Third Device

I’ve been considering which devices to take on vacation this year, and strongly considering leaving the laptop at home. We will be traveling in Europe in Switzerland and northern Italy, and also a few days in Amsterdam. The coach and the hotels are all supposed to have WiFi, but the laptop for me is only really necessary for work stuff – which I hope to avoid (since, you know, I’ll be on vacation).

It got me thinking about Steve Jobs’ introduction of the iPad, where he noted that “we all have a smartphone and/or a laptop” and wondered if there was room for a third category device. That device in the middle turned out to be the iPad. After Jobs’ keynote, I didn’t think I’d want/need an iPad. But for those couple months every time I was on the couch and wanted to look something up on the internet, I sure felt like a 9.7 inch screen would be better than a 3.5 inch one. So, I got one on day one.


The vacation packing list made me think about the three devices, and if I had to give one up which one would it be? The laptop, the tablet, or the smartphone. And, really, it wasn’t much of a debate. If I had to give up one it most definitely would be the tablet. I just can’t imagine giving up a “full desktop operating system” experience all the time, nor can I imagine not having an iPhone for staying connected away from home.

But what if you had to give up two? Which one device would I keep. Now that’s a much more difficult decision. And, based on my last decision you’d think it would be either the smartphone or the laptop. But, in fact, if I could keep only one it’d be the tablet! Very capable for “productivity” but still the kind of device that isn’t a pain to carry.

In other words, the iPad is at once the most expendable … and the least expendable.

Bad App Icon, Disney

Disney is extending the experience for their theme park guests beyond phone reservations and paper park maps. They are moving purposefully this year into their “NextGen” initiative where guests can do a number of things from their smartphones including making meal reservations and managing FastPass reservations.

The app that does this (or, soon will…) is called the My Disney Experience. And here’s the iPhone icon for the app.


Anyone else feeling what I’m feeling?  That this is a really ugly icon.

The Mickey Mouse shape is quite well-chosen, as this design marks the RFID-based keyless entry to the parks and at many attraction entrances. Thus, the phone icon supports the physical locations where guests will leverage this next-generation experiences. But unfortunately that Mickey logo isn’t the only thing on the icon.

Why is there that awkwardly-placed Disney banner on the icon? Who would be confused that this app wasn’t from Disney? Their most famous corporate spokesperson is right on the icon! Who is going to say “where is that Disney app? I see the Mickey Mouse one but where is the Disney one?” Nobody, right?  You didn’t see Apple put their logo on top of the original “iPod” app on the original iPhone. Why would Disney think that they needed to put their name on icon?

The text-description for the app says “Disney World” so why not leave the Mickey logo alone? Because Disney puts that corporate banner on many of their apps as some sort of consistent branding strategy. This is corporate synergy at it’s worst. That Disney banner is just plain ugly.

A Fun Morning at Disney California Adventure

We had a great time on our last trip to Disneyland earlier this month, mostly because we finally got to experience the “reimagined” Disney California Adventure (DCA) park that has been under construction in one fashion or another since 2007. The improvements in the park are truly spectacular and now the resort truly has two destination parks worthy of the Disney name. We visited the park over the course of our five-day / four night trip to Southern California, and we enjoyed numerous sights and sounds including the breathtaking Buena Vista Street entrance area to DCA and our favorite attractions across the esplanade at Disneyland park.

This post highlights a fortunate set of events that allowed us to ride nearly all of DCA’s E-Ticket attractions in quick succession before lunchtime on a single day.

DCA Best Kept Secret - DCA Today
DCA's Best Kept Secret - DCA Today

I arrived at the DCA gates shortly after 7:00 am to wait for the park’s general opening at 8:00 am (the park does open at 7:00 am for guest of Disney’s three hotels). The plan was for me to get to the front of the line at one of the turnstiles so I’d have a good spot in the the FastPass line for Radiator Springs Racers, DCA’s headliner attraction. The way Disney operates DCA is that even though the park doesn’t officially open to the general public until 8:00 they do let people into Bunena Vista Street at 7:30. This allows guests to pick up a Starbucks coffee at the Fiddler Fifer and Practical Café and Bakery or to rent strollers or lockers. It also allowed me to enter the FastPass line for Radiator Springs Racers and to get a good spot since was at the front of the turnstiles.

At around 7:45, Julie and the boys entered the park and handed me their tickets so I could get FastPasses for the entire party. Meanwhile, they waited at “rope drop” to ride Soarin’ Over California. At 8:00 the park opened and the “hotel guest” FastPass line and the “general admission” FastPass line for Radiator Springs Racers merged. Shortly after 8:15 am I approached the FastPass machines to get our passes.

In addition to FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers at 10:30 am I also was presented with two “surprise FastPasses” for California Screamin’, DCA’s thrilling roller coaster. Earlier in the trip we got surprise FastPasses for the Little Mermaid ride but that attraction never has much of a line so getting FastPasses for Screamin‘ was really a score. Even better, we received two of these and each one was good for “up to six people”. So we could all ride twice (well, Riley didn’t ride because he doesn’t like coasters with inversions).

We immediately walked over to Paradise Pier and entered the shorter-than-average 20 minute line for Toy Story Midway Mania, then used our FastPasses to ride California Screamin’ twice. It was already getting hot so we walked over to Cars Land and rode Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree before getting some refreshments at the Cozy Cone Hotel.

It was almost time for our Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses and were hanging out in Cars Land when my iPhone buzzed. It was a push notification from Twitter that the DCA Today account had tweeted: “Are you feeling bug sized today? First 10 Guests in the park to find us will receive a special surprise!” This was surely a reference to A Bug’s Land, the themed area right next to where we were standing. So, we rushed over and met the DCA Today people right outside the gates of A Bug’s Land – mere steps from where we started. We presented ourselves and as a reward for finding the team we were presented with four FastPasses for any ride in the park (except for Radiator Springs Racers). After signing some paperwork and getting our photo taken we were on our way.

We headed straight for Radiator Springs Racers, and experienced what is perhaps the greatest theme park attraction ever built (at $200m it’s likely the most expensive). Such a great, fun ride! It’s even fun just hanging out and watching the other riders and gazing at the spectacular rock work. Everything you’ve heard about Cars Land is true – it’s maybe the best themed area of any Disney park.

At this point we decided to use our free FastPasses before lunch. Quinn wanted to ride Goofy’s Sky School, a wild-mouse coaster, so I took him to ride it. Julie and Riley decided to ride Soarin‘ instead.  We met back at our favorite restaurant location in either park, the Paradise Garden area of Paradise Pier that features the Paradise Garden Grille (love the kabobs!) and Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta (love the flatbread pizza!).

Thanks to some planning and little bit of good luck we had seven ride experiences on some of DCA’s best attractions before 11:30 in the morning! Thank you to Apple and Twitter for high-tech alerting systems! A big thanks to the DCA Today team too. They do giveaways like this it seems nearly every day, so be sure to check in frequently with what I like to call “DCA’s Best Kept Secret” – the DCA Today crew.

Top Tech Innovations of the Decade

I wanted to celebrate the decade by noting some of the signature technology innovations of the decade. Obviously these are mostly consumer focused, so I’m not going to talk about obscure networking standards or have a religious war about operating system kernels. We’ll keep these things accessible for most of you readers. This list is really those products or innovations that defined the decade, and in some ways would blow the mind of someone we transported from 1999.

I’ve been working on this list for a while and then today Engadget comes up with a similar list with many of my choices. Oh, well… here’s my list anyway.

Canon Digital ELPH camera

For all the talk about the iPod or the Music Industry, there are few industries that were as dramatically transformed during this decade than the camera and film industry. I  mean, does anyone even use film anymore? At the start of the decade most people hadn’t even heard of digital cameras!  And while Canon didn’t invent the industry, the Digital ELPH was really the first super small camera that was really capable. If the adage “the best camera is the one you have with you” is true then these small cameras were a game-changer.


ipodI know.  It’s easy to pick this. And despite no longer being the shining star at a certain Cupertino company, it’s hard to argue there was a more signature device from the decade as a whole. Introduced in 2001 and not really perfected until the click-wheel was invented for the iPod Mini, the iPod changed the way we interact, consume, and transport our music. I still use one for hours a day. There are eight iPods (or iPhones) in frequent use in our household.

So, for fun… let me see if I can remember all my iPods this decade.

  • iPod Shuffle 1st gen
  • iPod 3rd gen
  • iPod nano 1st gen (4 GB)
  • iPod nano 1st gen (2 GB) – won this in a raffle and Quinn is still using today
  • iPod 5th gen
  • iPod nano 3rd gen – Riley is still using today
  • iPod nano 4th gen – my daily iPod for podcasts and music listening
  • iPod nano 4th gen – Julie’s iPod
  • iPod Touch 2nd gen – we have two of these in our household, used by Riley and Quinn. I got one free ordering a new computer and Riley got one from grandma for suffering through dental work


Combined with Google Maps, it’s pretty hard to get lost these days. It really is a revolution that we can track our location and that the hardware/software solutions out there can provide pinpoint directions whenever you need them.

Toyota Prius 2nd Gen

I’m more of a Honda guy, but if you were going to pick one single car to represent the decade it would be an easy choice. And, let’s face it, we could use a lot more hybrid cars out there. My next one will be a hybrid. My favorite Prius moment came in an episode of The Office when Andy was able to use the silent electrical motor to trap Dwight between the car and a fence. Perfect 00’s moment.

iTunes Music Store

I still buy a lot of CDs. I like the “permanence” of CDs, but also am looking at a giant shelf of them. If only there was a way to purchase that one great song from that obscure album. Oh, there is…  Among the things we can thank Steve Jobs for the most is this invention that I think did save the music industry. There are other electronic stores out there but there is only one iTunes.

Someday Apple may be able to leverage iTunes as well. If only there was a way to easily buy movies or purchase apps for my cell phone…

Palm Treo 600

This one didn’t have a long shelf life as it looked really old really fast once a certain computer company decided to make a cellphone. But, back in the day, the Treo was the first device that you could really use for all your daily “pocket computer” needs. An organizer with web browsing, a phone, 3rd party apps, and ability to play music and videos. That was the promise of the Treo.

If only Palm hadn’t sat on Palm OS 5 for what seemed like forever…

Over the Air Wireless Broadband (Internet WiFi / 3G)

You’ve seen those commercials that talk about the broadband revolution and how back at the turn of the decade most of us were still using dial-up internet. Yep, me too.

It is ridiculous how pervasive wireless broadband is now. My phone has internet speeds that blow past my landline internet from the start of the decade. Not my cable modem. My phone.

Kudos to Apple for really pushing the wireless internet WiFi capabilities in some of their laptops early this decade. You can hardly go anywhere with people and not find WiFi available. It’s everywhere! And for shame those cellphone manufacturers who omit WiFi from the feature list in deference to the cellphone carriers.

YouTube / Podcasting

This is arguably as disruptive as digital photography. Services like YouTube make it easy to consume and share video (especially now that we all have excellent video cameras in our phones. Or, at least we have some sort of video camera in our phone). It isn’t that hard to remember the time when there were a million video formats and that uploading and providing those files for people to watch and consume was a big pain. All of that went away with YouTube. Now, admittedly, some of the videos on YouTube aren’t exactly quality TV. But there’s a lot of great stuff there and as a producer of content it makes it easy to share.

Podcasting is similar in that it allowed for the same kind of electronic distribution systems that “big media” used to reach people online. And with the quality of audio and video software it is very easy and affordable to produce something that has high technical quality. The quality of the “talent” might be another thing…


For all the talk about “virtual reality” in the 1990’s, the Wii was really the first system that created an interface that really brought you into the game in a way that was far superior than pulling a joystick or pressing buttons.


You didn’t think I’d forget Steve Jobs’ Jesus Phone did you?

On a certain level, it’s isn’t that different from the Treo and other earlier smartphones. But, they say, the devil is in the details and detail-wise the iPhone blew them all away. It’s become such an integral part of my life that if you put a gun to my head and said I had to get rid of either my iMac (with a gorgeous 20″ display) or my iPhone it wouldn’t even be a contest.

You can take my iPhone when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Of course, the iPhone leverages many of the technologies listed above (but where is the gas-hybrid battery?). But this was the device that put them all together. Camera in my pocket, great music and movies, excellent “PDA” apps, plus a great phone experience and tons of internet-connected apps. Truly the product of the decade.


LaBrea Tar Pits

Lots of fun at the LaBrea Tar Pits today. Some incredible fossils but I was most impressed that there was actual tar (okay, technically it is asphalt) seeping out of the ground. This stuff is s-t-i-c-k-y! No wonder the Sabre Tooth Cats kept getting stuck!

Video shot and edited on iPhone 3GS

Sea Lions at San Francisco’s Pier 39

Julie and had a date night and drove up to San Francisco for some sightseeing and dinner. We stopped at Pier 39 at sunset and of course had to visit the famous sea lion enclave. How little did we know that the wharf was teeming with sea lions!

The video was shot on an iPhone 3GS and edited in iMovie.


Earlier we had a great drive up to the top of Twin Peaks for a clear view of The City. The rain yesterday really cleared out the sky and even though it was a little breezy the view was spectacular.


For dinner we tried Joe’s Crab Shack down near Fisherman’s Wharf. The shrimp caesar salad I had was great! We had a nice view overlooking the street and wharf below.



All photos taken with iPhone 3GS.

Frank’s Veggie BBQ Video

Here’s a fun and informative video featuring my father Frank Crossman. Check out the enthusiasm as he tries out the Mesh Grill-Top Chef’s Pan from Williams-Sonoma (a Father’s Day gift). I filmed this on my new iPhone 3Gs and edited in iMovie HD.

The Greatest Thing Steve Jobs Ever Did

As a member of Toastmasters I’m interested in improving my public speaking skills, so I have a keen eye for those who do this well and those who don’t. As such, Steve Jobs is well known for his “Steve-Note” keynote presentations. And Steve’s had thirty years of highlights as a public speaker. But none have topped the introduction of the iPhone at MacWorld Expo in January 2007.

Steve was really in the zone on this presentation. He knew he was going to blow people away with the product but his delivery had it all: effective gestures, dramatic pauses and vocal variety, and a killer multimedia presentation.  He was well-rehearsed and didn’t fumble any lines. He had a great set of product demos as well. I love the part where Steve calls Starbucks live and orders 4,000 lattes to go.

If you ever want to see what great technical speeches look like then this is a great place to start. And be sure to see the guest speaker from Cingular (now AT&T), Stan Sigman. The guy was following Steve’s best keynote every and read his speech from large note cards!  The guy is probably better know as “note card guy” than for being the President of AT&T.

There’s probably not a month or two that goes by when I don’t rewatch part of this presentation; it is truly inspiring and I am still in awe of how great it was. Apple has kindly made it available for download and replay.

Another great outcome of the speech was a remix from Simon Bachofen called “Who Wants a Stylus.” It plays off the part of the presentation where Steve says that Apple is releasing three products, an iPod, a Phone, and an Internet Communications device – only to reveal it is only one device! The remix was so great that someone made a music video out of it. Check it out!