technology

Product Review: Motorola S-305 Bluetooth Headphones

A third person asked me today what these headphones are that I wear all day at the office – either on my ears or loosely around my neck – so I thought it made sense to share them with everyone. They are Motorola S305’s and they are awesome. Why they are so great:

  • iPhone compatibility is great, including with non-native apps like Spotify.
  • They are pretty sturdy – mine have been rained on quite a bit, been smashed into my bag, and still perform flawlessly.
  • They are loud enough that you can drown out other sounds, but you can still hear through them well enough that it’s safe to walk around and cross the street and whatnot.
  • Batteries seem to easily last a couple full work days, although I charge mine every night along with everything else.
  • They use a pretty-standard micro-USB charging plug.
  • Although not great in a noisy place as the mic is way up on your ear, they double as pretty good headset, and switch back and forth seamlessly.
  • Comfortable, and very, very light. I like behind-the-head styles a lot because I can drop them around my neck and still hear ambient phone noises in relative privacy. And because they don’t mess up my hair (huge downside of traditional headphones).

For the price (under $40) they are really excellent. I hope Motorola makes them forever… although mine may last that long anyway.

My Dotcom Boom Experience

There is a thread on Quora that I subscribed to when I first signed up for the question/answer service asking for personal experiences about Silicon Valley during the dotcom bubble burst, and it somehow crossed my desk again today. While I wasn’t in Silicon Valley at the time I did experience a micro version of the headiness and exhilaration followed by fear and disappointment that marked that period in history. I felt particularly inspired to summarize my experience today and am re-posting it here for posterity, as Quora itself is another investor-funded startup that may not be around to tell its own tale someday. This blog, however, survived the last boom/bust cycle and seemed like a more permanent place for my thoughts. 😉

Original posting here, my comment below. There are many great personal stories in the thread that I recommend perusing, also.


I experienced it only on the fringe, but still appreciate the chance to have felt some of the energy and to have learned from the mistakes.

In the spring of 99 I was still in college, working my way through a BS in Computer Science. Even 4 semesters away from graduation I felt like the hottest commodity in the world, as any warm body that could write a line of code was in massive demand all over the country even without any real-world experience or specialized skills. I visited a friend in Seattle over spring break and was awash in a smaller-scale but still frenzied version of the Bay, literally receiving competing job offers over dinner to forgo the rest of my degree and start immediately. I remember being completely shocked by the Kozmo.com personal concierge service – a delivery person on a bicycle brought us 2 pints of Ben & Jerry’s and a 6-pack of beer 11 minutes after we placed an online order – and thinking both “how on earth can they be making money doing this?” and “this is what life is going to be like from now on.”

During the winter and spring of 2000 I barely had time for school as I was too busy entertaining the advances of potential employers. Every company had a sales pitch for young engineers, touting their casual offices, pool tables and arcade games, on-site massage, free food of all kinds, lists of crazy perks. My friends in other fields of study were frequently aghast at the extravagances afforded to me as part of the interview process alone, and even more so at the exorbitant salaries offered even for internships when many of their careers would start with unpaid internships followed by years of ladder-climbing to match my post-graduation earning potential.

I knew I should be skeptical and objective, but it was just so easy and so exciting to feel like a rock star. That’s what everyone was saying – software engineers are the new rock stars, and millionaires could come in any shape but would most likely not be wearing a suit.

It was also easy to let the headiness inflate your confidence beyond a healthy level. I flatly turned down any job offer that wouldn’t let me finish my degree on schedule, or that wasn’t close to adequate downhill skiing; such demands seemed perfectly reasonable to everyone involved. I passed on multiple internship offers at Microsoft and Hewlett Packard because I wanted something smaller and sexier. I leased a brand new car, figuring from this point on my life would be a series of frequent upgrades to my vehicle – along with everything else. I bought frivolous things like giant speakers, treated my friends to dinners and rounds of drinks, and even bought an entire bar drinks one night just because it was fun to see their faces. I was still a full-time college student and only a part-time software intern during all of this, so I hadn’t even begun to indulge in the things I expected to once my degree was complete and I dove fully into the workforce, and yet I was already living a life that solicited envy from friends with respectable, well-paid careers ahead of them in medicine, civil engineering, finance or architecture.

I waited too long. Or rather, the boom didn’t wait for me. By the time I graduated in May 2001, my internship-hosting startup declined to extend me a post-graduation offer, instead issuing layoffs to many of my full-time colleagues. Recruiters that I had been teasing for months were suddenly no longer with the company, and entire headhunting firms disappeared completely or ceased operation of their tech hires divisions. I, too, was glued to FC but for different reasons – desperately hoping that the places I still had active recruiter contacts didn’t make the list. I was still too full of optimism and false confidence to believe that eventually they all would.

Interviewing became my full-time job. I was determined to find something and spent 7 months working 50-60 hours per week entirely at the business of getting hired. I had family near Seattle that generously offered a spare room, and so my efforts were concentrated there but I would have gone anywhere within 2 days’ driving distance of Thanksgiving dinner if anything had materialized. I managed to land several first interviews per week simply by being energetic and obsessively persistent, but the dejected and often terrified recruiters I met with never called me back for second meetings. I was competing for entry-level software jobs with experienced veterans recently departed from hot startups, and frequently in the time elapsed between the job posting hitting Monster.com and persuading my way into a meeting, the entire department hiring for the role had ceased to exist. Sometimes, the company, too. I remember a particular recruiter at Adobe that had made the mistake of leaving me with a glimmer of hope after an initial meeting; every Monday for the next 4 months I literally stalked him in the Adobe lobby, waiting for him to take a lunch break so I could follow him to his car, inquiring hopefully about any new openings. Eventually he stopped going to lunch… or else perhaps he was laid off, as well.

When I finally gave up on the tech industry (at least for a few years) and accepted a job adjusting insurance claims, I had completely worn out a cheap suit, filled 5 credit cards completely to their limit paying for gas, coffee, and laser printing, and learned more about my own limitations and the challenges of the real world than I ever expected to in my first year out of college. Today I am never intimidated by a job interview and I can tolerate great professional disappointments, as I will never be rejected so much as I was rejected that summer and especially after building such large expectations of success.

Technology Does Sometimes Make Our Lives Better

When you sit down on the carpet at the airport you can see just how dirty it is. I’m sure they clean it every day and by this time every day it’s disgustingly filthy again. I find myself communing with the crumbs and stains and leaves and pebbles because there are no chairs left in the terminal and I decided I’d rather risk being dirty than continue standing up.

I was rebelling against my technology a bit this morning; as much as I ever do, anyway. After a 2-day training last week on the principles of Scrum methodology and Agile Development, I’m considering managing one of my Dev teams with paper notecards, replacing – or perhaps just augmenting – our current Google Docs tracking system. I think the tactile satisfaction of cards may be a valuable incremental improvement in our Dev process, but it seems unnatural to take a step backward in time to something so analog, that does nothing to expand flexibility, ensure data retention or transcend geography. But several things about the approach appeal to me, and for lack of a touchscreen wall ala Minority Report I think paper may have to do.

At the same time, I was on an hour-long phone call using my iPhone and those iconic white headphones which, for the sets that shipped with the iPhone4, include a microphone and are a pretty capable (albeit wired) telephone headset. Four different times people tried to interrupt me, thinking I was just listening to music and was available to talk. As the same device, same headphones and same vacant stare into my computer monitor that indicate I’m on the phone are shared by other tasks, how is the observer supposed to assume any context of availability? Because I use the device for so many things from the very trivial to the mission-critical I feel like I need something more indicative. Perhaps a sign around my neck that says “The doctor is in” / “The doctor is REAL in.”

Behind me just now an incessant buzzing sound that’s been part of the ambient noise of the airport increased suddenly in volume, as the owner of the rogue electric razor triggered inside it’s jostling suitcase discovered the culprit and produced the razor to deactivate it, snapping me back to my present situation. My flight to Oakland was cancelled about 40 minutes ago, and I have never seen a line form so fast as the one that took shape at the ticket counter milliseconds after the cancellation announcement. I was not in that line, as I learned from my Dad – an experienced and astute traveler – that I can almost always fare better in these situations by choosing an alternate route to airline customer service. Standing at the flight status board, iPhone to my ear and iPad in my hand open to the TripIt app containing my detailed itinerary, I was rebooked on the flight to San Jose departing 50 minutes later and my rental car reservations adjusted to a San Jose pickup before the tenth Oakland passenger had been rebooked on tonight’s next Oakland flight. I had re-visited the printer kiosk and held my updated boarding pass before the 20th Oakland passenger knew how they would get out of Seatac tonight.

Flight 328 to San Jose has begun pre-boarding and there is still a significant group of unhappy faces over at the Oakland desk, making me thankful for the bagful of wifi-enabled devices I’ll be stowing in an overhead bin and leading me to reconsider whether I really want to stake the future of my products and business on a stack of paper notecards.

This is your brain on technology.

Back on track with something interesting for you to think about, beyond just “what is Brian doing right now, at this very exact moment”, although i know that captivates and amazes you to no end.

Today’s link-to-discuss is from the Seattle Times, a torrid rag of a paper that seems determined to deliver sunday issues to me incessantly despite my protest (i have neither the time nor inclination to read it and don’t like to see things wasted), and which occasionally spews forth something of contentious value. Such as this piece that, despite being somewhat long (i skimmed a bit, i must admit) got me thinking. After you’ve read it, you’ll find it funny and/or ironic that i thought the article was too long and skimmed it.

Anyway, this UW prof, David Levy, is researching what all this beeping, buzzing, yammering technology is doing to our brains, and more importantly, what we’re letting it do to our brains as we attempt to deal with it all. He predicts we might be entering the next phase of our information age, where we begin to realize (as a society) that just because we can be reached by cell at every remote corner of the world doesn’t mean we should, and just because it only takes a few seconds for an email to cross a continent doesn’t mean we are required to read it with that same immediacy. Despite what we may think of ourselves, our brains are not great at multitasking, but as our world has made that more possible we’ve adopted it as our new mantra, and we spend more time doing more things instead of less time doing the same things.

It’s not the technology to blame, it’s our philosophical approach to the technology. We feel like because there is an opportunity to accomplish more in a day, that (as the length of the day has not changed) we should assign ourselves more action items and promise more of ourselves to others. Instead of achieving the same per day as we did before and retiring early to relish our new technological efficiency, we push ourselves a little harder every day. The UC-Irvine study’s 12-minute maximum concentration period sounds about right for the modern workplace; i think mine is significantly less than that. It usually takes me more than an hour to compose something to share with you all, and that’s not for lack of something to say (i think we all know i rarely fall short of words). It’s because something beeps or flashes, or somebody knocks, or Ian says completely out of the blue “hey, what’s that?” or “wow, what’s going on there?” and calls my attention to something i was otherwise happily ignoring.

So if you haven’t already, go read the article, and think about that the next time you’re checking your web forums in the middle of the night or desperately trying to find an internet connection on vacation. It’s OK if you skim a bit; those of us in the “thumb generation” have remarkably short attention spans.

More mundane than the average trip in a Chinese subway

We are not high-tech. You may think we are, with our (mostly) digital wireless phones, our HDTV and our iPods. But we’ve got nothing on China, where they’ve gone from basketweaving to nuclear fission in only the last 50 years. Read the link and be amazed. Go ahead, i’ll wait…

… now that you’re back – is that crazy or what? Think about that the next time you buy pants.

My life is much more mundane than the average trip in a Chinese subway. I’ve just been packing things in boxes (fun!), playing Sims2 with Danielle (it’s like crack that you ingest thru your eyes) and helping Eric tear apart the motor in his Pathfinder. So i’m basically always either covered in grease, covered in papercuts, or red-eyed and sleepy. Sometimes several of those at once. 😉

I’m very much looking forward to getting keys to my new place so i can start moving stuff – packing is so futile without someplace to take it. It’s an adventure in futility, like running on a treadmill – lots of effort with no visible progress. By the time i’m settled in, it should be pretty much thanksgiving and then nearly december, putting me closer to ski season, and to a date when i can start hanging Christmas lights without incurring ridicule. I’m all set for ski season, btw – season pass hanging on my wall, and i bought the bindings yesterday, Salomon S810 Ti’s, last season’s model half-off at GI Joe’s for only $86 with tax. Just need to get them mounted, but that’s pretty trivial. So other than my jacket (which i used twice in Europe) i have all new gear to try out, a new 4×4 to get me there and a nifty pass bearing my ski-sweater-wearing torso that means i don’t have to scrounge anything other than gas money this winter in order to see lots of hill time.

I’ve also been working on my Christmas 2004 Wishlist as i find neat things around the internet that would be very welcome were they to come and live at my house. Feel free to check it out, go shopping… heck, buy a couple!

Even the dogs are on drugs.

Just when you thought using your cell in the car was dangerous… this guy’s phone saved his life. Literally. It took a bullet for him. I’ve always thought Nokia’s were good phones – i had no idea. See that, Dean – technology makes life better! 😉

And while technology is improving the world every day, stupid people (some with questionable morals) are constantly struggling to make things worse for everyone. I mean, wouldn’t the world be a better place if people in florida stopped racing greyhounds dogs that are high on cocaine? I mean, i know “winning is everything” and all, but do the dogs get to choose if they’d like to become addicted to illegal psychostimulants? I doubt anyone asked the greyhounds if they were interested in the seizures and heart attacks that go along with being a coke-head. And besides the obvious and disturbing abuse of these animals, i have to wonder… if they have enough money to buy cocaine for their dog, do they really need to win that badly? I mean, if i could afford enough coke to get a 60lb dog high… well, i wouldn’t be at work today, that’s for sure!