Ted's Tidbits

How I Use My iPhone

I am a mobile app creator. It is my business not only to build apps, but to help clients understand what they need and want. As I advance down this path, I took some time to consider myself: how I use my iPhone.

First, I made a list of every app I have currently installed on my phone. Including web sites I've saved home icons for and the apps that come with the phone, I have 70 apps installed.

Next I divided the list into apps that I use and apps that I don't use. I tried to stay strict to this criteria. I was tempted to put apps that I liked but didn't use in the use list, but I didn't stumble. I also grouped the apps that come bundled with the phone together. After this, I have 17 installed apps that I use plus another 14 bundled apps that I also use. That leaved 6 bundled apps I don't use and 33 apps that I installed but do not use.

I was surprised by the number of apps that lay unused, taking up space on my iPhone. I decided to group them to help me understand why I wasn't using them. This is what I came up with:

Games (8 apps)

I’ve never been much of a gamer. I pretty much only play phone games when I’m stuck waiting for something and don’t have anything else to do. I am rarely in that situation

Duplicate Functionality (4 apps)

I figure I would use these apps except for the fact that I have other apps that perform the exact same function.

Forgotten Social Networks (3 apps)

These apps are tied in to some social networking website that I tried out once, but never really got in to. These are the ones I forget to post updates, and never care about my “friend’s” status updates.

Demo Applications (10 apps)

These are apps that I wanted to try out, and were free. Some of them are cool apps. In fact, they honestly get occasional use, but that is only to show off some feature or design element. I don’t actually use these apps.

Poorly Designed Apps (1 app)

There is one app that I never use mainly because it is a poor design. All the app does is do a location check, and then launch a mobile optimized website that included advertisements for the very app I’m currently using.

Apps that Provide No Value to Me (4 apps)

There is nothing wrong with these apps, and I believe there are many people that use them religiously. I have just found that I have no need for them.

Apps I Use Occasionally or Forgot I Had (3 apps)

These are apps I like, but I either rarely need them or I forgot I had them. They were lost in the sea of apps spread all over my phone.

This was an enlightening experience, so I decided to do the same thing for the apps I used. I was able to divide those into three categories:

Tools (7 apps)

These are apps that are utilitarian in nature. They help me accomplish tasks and get through the day. Some of them replace real world gadgets completely.

Reference (7 apps)

These are books and news. If I do have any downtime on the go, it’s nice to be able to see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Also, part of the point of having an internet connected device is the ability to quickly look stuff up.

Communication (3 apps)

The other reason to have an internet device is for communication. I include social networks that I participate in as well as email in this category.

With all this done, what does it mean, other than the fact I have several apps I should delete? It reveals how I use my iPhone. I use it as a tool for communication, reference, and productivity. I don't play games, and I don't really play with the phone, but I do like to play with new apps (see the 10 "demo apps" and 4 "duplicate apps" I installed). Interestingly enough, I don't really use the phone as a media device. I do use the camera, and I occasionally use the iPod app to listen to a podcast when I walk my dog, but I don't really use it for playing music or video.

This is all well and good, but it brings up another question: Am I a typical iPhone user, or am I atypical? I would imagine that I am typical within a certain category of iPhone owners. I guess I need to do more research. I think I'm going to make a habit of asking people what apps they have installed on their phones, and which ones they actually use. This is interesting information, and also very valuable information to a mobile developer such as me. I wonder if there is a service or social network that collects this kind of information.

The raw data follows:

  • Apps I Use
    • Bundled Apps
      • Messages
      • Calendar
      • Photos
      • Camera
      • Maps
      • Clock
      • Calculator
      • iPod
      • App Store
      • Phone
      • Mail
      • Safari
      • Settings
      • Contacts
    • Tools
      • Amazon.com
      • PS Mobile
      • Boxcar
      • Google
      • USAA
      • i.TV
      • 1Password
    • Reference / Knowlegde
      • PocketBible
      • DallasNews
      • Flixter
      • WeatherBug
      • USA Today
      • ScoreCenter
      • Showtime
    • Communication
      • Gmail
      • Facebook
      • Tweetie
  • Apps I dont Use
    • Bundled Apps
      • YouTube
      • Notes
      • iTunes
      • Voice Memos
      • Stocks
      • Weather
    • Games
      • Dr. Awesome
      • Poker
      • Frenzic
      • iVey
      • Labryinth LE
      • EliminatePro
      • Triple Play
      • Ramp Champ
    • Duplicates
      • Banking
      • Bible
      • PhoneFlicks
      • TweetDeck
    • Forgotten / Occasional Use
      • Pandora
      • Public Radio
      • Yelp
    • Forgotten Social Networks
      • Brightkite
      • foursquare
      • MySpace
    • Demo Only
      • Greenbox
      • Starbucks
      • WhatsApp
      • Remote
      • Bing
      • TV.com
      • Stanza
      • Yahoo!
      • AIM
      • Library
    • Bad Apps
      • PegNews
    • No Value To Me
      • Bloomberg
      • Gas Cubby
      • Quicken
      • myWireless

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to everyone. If you haven’t yet received a Christmas card and you think you should have, please be patient. The cards came on time but the envelopes were late. They’ll be going out soon.

Zen TV Followup

Just a few notes and thoughts on changing the position of television in my life.

First, Megan and I spent some time talking about this last night, and one of the things we decided to do was to eat our meals at the kitchen table and not in front of the TV. We tried that tonight, and it was nice.

Second, I finished the experiment tonight. I actually sat down and watched the television for 30 minutes with it turned off. It was an interesting experience. At first, I focused on the TV itself. I noticed smudges and things stuck to the screen, that I hadn’t noticed before. Then, I started to realize that I was tired. My eyes began to blur. I had to concentrate to prevent that. Then, my mind began to wander. I noticed a set of dominoes on the shelf below the TV and wondered how long we had them. I thought of different ways the furniture in the room could be configured. I caught myself, and went back to the TV. I noticed the silence. I noticed the sounds of the house. Eventually the 30 minutes had passed.

Tonight I learned that my mind is actively focused and engaged while I’m watching TV because it doesn’t wander, my eyes stay focused, and I don’t feel tired. I also experienced wasting away 30 minutes and being acutely aware of every minute that I could have been doing something else.

Also, on a related note, what you see on TV is even more fake than you probably realize.

The Zen TV Experiment

If you watch television, you should take a look at this post. It’s a repost of an article that first appeared in Adbusters Magazine on the effects of television on individuals and society. It proposes four experiments to attempt at home. I did this, and I recommend you do it to.

1) Watch TV for 10 minutes and count the technical events.

What is a technical event? We've all seen TV cameras in banks and jewelry stores. A stationary video camera simply recording what's in front of it is what I will call "pure TV." Anything other than pure TV is a technical event: the camera zooms up, that's a technical event; you are watching someone's profile talking and suddenly you are switched to another person responding, that's a technical event; a car is driving down the road and you also hear music playing, that's a technical event. Simply count the number of times there is a cut, zoom, superimposition, voice-over, appearance of words on the screen, fade in/out, etc.
For this test, I watched the first 10 minutes of this episode of my namesake show. In that 10 minutes I counted 223 technical events, and then I realized I didn't count any audio effects!

2) Watch any TV show for 15 minutes without turning on the sound.

For this, I simply muted the volume on the same show and watched the remainder.

3) Watch any news program for 15 minutes without turning on the sound.

It took a while for me to find a recording of an actual news program online (I needed 15 contiguous minutes, and the news sites only offer clips) but I finally found this on Hulu.

4) Watch television for one half hour without turning it on.

I must admit that I haven't done this yet. I want to do the experiment, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to waste a half hour sitting in front of a turned off television.

So, What's the Point?

Well, the point is that television is messing with your mind. All the technical events that occur in a normal TV show make for a very disjointed set of scenes that we have trained our brains to assemble into a narrative.
Television inhibits your ability to think, but it does not lead to freedom of mind, relaxation or renewal. It leads to a more exhausted mind. You may have time out from prior obsessive thought patterns, but that's as far as television goes. The mind is never empty, the mind is filled. What's worse, it is filled with someone else's obsessive thoughts and images.

Watching the TV without the sound makes it more difficult to connect with the story and therefore easier to observe all the technical events occurring. Switching to a news program you realize that there are fewer technical events.

With fewer technical events the news show appears realistic relative to other shows in the TV environment. Further, it appears super-realistic relative to the commercial shows in this environment. As earlier, we witnessed the joining of technical events in a coherent narrative. Here, we witness the reduction of worldly events into a narrative.

I admit I haven’t yet stared at a blank TV for a half hour, but I imagine two things would occur to me. First, I would realize just exactly how long a half hour feels, and I would be bothered by the things I could be doing with that time. Second, I would see the TV for what it is, an object, instead of what it is not, a companion.

If one is alone in one's room and turns on the TV, one actually doesn't feel alone anymore. It's as if companionship is experienced, as if communication is two-way.

Again, So What?

This does make for an interesting, if not disturbing, academic discussion, but it is not fruitful unless a behavioral change occurs. I encourage you to make your own resolutions. As for me, I am making a deliberate effort to watch less TV. This is actually something I started doing a while back when we canceled our cable. There are still some shows I enjoy watching, and I will continue to watch them. I don’t think I’m going to start watching any new shows, and I’m definitely going to stop watching shows I find myself complaining about. To do otherwise would just be stupid. Tonight, for example, I elected to write this blog post instead of watching The Office or some other show.

Maybe one day I’ll stop watching TV altogether (although I have no plans to cease watching the Dallas Cowboys, no matter how frustrating of an experience that may be). I don’t want to bind myself to a statement I won’t be able to live up to. At least for now, I feel encouraged to read more.

Why is Technology Important?

Dave Winer just wrote a thought provoking piece (as he usually does) on the importance of technology. In it, he makes this assertion:

...Technology is important because it empowers people. That's where you start. Not in novelty or neatness, not in the fact that it changes things, because it might change things by disempowering. Change is not in itself a valid reason for anything.

This is an interesting statement because it appears to contradict itself. How can something both empower and disempower? And how can both of those be important qualities?

I like this statement because it describes what we’re trying to accomplish with TileStack. TileStack is important first because it empowers people to create their own applications. You don’t need a computer science degree to build an app, you just need a good idea. It is this fact that described how TileStack is disempowering software elite (for lack of a better term). These are the people that decide what’s best for people, and charge people for access to their software. These are the ISVs and consultants that charge large amounts of cash for custom projects. Technology like TileStack takes the power away from the elite and gives it to the masses.

NOTE: I know TileStack isn’t ready for primetime just yet, so we’re not as disruptive as I’d like to be. But watch out! We’re coming!

Election Day 2009 - How I Voted and Why

Today is Election day across the country. Here in Texas, we're not electing any high profile offices like Congressman, Senator, Governor, etc. As a result, I fear most people don't even realize there is an election today. It has been my opinion for some time now that these "smaller" and more local elections are really the more important ones to participate in, because they usually involve issues that closer impact our daily lives.

Today's election is no exception. On the ballot today are 11 proposals for ammendments to the Texas state constitution. These are the result of the most recent legislative session down in Austin this past spring. As my final effort to encourage you to go vote today, I will share how I voted this morning, and why I voted that way.

Proposition 1

  • The constitutional amendment authorizing the financing … of the acqusition … of buffer area … adjacent to a military installation….
  • I voted NO - this could lead to higher taxes and it feels a bit eminent domainy to me.

Proposition 2

  • The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for the ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead soley on the basis of the property’s value as a residence homestead.
  • I voted YES - This should prevent counties from using property tax to persuade someone to sell their home so that a mall (or stadium) can be built on that land.

Propositiom 3

  • The constitutional amendment providing for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for ad valorem tax purposes.
  • I voted NO - I don’t like giving up local control.

Proposition 4

  • The constitutionl amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities … to achieve national prominence….
  • After waivering back and forth, I voted YES - Texas only has two tier 1 schools (UT and A&M), we could use some more.

Proposition 5

  • The constitutional amendment authorizing … a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities….
  • I voted YES - It sounds like it will help out smaller counties by allowing them to pool their resources.

Proposition 6

  • The constitutional amendment authorizing the Veterans Land Board to issue … bonds….
  • I voted NO because I’m generally against more debt, and there are no time limits and no oversite on this authority.

Proposition 7

  • The constitutional amendment to allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard … to hold civil offices.
  • I voted YES - state employes can hold office in other military branches, why not state militia?

Proposition 8

  • The contstitutional amendment authorizing the state to contribute money, property and other resources for the establishment, maintenance and operation of veterans’ hospitals in this state.
  • I voted NO - While I do believe in caring for our veterans, I don’t believe in partnerships with the federal government that can cause us problems down the line.

Proposition 9

  • The constitutional amendment to protect the right of the public … to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • I voted NO - It sounds nice until you realize that as the shore erodes away due to hurricanes and such, the public beaches start extending into private property which would simply be claimed by the state with no compensation. Worse than eminent domain!

Proposition 10

  • The constitutional amendment to provide that elected members of the governing boards of emergency service districts may serve terms not to exceed four years.
  • I voted YES - The limit is currently two years. I’d rather these guys be doing their job than campaining for another term.

Proposition 11

  • The constitutional amendment to prohibit the taking, damaging, or destroying of private property for public use ….
  • I voted YES - This strengthens the ban on taking private property for economic development.

A Blast From the Past

A while back I lamented about the fact that the internet suffers from the same tear-down and rebuild mentality that plagues Dallas.  At the end of the post, I suggested that GeoCities could become the internet equivalent of a conservation district.  Well, that thought is dead as Yahoo closed GeoCities down earlier this week.

When I went by to pay my respects, I discovered a little treasure: I had a GeoCities page.  I think I set this up when I was in college so I could have a backup of my school website.  Anyway, I grabbed everything I could and put it up at tedchoward.com/geocities just for fun.

A disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed at tedchoward.com/geocities are those of past Ted and are not necessarily representative of current or future Ted.

Becoming a Pet Owner, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hank Dog

I’ve never considered myself to be a dog person. We didn’t have pets growing up. In fact, (I think enough time has passed where I can admit this without fear of ridicule) I was afraid of dogs when I was little. There were a few exceptions. Our next door neighbor had a dog in their backyard that I called Benji. (That may have been his real name, but I don’t really know.) My friend Joey had two dogs that I liked alright. Other than that, I didn’t really like dogs.

Megan, on the other hand, grew up with dogs. (That is to say her parents have always had a dog, not that she was raised by dogs). Naturally, once we were married, she wanted us to have a dog. Over time I warmed to the idea. I decided that it might be fun, but I wasn’t going to turn into one of those dog people.

In April, we brought Hank home. He was a 10-week old basset hound. Over the past six months I’ve learned a lot of the ins and outs of being a pet owner. I have adjusted my life to the annoyances of having everything chewed and slobbered. I’ve enjoyed his antics around the house. It’s a lot of fun to watch him play with other dogs. He like everybody and wants everybody to like him. He’s a natural politician.

All that is well and fine, but something else happened that I didn’t expect. To explain, I need to tell a story. When we got Hank, our vet pointed out that he has an overbite, and that we should monitor that because it could cause him problems later. Well, later arrived this month and there was a problem. His lower canine teeth were starting to poke into the roof of his mouth. After consulting with a veterinary dentist (Did you know they had veterinary dentists?!?) we decided to have those teeth pulled.

Yesterday morning I took him to the vet, and then left him there to have the procedure done. As I was leaving, I had a very funny feeling in my stomach. It was a pretty standard dental procedure, but I was feeling very anxious about Hank. I spent the day working at home, and all day I felt weird. I actually missed the little guy. The plan was for me to come get him that evening, but when I called them they told me he would have to stay overnight. That night, I was sad he was gone. I missed him. Even though I should have been happy I had a night without having my shoes chewed, without having plants from the back yard brought into my bedroom, without having gross dog slobber on everything. Last night was a very nice, relaxing evening, and I spent it feeling anxious about a dog!

I got up this morning and went straight to the vets to pick him up. It felt so good to see him, and to bring him home. He’s still got a lot of the anesthesia in him, so he’s been sleeping all day. But I keep going to the bedroom to check on him, and it makes me feel better knowing he’s home and ok.

So, what does this say about me? Have I become a dog person? I don’t know about all this, but I do know that I like the idea of having him around a lot better than not.

me and the hank dog

LED Sheep


Hank is Definitely Not Camera Shy

[flickr video=3530316601 show_info=true secret=6d374d7089 w=400 h=300]

Cast of Star Trek on SNL


The Onion: Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As ‘Fun, Watchable’

I Just Trekked Myself

Create Your Own

Blurry Puppy Pictures

"Hank" Sleeping"Hazel" sleepingPuppies SleepingMmmm... FoodSynchronized EatingDinner TimeMegan and a PuppyMegan and another PuppyPlaytimePuppy

The Beautification of the Internet

I live in a historic neighborhood in Dallas.  The area has a certain charm and character to it quite different that what you find in new housing developments.  Most of the houses were built in the 1920s.  They have large front porches; many of them have swings.

A few miles away is another neighborhood, almost as old as this one.  There are a few houses from the same time period here, but most houses are new construction.  The older, smaller homes were torn down for newer, larger ones.  It is a nice neighborhood, but it doesn’t have the same character as my neighborhood.

The difference is that I live in a registered historic area.  Here, the homes cannot be torn down to be replaced by new construction.  All new construction must match the existing style.  In other words, significant effort has been put into preserving this part of our history.

The Web is like the other, non-protected neighborhood.  Many sites were built in the late 90s and early 2000s, but most of them have been torn down in favor of new construction.  In some ways this is a good thing.  Most of those early sites were ugly.  Bright backgrounds, blinking text, Comic-Sans font, and background music.  These are all things I do not miss.  But I fear that the character of the Web has been lost to the mass production of cookie cutter websites.

The sameness in design doesn’t bother me as much as the consolidation of the content.  When was the last time that you actually “surfed” the web?  I used to “sign-on” and then begin a journey of following links deeper and deeper down the rabbit’s hole.  The Web was a place where any crackpot with a computer could and would post their thoughts and ideas.  You could discover a topic and hit every site in that ‘web-ring.’  Today, one Google/Wikipedia search, and I’m done.

Today, we’ve traded out “Under Construction” icons for “Beta” tags.  Our web-rings have been replaced with “social bookmarks”.  Our home pages with guestbooks are now blogs with comments.  And although it may just seem that we’ve just swapped terminology, I think the Web has lost it’s charm and character.

I think we need a historic district for the Web.  A place to encourage new content, but it must match the style of a certain time period.  We should also find the old ‘classic’ web sites and relocate them to this district.  I also think there’s a place that’s perfect for this: GeoCities.  I’ll bet you didn’t know they were still around.  This could breathe new old life right back into the Web.  What do you think?

Rebirth of the Blog

I’ve been putting this off long enough.

I should start blogging again, but:

  • I need to move my blog back to my own domain
  • I need a better style for the blog
  • I need a better defined purpose for the blog
  • I need something to talk about
So it’s time to do something about it. I have moved the blog back to my own server. This should give me the flexibility to do what I want. Wordpress.com is a great free service, but they put a lot of limits on what you are able to do. Example: they restrict the types of content you can embed. YouTube: yes, TileStack.com no. That is a big problem for me.

As for the rest of my reasons, I haven’t made any headway there, but I shouldn’t let that stop me. In theory, the content is the reason to visit the site, not the appearance. I can tweak and refine the style of the blog over time, as I continue to blog. I guess that means I’m under construction.

Under Construction

In any case, I’m going to try to post here on a more frequent basis. Some posts will be quick thoughts. Things that catch my eye. Others may be longer, more thought out. (I wouldn’t expect too many of those.) Some may be blatantly promotional for TileStack.com. (You should sign up for TileStack.com)