at a garage sale on used Legos years ago led to hundreds of hours playing with them (and hundreds of dollars of additional Legos), and now this online version. As a Frank Lloyd Wright fan myself, and 50 year-old b-school professor who loves social media, I’m going to now find a way to help him use all of his skills he’s developed to generate some revenue to support the family unit! 

Do you or your kids play Minecraft, and if so, what do you think about it?


Minecraft Video

Telenav Restores our Trust, and We Restore our Service

As we were traveling to Michigan last week by car, our AT&T Telenav service became unavailable on all three of our iPhones that use it.  Even though we realized that it couldn’t be the phones themselves that were the problem, and it had to to do with Telenav, it took quite some time for that to be determined as the problem.  As we were trying to find some locations along the way to stay and eat, having GPS navigation was critical (none of the AAA TripTiks as Karen and I used in the ’80s), and so we downloaded a competitor navigation app which worked flawlessly for the rest of our week-long trip.

I Tweeted about my poor experience in resolving the problem, but decided to give Telenav another chance when it reached out to me asking if there was anything they could do.  Also, we’d come to prefer the simple yet ever-improving interface that Telenav uses, especially its summary routing feature.

Here is where one of Telenav’s stars, Kenji Onozawa, Social Media Manager for Telenav, rose up to take ownership of the problem and fix it on multiple levels.  It took some doing, and several emails back and forth, but resolve it he did, and in a way that completely demonstrated that this is how he would have done it if it had been is own navigation service which was disrupted.  If this is how TeleNav treats all of its customers, then it is one outstanding company!


RIM/Blackberry Still Struggling with Acquisitions and Employee Fears

I thought this article in today’s Wall Street Journal illustrates the challenges of integrating acquisitions as well as preserving employee morale during crises:

At the time of the acquisitions in 2010, Mr. Lazaridis insisted that both companies stay in their respective home cities of Ottawa and Malmo, Sweden, largely to allow them to continue developing their technology while avoiding the bureaucracy at RIM’s Waterloo campus, according to people familiar with the matter.

This all didn’t sit well with existing RIM employees working on other projects, according to these people. Executives would also often set staffers working on different projects to work against each other, a tactic from

RIM’s early days meant to drive creativity and productivity, but one that often led to resentment and less cooperation, according to people close to the company.

Mr. Heins has tried to remedy that internal strife since taking over by focusing on the BlackBerry 10. But it is still widely believed at the company that RIM employees who are not working on the new device are in jeopardy of losing their job, say current employees and those close to the company.

“Anyone working on [the new operating system] is safe,” said one current RIM employee. “Anyone working on legacy projects is preparing their resumes. I don’t know anyone that isn’t going to take a buyout if they offer one.”

We conducted peer-reviewed research on how leaders can preserve morale and foster innovation during crises, and let’s hope that the new leadership at RIM understands the importance of building the ROCC of Trust if it is to succeed in its goal of taking on the competition from Android and Apple smart phones.


Lost a Song You Purchased on iTunes? Apple Can Help Restore it Pronto!

I use iTunes for buying almost all of my music (the rest I get from CD Baby, and once in a while, Amazon).  It’s great to have it everywhere I listen to my music, most recently on our Apple TV device which is great way to listen to music while watching all the great photos of Maggie and Jack we’ve taken over the past 17 years (well a small fraction of the photos we’ve taken, as we still need to scan all of those photo albums, but I digress).  So when I can’t find a song I recently purchased, I have to wonder how I lost it, especial with everything backed up on Apple’s Cloud now.  So, I emailed iTunes Support, and they got it back to my very quickly.  Not only that, the customer support person was much more polite than the average retail person I deal with (including, unfortunately, Noodles here in Durham, but I’ll take care of that complaint on Yelp).

Dear Aneil,

My name is Ky and I am an iTunes Store Advisor. I understand your song has disappeared and you’ve just purchased the song a few days ago, I’m sure you are looking forward to having this song posted back to your account and I will be happy to assist you in a timely manner.

I have posted “Walkin’ On the Sun” back to your account. If you have a computer, please follow these steps to download the item:

1) Make sure you’re using the latest version of iTunes. It can be downloaded free of charge from the Apple website:

Note: Installing the latest version of iTunes will not affect your library or any items in your account that you haven’t downloaded.

2) Open iTunes. From the Store menu at the top, choose Check for Available Downloads. You can also click this link to do the same thing:

3) Enter your account name and password, then click the Check button.

Aneil, the missing item should begin downloading and appear in your Purchased playlist. If you receive an error message while downloading, try again after turning off any firewall or web-accelerator software that you may have installed. If the download process is interrupted for any reason, it should resume once you reopen iTunes.

This article provides information about resuming interrupted downloads:

If you don’t see the item in your iTunes Library, please include this information in your response to this email:

– The name of your Internet service provider (ISP)
– The type of Internet connection (such as dial-up, cable modem, or DSL)
– Any troubleshooting steps you may have taken
– Any error messages you may have received

I hope that works, Aneil. Please keep me posted though!

I look forward to speaking with you again soon, please write back if you have further issues regarding this case. Thank you for supporting iTunes, Aneil, and have a wonderful evening!


iTunes Store Customer Support

Please note, I work Sunday to Thursday, 4:30 PM – 11:30 PM EST.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.

How to Keep Your Contact Information Current on LinkedIn

I’m a huge fan of, as it allows me to easily keep current on my network as well as easily update my own profile information and activities on behalf of my clients and audiences.  Recently, someone in my network contacted me and asked me whether I was still affiliated with an old institution.  I was puzzled because there was nothing in my profile to indicate that.  Nevertheless, he still had an old email address affiliated with that institution as my secondary email address.  I went back to my profile and still couldn’t find it.

Well, it turns out it was because my network contact had kept the old email address in his own LinkedIn personal records, which I couldn’t see and of course couldn’t update.  LinkedIn’s wonderful support people quickly identified the problem and helped me resolve it.


Thanks, LinkedIn and thanks, Sean!


Member Comment: Aneil Mishra 05/21/2012 16:04

A connection of mine noted that I have a secondary email address that is no longer valid when he viewed me in his list of connections. I am unable to determine how to delete that email address, which is:__________

Can you please help me delete this?

Thanks very much.

Aneil Mishra

Hi Aneil,

Thanks for contacting me about this, and I apologize for any confusion regarding your old email address.

That email address is not associated with your profile. What your connection is seeing is their own records for contacting you. Either they imported that email address for you, or you used to have it on your profile. The only way it can be removed on their end is they would have to edit that information themselves.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns, Aneil.

Thanks for using LinkedIn since 2005, and I hope you have an excellent day!

LinkedIn Customer Service

Google’s iPhone Tracking Smacks of Big Brother and 1984

Apple took on IBM in its famous ad comparing the computer company to Big Brother in the book 1984.  Now it appears that Apple has another insidious malefactor to battle.  Now, more than ever, I wish it were possible to remove individual cookies on the Safari browser on my iPhone.


Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.

The companies used special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users. Safari, the most widely used browser on mobile devices, is designed to block such tracking by default.

Google disabled its code after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal.

The Google code was spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer and independently confirmed by a technical adviser to the Journal, Ashkan Soltani, who found that ads on 22 of the top 100 websites installed the Google tracking code on a test computer, and ads on 23 sites installed it on an iPhone browser.

The technique reaches far beyond those websites, however, because once the coding was activated, it could enable Google tracking across the vast majority of websites. Three other online-ad companies were found using similar techniques: Vibrant Media Inc., WPP PLC’s Media Innovation Group LLC and Gannett Co.’s PointRoll Inc.

In Google’s case, the findings appeared to contradict some of Google’s own instructions to Safari users on how to avoid tracking. Until recently, one Google site told Safari users they could rely on Safari’s privacy settings to prevent tracking by Google. Google removed that language from the site Tuesday night.

In a statement, Google said: “The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”


Google’s privacy practices are under intense scrutiny. Last year, as part of a far-reaching legal settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission the company pledged not to “misrepresent” its privacy practices to consumers. The fine for violating the agreement is $16,000 per violation, per day. The FTC declined to comment on the findings.  An Apple official said: “We are working to put a stop” to the circumvention of Safari privacy settings.

Of the ad companies found to be using the technique, Google has by far the largest reach. It delivers Internet ads that were viewed at least once by 93% of U.S. Web users in December, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Some Hybrid Vehicle Owners Are Dissatisfied with Their Fuel Economy, Including Me

I’ve owned a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid for more than five years now, and we’ve leased a 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid since the summer of 2008, so we’ve got lots of driving experience with them.  As enthusiastic as I am about finding ways to save gasoline and money, and have our country import less foreign oil, I have to say I’ve been disappointed with our experience with these two vehicles.  The Civic Hybrid has not lived up to its claims about 40+ mpg, and although the Camry Hybrid has done so, its lackluster handling and other driving aspects means we won’t be leasing another one.  Other Civic Hybrid owners agree, in today’s Greensboro, NC News & Observer article in which we are interviewed:

When they bought their hybrid Honda Civics back in 2006, Aneil K. Mishra and Jeffrey A. Wald expected to save a lot of money on gasoline. And both men hoped that, by their examples, they would encourage more North Carolinians to buy fuel-thrifty hybrid cars.

“I felt like, as an early adopter, I was supporting the market for more energy-efficient vehicles,” Wald, 45, of Cary, said Monday.

“I wanted to be on the cutting edge,” said Mishra, 49, of Durham.

Mishra’s family also has a hybrid Toyota Camry, which has delivered better fuel economy than the Civic but is not much fun to drive, he said. If the Civic was delivering mid-40s mpg, he said, he’d consider buying another one.

Instead, he plans to sign up for the class-action settlement against Honda and wait for his $100 check. He’s checking out plans in Detroit for new clean-diesel cars.

“The hybrids just aren’t attractive to us right now,” Mishra said.


More Facebook Friends Than Real Ones? Facebook Support Equals 50% of Marital Support?

How many friends do you really have, and where are these friends?  This recent article by Ned Potter of ABC News indicated some trends and research findings that I find disturbing:

We may “friend” more people on Facebook, but we have fewer real friends— the kind who would help us out in tough times, listen sympathetically no matter what, lend us money or give us a place to stay if we needed it, keep a secret if we shared one.

That’s the conclusion made by Matthew Brashears, a Cornell University sociologist who surveyed more than 2,000 adults from a national database and found that from 1985 to 2010, the number of truly close friends people cited has dropped — even though we’re socializing as much as ever.

On average, participants listed 2.03 close friends in Brashears’ survey. That number was down from about three in a 1985 study.

Even more disturbing to me was this:

Compared to other things that matter for support — like being married or living with a partner — it really matters. Frequent Facebook use is equivalent to about half the boost in support you get from being married.”

My take on this is that to the extent that that particular finding is valid, then a lot of people don’t have very health marriages.


iTunes Match was Made in Heaven

I had to replace my iPhone 4 32GB a few weeks ago when I left it in a New York City taxicab.  I didn’t want to shell out $299 for a iPhone 4S 32GB, and so I just purchased an iPhone 4 8GB, figuring I would be buy the 64GB model of the iPhone 5 whenever it came out.  I missed not having most of my songs on my 8GB model, but I listen to mostly the same songs or brand-new ones, so I was willing to put up with it.  Now I don’t have to, thanks to Apple’s iTunes Match, which allows me to listen to any of my 5,000+ songs via its Cloud for only $25 a year. What a bargain!  I just downloaded it today, and so far, it’s working flawlessly.

Here’s Walter Mossberg’s review of iTunes Match in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Now, Apple has introduced a locker service that mostly eliminates that problem by doing away with the need to upload the vast majority of your music, while still allowing you to populate your locker with your songs quickly and easily. It’s called iTunes Match, and it’s the last piece in the company’s rollout of its massive iCloud initiative, which includes things like wireless synchronization of contacts and calendars.

Here’s how it works. Instead of making you upload your song files to Apple’s servers, iTunes Match scans the iTunes library on your Macs or Windows PCs, then matches the titles you have with the 20 million songs Apple has the right to distribute via its iTunes store. If your songs are included in that 20 million, Apple simply places them in your online locker. In almost all cases, users will be left with only a small remnant of songs to upload—such as recordings by garage bands. (ITunes Match works only for digital music, not movies, TV shows or audiobooks, even if they’re available in iTunes.)

Once the songs are in the cloud, they also appear in your library in iTunes on computers, or in the Music apps on iPads, iPhones and iPod touch devices. You can stream the music, or press an icon with a downward arrow inside a cloud to download it. You can include up to 10 devices in iTunes Match. Plus, iTunes Match—which costs $25 a year for up to 25,000 songs—covers any song you own, regardless of how you obtained it. That includes songs purchased from non-Apple music services or imported from CDs, or even those that were downloaded illegally.

I’ve been testing iTunes Match on several Macs, a Windows PC, and on an iPad and an iPhone. In general, I found Match delivers on its promises, despite some limitations and glitches, several of which Apple told me it will remedy via software updates.

Because of Match, my music collection is now complete and essentially identical on all my computers and on my iPad and iPhone, allowing me to access any of my songs from any of these devices, without manual synchronization via a cable, or paying more than once for the same song. My Match locker is even accessible from my Apple TV device.