Personal Technology: Reviews

I just bought a MacBook. I also just watched a video about a social scientist marshaling the evidence that us humans do a lousy job of predicting what makes us happy. So while I suspect my MacBook will be useful and make for a happier commute, does my history of buying personal technology bode well for me?

iPod Video: This device completely replaced my pocket computer. The user interface and the iTunes software fixed everything that was wrong with the Palm Tungsten which I’d used a lot of MP3s previously. Used daily, this device was worth the price premium paid for it over what I know Apple paid for the 60GB hard drive.

Conclusion. Paid a lot, worth every penny. I hope the money went to the engineers and designers.
Dell Latitude D800 Laptop. It runs fantastically hot and is heavy as sin. The windows operating system can’t be trusted to reliably sleep or hybernate, so there is a heavy startup to pay when trying to stop or start using the thing. I used it a lot for software development, especially remote desktop session, for which it excelled at.
Conclusion. I didn’t buy this one, I got it from work. Social science says when you get things–and don’t a choice in the matter–you will adjust by creating “artificial happiness”. This dell made me happiest when I was using it for getting a narrow task done (connecting to a corporate network), outside of that, the designers didn’t really put much thought into it. The realization that I could do something about this laptops short comings (like buy my own), probably exacerbated my unhappiness with it. Moral of story, if you have a mediocre device, don’t, don’t, don’t read PC Magazine about the latest devices.

Caesar IV. I’m at play session #3. I like these kind of games, my son not so much. The graphics are beautiful. The controls camera are still unpredictable, but I have that problem in most 3-D games.

Conclusion. I thought it would be a good game and for the most part I was right. But I had the advantage of playing Pharaoh and Children of the Nile, two games by the same company with the same sort of theme.

World of Warcraft. My son loves this game. I only like to play it in two player mode. Since my son is rotating through playing each combination of race and class possible and I just don’t play enough, we both are stuck questing from level 1 to 10 over and over.

What I find most disappointing in WoW is the clunky back story. Blizzard’s writing guidelines make long awkward sentences mandatory. Also, the questing system doesn’t really lend itself to the unfolding of a story. In this respect, a mechanically clunkier game–Pirates of the Caribbean beats WoW.

Home brew PC. I suppose I should go component by component and decide if each part made me happy as I thought it would.

Nokia some number or other. It had a fold open keyboard. The smart phone feature was a dud. I sorely misjudged this device.

T-Mobile SDA. This was a mixed bag. I have successfully read books on this phone, used it for pictures that I didn’t immediately throw away, played a game or two on it. However, because it fell so far short of it’s promise, I was disappointed that it was only a modest improvement over the last smart phone I owned.

The T-Mobile SDA can’t play music or video worth $#!+ because of the lame @$$ Windows Media player (really Microsoft, you should buy iTunes from Apple and put it on the Windows Mobile phones and shoot all Windows Media Player developers, or demote them to rewriting notepad.) Likewise, the T-Mobile SDA can’t browse the internet due to a combination of all phone companies making internet over a phone uneconomical and MS not having the sense to write a small form factor web browser. Pocket IE is unusable crap. Maybe MS could see about getting Safari for Windows Mobile? Don’t get me wrong, on my desktop I never use Safari– I’m a firefox guy. I just don’t think a desktop browser on a phone will make anyone happy.

Conclusion. High hopes got in the way of happiness.

SynchMaster 226BW 22 inch widescreen monitor. This did make me happier. The screen has enough real estate that I actually use windows. For the first decade of using windows, 99% of the time I always maximized windows, so the OS might as well have been a single screen task switcher. A widescreen is a poormans dual monitor system. So far my only annoyance is that I can’t be too high or too low, else the screen looks wrong. Well, my old CRT wasn’t without design flaws either, which I’m sure I’ve blogged about elsewhere.

Conclusion. Buying a LCD widescreen monitor was a good idea.

Citizen Eco Drive Watch. I love my Citizen Eco Drive watch. It runs on sunlight and has this spinning wheel that I can use a low tech time “book mark” The fact that it has *fewer* features than the typical watch turned out to be a good thing. I bought it because I want a watch that looked good, thinking that someday I’d buy a slide rule Chronometer or the Palm OS watch.

Conclusion. My feature poor, but good looking watch has made me happier than I expected.

Alphasmart Dana. This is hard to evaluate, because I only use it when I’m in a burst of writing– particularly writing away from my apartment. I didn’t over underestimate how much I write (just look at the length of this post), but I did over estimate how much writing I did that is suitable for the Dana– specifically long document writing. [Also, unexpectedly, file loss due to battery power management was a bigger head ache than I expected] If I do resume writing, I know I won’t use my desktop or MacBook, I’ll use a Dana. To write, you have to focus and an internet enable device doesn’t allow for that.

Final conclusion. The key to being happy about buying tech is to have low expectations and focus on things that have an extremely high chance of being used a lot.

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