Commentary

On Technology

By Phil Baker

Dreamforce conference built on a cloud

This month I attended Dreamforce, the world’s largest software conference, put on by the $5.5 billion company Salesforce, founded in 1999 by Mark Benioff.

Small gadgets that work well

Here’s an assortment of small gadgets, some so small they rarely get noticed, but useful in their own special way.

The mystery of the ‘recycled’ iPhones

Ever wonder what happens to the used iPhones being bought by companies such as Gazelle or San Diego’s EcoATM? When I met with the CEO of EcoATM in June, she was reluctant to answer the question, saying it was confidential.

Creating your own surveys

Surveying both customers and prospective customers can be an important element of the product development process. Companies use surveys to assess opinions about current products and services as well as to figure out what new products or features should be added. While I would never use opinions from surveys or focus groups to design a product, each are useful ways of comparing and prioritizing features, likes and dislikes.

When you need to scan on the go

Wireless connectivity has come to portable scanners. I’ve been traveling with the recently introduced Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100, the company’s newest portable scanner. It’s a remarkable little package that lets me turn paper documents into digital documents wherever I am, and do it completely wirelessly. There’s no need for a USB connection or power cord. That means it can connect to smartphones and tablets wirelessly, as well as to a computer both wirelessly or with the USB connector supplied.

Finding a replacement for Apple Mail program

When Apple upgraded its computer’s MacOS operating system to Mavericks nearly a year ago, Mail for Mac, which I’ll refer to as Mail, no longer worked well with Gmail.

Apple product launch shows bravado, beauty

Apple’s announcements last week showed the strength of the company’s product design capabilities. No company can match its skills in industrial design, engineering and the integration of beautiful software and hardware. But Apple is also skilled in its ability to exaggerate. Without taking away from its accomplishments, Apple takes credit without embarrassment for features it hasn’t originated.

Apple has ability to redefine wearable devices

Get ready for the onslaught of smart watches punctuated by Apple’s announcement Tuesday. Smart watches and wristbands have been the hot new product category hyped by analysts, tech reporters and scores of companies that need something new to talk about and replace their maturing categories of tablets and smartphones. But based on what we’ve seen so far, I’m skeptical.

What’s new in computer luggage?

Whatever I'm doing, I always seem to carry more technology gadgets than I need. Even though gadgets have become lighter, my bag has become heavier with many different products. Fortunately, there are some good solutions for dealing with this, as well as for those who want to travel with the smallest possible bag.

Chinese companies enter global smartphone market

Both Apple and Samsung are poised to introduce new smartphones in early September. It’s a yearly ritual that highlights the intense competition between the two leading phone makers, each vying to outdo the other. Most expect Apple to release an iPhone design with a larger 4.7-inch display and Samsung to release a Galaxy 5 with a more substantial enclosure.

Essential gadgets for the connected traveler

My wife and I just returned from a two-week vacation visiting Oslo, Bergen and the fjords in Norway, and several towns in Normandy and the Loire Valley in France. I was able to try out some products — not to make work more efficient, but to help make our vacation run smoothly. We carried a MacBook, iPad, and two phones, a Verizon iPhone and T-Mobile HTC One.

Why can’t the US build consumer electronic products?

I recently returned from a short trip to Shenzhen, the large Chinese city less than an hour’s drive north of Hong Kong. When anyone wonders why we don’t build consumer electronic products in the United States, the one-word answer is Shenzhen.

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