Tragedy: Chester Bennington of Linkin Park Helped Me Avoid Suicide but Couldn't Avoid It Himself

This one hits close to home.

Linkin Park isn't everyone's cup of tea. Their work isn't necessarily the bleeding edge of the art of music yet the songs on Hybrid Theory, Meteora, and beyond really mean a lot to many people. Linkin Park's music tends to confront mental illness directly and it's helped a lot of people through hard times. I'm no exception.

When I was 7 years old, just a few months after my little sister was born, my parents got divorced. Almost immediately thereafter my mother, newborn sister, and I moved to New Orleans.

Between my house being broken up, witnessing up-close the profound pain my mother went through in the divorce (AND postpartum depression), moving to a new city where I knew no one, being socially ostracized/bullied, and almost failing in school from the stress, I was in a deep depression for months. Despite only being 7/8 years old the situation was so unbearable that I cried myself to sleep regularly and sometimes wished that I would simply die.

Aside from friends and family, Linkin Park's music was one of the things that kept me from ever acting on those suicidal thoughts during that emotionally distraught time in my life. Their music allowed me to vent and also provided me the important insight that I wasn't the only one suffering through such mental anguish and despair. The fact that their music was so popular at the time, that it was all over the radio, comforted me. It made me feel as if the suffering and emotions I was going through were normal, and ultimately conquerable.

Ever since I've been a devoted fan and one of my biggest guilty pleasures to this day is jamming to their music from Hybrid Theory to One More Light.

The ultimate irony, and tragedy, of this situation is that one of the people that helped me avoid such a tragic fate couldn't avoid it himself. He's survived by a wife and six children and my heart truly aches for them, his friends, and the band.

Addiction, mental health issues, thoughts of suicide, chronic depression, and feelings of worthlessness are not a joke. If you or someone you know is suffering from these things PLEASE reach out. If you're someone suffering from these things PLEASE seek help. Talk to me, I'm here. Reach out through any link below or message me directly however you can.

In the words of Chester on "Roads Untraveled":

"May your love never end
and if you need a friend,
there's a seat here alongside me"


National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK)
LGBT Youth Suicide Hotline (1-866-4U-TREVOR)
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Hotline & Helpline (1-800-784-2433)
 

WWDC 2017: Strong Showing from Apple This Year

The fact that I (as an enormous tech nerd) don't recall anything from WWDC 2016 is telling. Yet, this year's has already proven chock full of great announcements for both tech nerds and average consumers alike.

Here I'll briefly speak on the two announcements I think are pretty interesting for the average consumer:

You'll be Able to Send & Receive Money Through iMessage in iOS 11

This is pretty sweet. Basically, you'll be be able to connect Apple Pay to iMessage and send and receive money like you do on Venmo or Squarecash. This is definitely not a new idea, but it'll definitely slay in the American market where Apple's iMessage is pretty dominant. (Or at least I'm told by all my friends who are sick of me being a green bubble on their iPhones).

Apple's "Homepod" is Aimed to Compete With Both Sonos & Amazon Echo/Google Home

As ridiculous as the name "Homepod" is, this product does seem nifty for the consumer market. It'll basically act as a speaker from which to play a lot of your music. Presumably it'll connect well with Apple Music but we don't know how nicely it'll play with Spotify, G Play Music, etc. If you get two they'll sync, and be a nice burden on your wallet. 

It'll also will have Siri built-in which will obviously do all the things that Siri currently does on the iPhone. Whether or not you actually use Siri for anything other than the weather will probably determine whether you buy this thing or not.

Windows 10S & Surface Laptop

At Microsoft’s education event this week we received an interesting vision of an education/consumer product and operating system. The announcement isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it certainly seems to be a step in the right direction.
 

Windows 10S

Windows 10S was the most anticipated part of this event. All tech media outlets kept leaking that Microsoft was going to announce its competitor to Chrome OS that powers the successful Chromebook lineup.

The “s” in Windows 10S is likely supposed to stand for “student”, but personally I’d argue it stands for “shitty”. What differentiates it from regular Windows is that you can only run apps found in the Windows App store (currently not that many) and you have to use Microsoft’s Edge browser as well as Microsoft’s Bing search (yes you can’t change the default search to Google like everyone does). That’s it.

I personally wouldn’t ever want to use that operating system, but from a strategy perspective it does a couple of important things that I think are really smart.

First and foremost it takes a page out of Apple's book and forces an ecosystem on people whether they want it or not. In the beginning this may be a little user hostile, but ultimately it’ll force developers to actually create AND consistently support applications through the Windows App Store (which they 100% have not). This is important for Microsoft because within a couple years it’ll help develop an ecosystem on the Windows App Store (finally).

Second this is important because it will finally give Microsoft the control they’ve needed in the Windows ecosystem. Think about a Windows computer from a corporate office and how after only 2-3 years it has all kinds of garbage apps installed on it that you don’t want in your face at all times. That can be remedied by the move to Windows 10S, so that Microsoft can create a more streamlined environment similar to iOS and Android.

Furthermore, if you don’t like Windows 10S apparently you’ll be able to upgrade to full-fledged Windows 10 Pro by paying a $50 upgrade fee.
 

Surface Laptop

The other interesting part of the announcement was the Surface Laptop. It’s a beautiful new laptop from Microsoft with no tablety features/gimmicks like the other Surface machines. This is kind of what users have been wanting for some time now.

It’s beautifully machined, comes in a few colors, has a beautiful fabric on the inside, and of course is touchscreen.

There’s really nothing revolutionary about it, but it’s a beautiful product that starts at $1,000 to compete with the Macbook line.

Because of it’s lack of pro specs, it’s clearly aimed at soon-to-be college students, and casual laptop users. The $1,300 configuration is actually decently more powerful than the Macbook line, and in my opinion, it looks much more interesting too.

This is a smart move by Microsoft because many people simply wanted a decent Windows option for a laptop. That’s been hard to find in a market saturated with expensive Pro or cheapo budget laptops. This seems to be one of the few that hits a sweet-spot.

It’s also refreshing because finally Microsoft delivered what we (tech nerds) wanted. A regular laptop without a tablety gimmick like the Surface Book with it’s awful hinge and awkward gap between the keyboard and screen.
 

The Verdict

I can’t see this thing selling like gangbusters, but I can see it being popular on College Campuses. In a context where Chromebooks don’t seem to “do enough” and Macbooks are extremely overpriced/underpowered, this product has a chance to shine.

Windows 10S for now will probably be the butt of jokes, but in a few years it has the potential to help the Windows ecosystem get the growth & control it needs to make it’s experience a great one. Even if Windows 10S itself doesn’t have a lot of users outside of education, it’ll help Windows ecosystem as a whole by bolstering the Windows App Store into something to be taken seriously.

The Only Smartwatch You Should Want Is From a Company That No Longer Exists

For any of you regular Techquila listeners, you'll know that I recently bought a used Pebble Time Round about a month ago and I love this thing.

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Here’s a breakdown as to why you, as an average consumer, should want this smartwatch when compared to any other:
 

Profile

This thing is super slick and super thin. Virtually every other smartwatch out there is about as thick as a bible. If you're into those obnoxiously large Nixon watches then you may not mind, but for the rest of us it's really annoying. And with a  38mm face, this profile is not only more stylish, but far less cumbersome than any other smartwatch out there.

 

Screen

Having an e-ink display may sound like a bad thing, but let me ask you this: why on earth do you want an obnoxiously bright touch screen on your wrist that barely lasts a day?

Aside from being obnoxiously bright a touchscreen that's hardly 2” is just ridiculous. Have you ever tried hitting the “skip” button on the touch screen of a smartwatch while running? It's like playing Whack-a-Mole on your wrist.

Furthermore, the e-ink display allows the watch to always keep the display on without any backlight. Even more importantly the e-ink is much easier on the battery than an LED touchscreen. Because of this the battery lasts up to 2-3 days on a charge.

 

UI

Instead of touching the screen, Pebble watches have 4 buttons used to navigate the systems UI. One back button on the left, a select button on the center right, and up-down buttons on either side of the select button.

In the example I gave earlier (running) the tactile buttons are a god-send. There's no need to play Whack-a-Mole with a touch screen, let alone even look at the watch. It just makes sense. You reach and press the required button to advance the song, pause, or whatever you were trying to do.

Touchscreen watches are just too cumbersome. It doesn't matter how beautiful or slick the UI is. As a user experience it makes MUCH more sense to have tactile input as opposed to using a tiny, tiny touchscreen for input.
 

Style

I've already illustrated this point pretty well, but it bears repeating. This watch is slick and minimalist unlike other smartwatches that stick out like a sore thumb. The faces are super slick and minimalist and pair easily with most outfits assuming you have the appropriate straps. If you don't you can easily find replacement straps on Amazon for cheap (unlike the Apple Watch).

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That said I wish this thing came with the same finish that most analog watches in the ≥$200 range came with. Sapphire face (regular glass scratches too easily) and a classier finish (the aluminum build can feel pretty cheap) are the least I ask for at this price-point.
 

Function/apps

This smartwatch does almost everything an Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, or Android Wear watch can do. It has some fun productivity apps that I love using. The only thing it lacks compared to the previously mentioned smart watches is a heart rate monitor (which is a bit over the top for most people anyway).

The one caveat is that now that Pebble was purchased by FitBit any cloud-based services will likely stop working, yet that doesn’t affect most of the apps on this thing.
 

Price

New this thing would run you about $200 when it first dropped. Currently it’s anywhere from $90-$140 on Amazon (new) and can be snagged for as low as $50 on Ebay (used, where I got mine).

Admittedly this may seem like a lot for a watch that doesn’t have a touchscreen, and honestly it is. For that price I would expect a stainless steel build instead of aluminum and a sapphire face to prevent scratching. Considering several chronograph watches have those specifications for well under $200 I don’t think it would be too much to ask for.

That said, compared to the Android Wear, Samsung Gear and especially the Apple Watch pricing, I think this price is well worth it for such great experience and stylish watch

 

But Don’t Buy It...

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, here’s why you shouldn’t buy a Pebble Time Round and why it was dumb of me to do so (despite only being $50 on ebay).

Pebble was purchased by Fitbit in December of 2016 and has announced that they’re doing away with the product line and the brand altogether. What that means is:

  1. These watches probably won’t be supported beyond 2017
  2. Support will be existent but very limited throughout 2017
  3. Not guaranteed to be compatible with newer iOS and Android releases in the future
  4. Not guaranteed to even function beyond 2017.

 

Keep an eye on Fitbit

If they mix their own, fitness focused, ethos with the tech-eccentric ethos of Pebble, the products they make would be amazing. I get super excited just thinking about it. Long lasting smartwatches, with a button/non-touch UI, even better e-ink display, great app/tech community, AND great fitness tracking? Count me in!

Yet, much to my chagrin, that scenario is looking less and less likely.

According to an anonymous Pebble source (via Wearable.com)

"Everyone on Reddit is saying they're going to make the uber Pebble Vector watch and it couldn't be further from the truth. They have zero interest in that."

More likely? That same anonymous source seems to think Fitbit wants to take on the Apple Watch directly

“it's the Apple Watch competitor and because Apple has a shiny screen, we need a shiny screen."

And the answer is that we won’t know until we see what Fitbit unveils. Something different than the Apple Watch is what consumers want but unlikely what we’ll be getting.

Still, keep an eye on Fitbit and hope for the best.

Messaging Mayhem: SMS, Android, and Why iMessage Will Continue to Reign Supreme

Google recently announced that they would soon be removing SMS from Hangouts within the next month and are moving the Hangouts app into the enterprise sector with two new services called Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat that will compete with GoToMeeting and Slack respectively.

This is a total 180 degree turn from the original Hangouts strategy. It’s initial goal was an ambitious one: to give Apple a run for their money and offer Android/Google users an experience similar to iMessage. At its peak Hangouts did just that. It became the default “G-Chat” in GMail for most users, it had a powerful mobile app, and it had a very successful video chat function that rivaled Skype and FaceTime. The icing on the cake for Project Fi customers was (and still is) the ability to SMS on any device, truly giving iMessage a run for its money.

Then, somehow, over the course of 2-3 years Hangouts degraded over time. The Android app, while never having started on stellar footing, has become progressively buggy over the years. Furthermore, quirks like not being able to SMS/MMS a GIF to my friends (when literally every other SMS/messaging app allow GIFs) really adds to the frustrating mess that is Hangouts.

Yet, even more frustrating, it seems that the only logical reason that Hangouts was left to languish was to make Google’s new messaging service, Allo, a great app. And while it is indeed a great app it comes with its own frustrations (and a subsequent rage that only Google branded market-strategy can instil)l. For example, the fact that Allo launched without a desktop client (that’s still in the works), the fact that it’s only allowed to be active on one phone at a time, and the fact that it’s (for the foreseeable future) not getting SMS or RCS support, has guaranteed abysmal adoption and has earned Google my unfettered wrath.

So here we are. While this change offers us a more coherent strategy, Android users have lost prospects for our great iMessage alternative for what, exactly? A fragmented ecosystem where Google gives us an enterprise-oriented Slack competitor (whose freemium, consumer counterpart in gmail is still sticking around), a consumer-oriented WhatsApp competitor that still doesn’t have a desktop client (and might never have SMS or RCS support), and a plane-Jane SMS app that does nothing other than send SMS and RCS really well.

Good job, Google. You blew it.

While I appreciate finally having a coherent strategy, I very well may ditch Android altogether. Why? Because iMessage still reigns supreme and you’re only moving Android users further and further away from a competitive equivalent.