A Better Shower Experience

Often when people discuss user experience they are focusing on the technology side of a particular product or on-line service.  I know in my line of work that is exactly my view of the world.  This morning I want to break out of this common perception of user experience and talk about a bit of about a common everyday experience that can be better.  Today, I am talking about our daily shower.

A little over two years ago I rented an apartment with one of those hand-held showers already installed.  I didn’t give it much thought and felt it would be a nice convenience.  What a difference a few months can make.  All the sudden the detachable shower became part of my daily ritual. Not only could you easily direct the water where you wanted it to go, but it had some great secondary uses.

  1. Spray off all the soap scum at the end of your shower.  You know that little bit of soap that flies off your body and land on the curtain or tile only to sit there until your decide to clean it off.  Well with a hand-held shower you can now spray it off in a few second and greatly reduce the amount of times you need to clean the shower.
  2. Doing a quick hair wash without jumping into a full shower.  If you have ever just wanted to wash your hair before going out, perhaps because of some hat head, then this is a great device.  You can just lean into the tub and wash your hair quickly while keeping the water from running all over your floor.  
  3. Wash a toddler’s hair with less tears. This is more for parents, but kids quickly get adjusted to using a hand-held shower to wash their hair.  Most children don’t like having their hair dunked in the bath, plus it can be hard to wash out all the soap/shampoo this way.  Well with a hand-held shower you can just bring the shower head down to their level and quickly spray off their hair.  It is much quicker, cleaner and doesn’t produce the same amount of bathing trama.

The best part about hand-held showers is that they are terribly easy to install.  It takes less than five minutes to take off your old shower head, clean off the spout and install the new hand-held shower.  I recommend the Waterpik line and in particular the model number Model # SM85W which can be purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  I recommend it to my friends and family and have personally installed it a 1/2 dozens showers with no issues.  (Just remember to take out the low flow valve)

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Flip Mino is a No No…

Sometimes I like to inform those around me how to save a buck or too. OK, I am known for being downright cheap. So, you can imagine I am pretty upset when I sink $250 on a pair of products that should play together but end up ignoring one another completely.

First we have the Flip Mino. Now you might remember that Oprah listed this little device as one of her favorite things for 2007. Well, back in June Flip came out with an updated version that is a smaller and more elegant design. The Flip Mino is practically idiot proof in that it has only two true button, one for power and another for recording. There are some secondary controls for zooming, viewing and deleting clips but these are surface touch controls and not buttons. In order to upload your captured video to your PC, all you do is ‘flip’ out the USB connector, slide it into your USB port on your PC and the Flip does the rest for you.

Second we have Adobe Premiere Elements. The Flip Mino comes with some bundled in software, but the second you want to do anything even a little bit fancy you realize how limiting the bundled software really is. Adobe Premiere is widely considered to be one of the best video editing programs available for the PC and plays nicely with almost any video format. I says almost because as you may have guessed by now Premiere and the Flip don’t recognize one another.

The problem boils down to the video format that the Flip Mino uses to store an hour worth of video footage, MPEG-4. Because this is a compressed video format it doesn’t take to kindly to being edited. Sure it will play in Quicktime or your Microsoft Media Player, but actually trying to edit your video inside Adobe Premiere is one long dead end.

Now, I took it upon myself to write both Adobe and Pure Digital Technologies (the makers of the Flip), but after an initial response saying they were looking into the issue no future contact has been made. So, my recommendation is save yourself the $150 for the Flip Mino and $100 for the Adobe Premiere and instead put that money towards a Sanyo Xacti HD700.

The Sanyo Xacti HD700 cost about $150 dollars more, but comes with the Adobe Premiere software. Additionally it can not only record video, but also be used to take still digital photos. It has a viewing screen that can rotate 180 degrees in order to take self portrait, uses standard SD cards for memory and best of all no compatibility problems with your editing software.

We all have heard the old phrase you get what you pay for, well in this instance it couldn’t be more true. Just say no to the Flip and yes to the Sany Xacti HD700.

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Why Apple’s iPhone… “Greatest Bathroom Device Ever!”

Now I am not an early adopter.  Early adopters are those tech junkies that will go out and buy the latest gadget rather than pay their monthly rent.  No friends, I am what some would call a fiscal conservative.  It was only when my wife washed my old T-mobile phone did I make the jump over to AT&T and the iPhone.

In the two months that I have been using the iPhone I have noticed that the amount of phone calls I make with my phone has greatly decreased.  At the same time that amount of time I am on the phone has increased, the difference is now I am using my phone to check SMS, eMail, Social Media sites and the net in general.  This has lead me to a revelation… the iPhone is the greatest bathroom device ever.

If you are one of those people who like to camp out once a day in the bathroom because it is the only place in the world where you can be alone, then this phone is for you.  Using the iPhone you can now have a discrete device that allows you to check up on all your favorite sites while taking care of your biological disposal.  It is very easy to route your personal email to your iPhone and thus you can now easily send short replies.  

Need to find a few minutes to juggle your fantasy team.  No problem, just grab you iPhone and head for the nearest porcelain.  

Want to write your mother who you haven’t written back in over a week.  Again, just take a seat in your favorite rest room and have at it.  The keyboard does take a few days to develop your technique, but it is way better than the standard 1-9 keys that we are all getting tired of.  The best part is because there are no actual keys to press, just a glass screen to type, you can run super silent with no one next to you being the wiser.

There are many other things you can now do thanks to your iPhone.  How about purchase items right off Amazon’s site.  I was sitting on the couch watching TV with my wife when she got upset that the Tivo hadn’t been set up since we moved.  No problem, grab my iPhone, log into Amazon and purchase the wireless adapter for the Tivo that we were missing.  Even better you can cross shop next time you are in the mall the price of gifts verse Amazon in real time.  Buy all your books, electronics, games, diapers, etc. tax free with free shipping (if you puchase straight from Amazon and the price is over $25).  This works great in cities where the sales tax rates can reach 10%.

So, take some time for yourself, hit the head and take a few quiet minutes.  If will change your life.

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Google Chrome why it matters?

So, if you have read any publications over the past couple of weeks then you have heard about this new browser called Chrome.  Chrome is a new browser developed by Google, yes the same Google that 80% of the US uses on an everyday basis.  Shortly after reading about Chrome, you asked yourself why does this even matter?  Well, I am hear to try and clarify why you might want to try Google’s Chrome.

The biggest reason for you or any user to try Google’s Chrome is that each tab acts as an independent browser. So, if one of the web sites you are visiting inadvertently locks up, you can simple close that tab without having to close the whole browser.  If you are a serious web surfer, then this alone will help keep you from ripping out your hair.

Another great feature of Chrome is that it does away with many of the tool bars that you seeing in today’s browser.  It gets rid of the clutter and allows the user to just focus on the content on the page.  This might seem like a minor point, but how many family and friends have you seen that have 5 to 10 toolbars active at any one time.  It gets to the point where the toolbars are taking up more screen space then the web content.  Chrome wisely strips the interface down to the bare essentials.  It even allows searching to take place right in the same  input box as the site URLs.  So, no longer will you have to spell a URL 100% correctly – a miss spelling will perform a Google Search where you can pick the correct URL from a list.  Brilliant!

Finally, the last reason to try out Google’s Chrome is that it has been optimized (warning Geek Speak) to perform extremely fast with JavaScript.  JavaScript is a coding language that allows many of the cool interactions you see on websites today, such as instant feedback, drag and drop, in-line spell checking, etc.  All of us are pressed for time, so if you give me a quicker working product then you know I am going to want to use it.

You can get Google’s Chrome at the following URL – www.google.com/chrome .  The cost is free so give it a try.

Hello world!

A classic kick-off to a tech  blog.  However, this is not a tech blog but a blog that reports what is fresh within the realm of user experience.  This blog is written not for my peers in the industry, but for my mother who is constantly asking what it is I actually do.  It is to offer the man on the street insight into technologies that are getting ready to hit the market or those that are presently being research.