Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Vertu no more

Vertu has wound up.

Was this a case of a string of management failures? This company started at Nokia [sic] in 1998, then sold to a private equity firm EQT in 2012 for more than €200m, then to an obscure Chinese company called Godin Holdings in 2015, then in March 2017 to Murat Hakan Uzan, a Turkish exile based in Paris.

I have only ever seen one Vertu phone in the wild (on a Cathay Pacific flight in business class; she had a 12.9″ iPad Pro as well). I did see a couple of their stores still open and very much trying to flog their wares (Oriental Plaza Beijing, amongst a few others; though I suspect they were not owned by Vertu directly or it takes some time for international foreclosure to work).

FT’s Jonathan Margolis (“UK’s original consumer tech journalist”) sings praises for Vertu. In 2012 he wrote an official company history that was never published as the CEO who commissioned it, departed (warning bells should have already gone off then). Vertu apparently did well under Nokia’s stewardship, and even a year into their new owners; in total they sold 500,000 of their phones.

What struck me as well is how many “luxury” companies bet on China. What China giveth, it can also taketh: “Restrictions on business gift-giving in China from 2014 onwards affected Vertu. The phones were a popular status symbol there. One small city, Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, had two Vertu stores.”

I will respect this one brand aspect: Vertu in its pre-2013 heyday never gave away phones to celebrities. Why don’t more brands realise this? Consumers are getting smarter about product placements.

They apparently also had a niche userbase: Vertu phones from 2002 are said to still work. Updated versions of early voice-and-text-only models were its best-sellers until the end. Many Vertu owners used phones only for calls.

All in, its sad to see a brand I’ve known for so long, reach its demise. It seems like if you owned a Vertu, you were really part of an exclusive club, which is why I never saw many in the wild.

Evernote + Instapaper search tip

I use Evernote a lot. And I also love the read-it-later service Instapaper. When I power through my Instapaper queue, I occasionally like articles (though I mostly archive articles). When I like articles, they get saved to Evernote automatically, in full-text, parsed via Instapaper (so its pretty text and images, no junk ads, etc.).

What do you do with all the notes that accumulate in your Evernote inbox? Run the search: author:no-reply@instapaper.com. You'll find everything relevant, and you can move it to another notebook.

If for some reason it doesn't work, try running and saving this search on the web interface, and then sync, to execute locally on the Mac client.

When your Mac’s display out stops working

I landed in San Francisco at around 10pm, hit the hotel in Santa Clara by 11.30pm, crashed, and woke up to give my tutorial at 9am. By 8.45am, I couldn’t get my 12″ MacBook to display out via HDMI or VGA to the projector, so I ran back to the room to get my 15″ rMBP instead.

Later on, I ran the Apple Hardware Test. Or what it’s called now, Apple Diagnostics. Everything came back just fine, which seemed odd.

The best fix seemed to then be resetting the NVRAM. That didn’t improve things, so I had to reset the System Management Controller (SMC), and voila! everything seemed to work thereafter.

In the years of using Apple hardware, I have to think this is the first time I’ve had to do this. I guess the presentation pro-tip here is always carry a backup presentation device (I might going forward get the relevant dongles for the iPad to run a presentation too).

The mytaxi experience

I believe in competition, and when in London, Dublin and Spain, I don’t only rely on the Uber app, but also the Hailo app. A while back I migrated to mytaxi because Hailo got consumed by them.

mytaxi may be Europe’s largest taxi app, but it sure is weird compared to Uber or Grab. Setting it up was “interesting” as pretty much all credit cards would be declined (or my issuing banks clearly worry about fraud too much?). So the fix is to use PayPal. That “just works”.

They have partnered with Lufthansa Miles & More to give you miles for all kinds of money you spend with the app.

When you order, presumably you use WiFi, and you’ll find a cab in no time. But when its time to pay with the app, you’ll need a mobile data connection or have the driver turn on a wifi hotspot, because you’ll have to authorise the payment either via a password (?!?!), or Touch ID (better to configure this). But the whole “confirming” you’re making a payment is clearly added friction in the entire process.

I find it funny that you’re also allowed to provide a tip to the driver. In Europe, this is quite unheard of. Then its the usual rating.

Frictionless experiences, that’s what I’m after. I can’t imagine people use mytaxi and enjoy such an experience at the moment.

The Touch Bar can wow you over!

In the tech space, sometimes people can be notorious for bemoaning new technology. Case in point? The Touch Bar on the new retina MacBook Pro’s.

I’ve been using a 15″ retina MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for about six months now. I am a vim user when I SSH to servers so I do use the Escape key (and maybe find it a tad annoying that I don’t get any feedback that I’ve hit the Esc key). Otherwise, I use BBEdit. I’ve used the function keys to control screen brightness, adjust volume, and play music. I don’t find Siri useful. I’ve wondered why when I use Keynote I can see little slides appear on my Touch Bar (not like I can read the text, right?). Safari has always been odd with switching tabs via a keyboard (unlike Chrome’s shortcuts), but now you can also switch tabs using the Touch Bar (alas, I’m not really a Safari user). PDFpenPro has selection tools that I can now access via the Touch Bar, so its a bit of a productivity improvement.

So all in, I’m more or less indifferent to the Touch Bar. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. Oh wait, I can’t forget the killer feature: unlocking my MacBook Pro with my fingerprints! Touch ID is a killer feature especially since I use 1Password which also supports it. I think this feature alone has improved my productivity tremendously, and saved lots of time re-entering my password.

However, Sara saw my keyboard the other day and she was amazed that it could also display emoji. And this made her really like the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar (she’s a 13″ MacBook Air user). So Apple can wow users!

Touch Bar with emojis

I presume she will find other uses for it as she’s a creative user of the Mac. I’m just a boring text/code wrangler.

How would the Touch Bar be improved? It needs to be offered across the board on Macs (even for keyboards that iMac and Mac Mini users will use). It probably needs to have haptic feedback; this I suspect will improve the touch typing experience. However even as I write this, I think to myself that when I type on my iPhone or iPad, I don’t get haptic feedback and I intuitively know where everything is…

Uber Data Extractor

This is pretty cool: Uber Trip History Bookmarklet.

It allows you to get your complete Uber trip history, download it as a CSV file, and then run the Uber Data Visualiser. You get to learn quite a bit about your trips. I’ve attached a snapshot of mine, there’s more data and you should run it too!

Would be interesting to see this kind of history for Grab rides (and all the other various ride services out there).

Uber Data Visualizer


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