Friday, November 29, 2013

Best Buy's Geek Squad

Even though Geek Squad has been around for nearly 20 years I just had my first encounter with them last Thursday. The agent, Bo, was polite, but there were only two or three of them to handle the lunch time rush of customers which stretched the agents thin; and I don't think making an appointment was an option.

The problem was a finicky power adapter port on a Samsung Galaxy Note. The Geek Squad agent didn't need to troubleshoot the issue, he simply asked if it was possible to charge the phone. Since jiggling the cord made it possible to charge it under the right circumstances the agent said that he'd order a new phone since this issue was covered under the Best Buy extended coverage plan. But, which phone number was the plan under? A home phone, work phone, cell phone? Finding the coverage warranty took awhile since their database records the plans by phone number, not serial number. I asked the agent why they didn't put the plan under the device's serial number instead of the phone number and he pointed out that replacing the phone would change the serial number. Touché. So now I'm thinking that the extended warranty plan should be under both the serial number and phone number.

Once the extended warranty was found the agent pointed out that they do not transfer data from the old, defective phone, to the new phone which would arrive next week. Instead, the agent handed out a sheet of paper with instructions on how to back up the phone's data. Obviously, it's not our smartphones which are so important compared to the information on our phones. Consumers very rarely transfer data between phones so I expected this service to be offered by the Geek Squad. But, you can't have everything. Apple offers free data transfer services from PCs to Macs. I wonder if they do that for people switching from Android to iOS?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blocking Phone Calls

What's the difference between blocking a phone number with Google Voice compared to blocking with iOS 7?

For the recipient, there's really no difference since their phone won't receive calls, voicemails, or text messages. But, for the caller, it's a slightly different experience between the two platforms.

Calls blocked with Google Voice will receive a message that the number is no longer in service.

Calls blocked with iOS 7 ring for the caller (not the recipient) and then the voicemail (or text message) just disappears (update: actually, the voicemail goes into a Blocked Calls folder on the recipient's iPhone). To the sender, it appears they were delivered.

Monday, November 25, 2013

1 Infinite Loop
My e-mail addressed used to be There was a, but it was a honeypot; any e-mail received at was automatically added to Apple's internal spam filter.

Actually, my real e-mail address was, but, since no one was using, I was able to get it as an alias. People were impressed when lowly me handed them my business card with, especially since I'd leave my job title blank.

Every few months another guy named Joseph would e-mail me to check to see if I was still working at Apple. I let him know when I left Apple in 2007 so he could be assigned the alias by the IT department (IS&T). For this, he was grateful.

Recycling the same e-mail address produced an unexpected gotcha. A couple months after I left Apple, the new contacted me and asked me to release the e-mail address from my LinkedIn profile. He was unable to use his new e-mail address with LinkedIn since it was tied to my LinkedIn account. This reminded me that all my personal accounts listing my old Apple e-mail address needed to be updated.

One nice thing about having a relationship with my successor is that, for the following few years, the new would forward me e-mails from my contacts who weren't aware that I'd left the company.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Revisiting Old Haunts

My Reston apartment.
In 1998 I began working for Apple in their federal office in Reston, Virginia. I haven't been back there in more than a decade. While living there I got engaged, got cancer, got chemo, got cured, got married, got my first home, got my first dog, and witnessed the 9/11 attacks that took place 20 miles away.

My first townhouse.
After dropping by the Apple Reston office last Friday afternoon I drove to my old apartment a block away. The quarter mile trek was simple. Figuring out how to navigate from the apartment to my townhouse, four miles away, was challenging. I would not been able to find my way without GPS navigation even though I had made that daily commute for several years. Roads that had dead ended now went through where trees and fields used to be. Simple intersections had become complex cloverleafs. And small mom-and-pop shops which once stood out from the woods were now lost amongst strip malls and multi-story buildings. I was surprised how different everything looked; the former roads, route, and rural areas looked eerily familiar like an intimate face in a crowd of people.

I signed the paperwork to build my townhouse eight months before it was completed when it was a dirt lot, freshly deforested. My planned community was nestled in the woods adjacent to the Washington & Old Dominion rail-trail next to several abandon homes. Now, these shacks are neighbors with small McMansions.

It's a little sad to see nature destroyed in the name of progress, but I am one of the guilty. Which reminds me of an old joke...

What's the difference between a developer and an environmentalist?
A developer goes into the woods to build a home. An environmentalist already owns a home that's been built in the woods.

New McMansions.
Old homes.

Legalizing Cannabis

For the first time a clear majority of Americans have favored legalizing marijuana. Although I have never used pot – despite the fact that I was diagnosed with stage IV metastasized cancer and treated with chemo for six months –  I'm sure that it's only a matter of time until it becomes mainstream as more and more states legalize it like Colorado and Washington even though it's still illegal under federal law.

When I was a kid, pot was vilified almost as badly as homosexuality. Growing up, I was taught that being gay was "sick" – a condition that needed to be cured, medically. I've never seen so much hate generated against people who want to love. Now, being gay is legally okay as same-sex marriage is accepted with pot not far behind.

Isn't smoking bad? Sure, but how many people die from a marijuana overdose? I was amazed when I saw the statistics. Overdosing from marijuana appears to be as likely as overdosing on nicotine from cigarettes: "... one would have to smoke thousands of [joints] in a short period of time to approach toxic levels." Plus, the medical benefits of pot seem to grossly outweigh the benefits of nicotine.

About two months ago I had a chance encounter with a 22 year old "drug dealer" who owned a medical marijuana dispensary in L.A. His revenues were more than $4,000/day and, after expenses, he cleared over $60,000/month. That's about three quarters of a million dollars per year for him to split with his business partner. It's an obvious understatement that pot, like cigarettes and caffeine (the world's most popular drug) are highly profitable.

Perhaps we've been caught up in the rhetoric, instead of the facts, when denouncing marijuana as former White House Fellow, neurosurgeon, and CNN Emmy award winning chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, revealed earlier this year?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Double Standard, Double-edged Sword

Double standards, when fairly applied, aren't a bad thing.

As a Marine private, I would be punished if I showed up 30 seconds late to muster. Yet, it wasn't a problem if an officer showed up late. Clearly that was a double standard – late is late, no matter your rank.

When I was a corporal I saw a fellow Marine, who was one rank lower than me, get caught shoplifting a pair of socks at the PX on Camp Pendleton. His reason for doing it? It seemed too easy to get away with it.

He ended up getting punished at office hours, reduced in rank, placed on restriction, and he had to forfeit two-thirds of his pay for a couple months.

Other than this infraction he was a model Marine – he followed orders, set a good example, and he was one of the fittest and fastest runners in my battalion of over a thousand personnel. A couple years later he applied for a prestigious assignment, embassy duty. He was accepted into the program and, not surprisingly, he did very well.

The Marines typically preach: To err is human, to forgive is divine. Neither of which is Marine Corps policy. But an enlisted Marine's ability to overcome a momentary lapse of judgment is a testimony to the belief that mistakes, even dumb ones, can be overcome.

Just to be clear, here's the double standard: Had it been a Marine officer who was caught shoplifting then his/her career would be over. A Marine officer's judgment should be impeccable. Same rules, different results. A double standard? Yes. Appropriate? You bet.

Happy birthday Marines and happy Veterans Day.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Doing it Right

One thing that gets me excited is elegant customer service which I've blogged about many times.

One thing that bums me out is the lack of dry cleaners in my neighborhood. There is not a single one near the southeast tip of Balboa Park which means I have to go downtown – not convenient or cheap.

After reading several reviews on Yelp, one dry cleaner floated to the top: Adamo. Customers spoke of the superb service from the proprietor, Mrs. Lee. But, the challenge with this cleaner is it's in a busy area of downtown so parking is difficult.

When I told Mrs. Lee that it was my first time she gave me a discount when I paid at drop off. She pointed out that it's hard to park on the street and she recommended that I call her from the curb and she'd bring out my dry cleaning. 

No Ticket Needed

As I rolled up to retrieve my dry cleaning there was a Budweiser truck double parked while the driver was unloading beer directly in front of Adamo so I pulled in behind the truck and called Mrs. Lee. 

"Hello?" answered Mrs. Lee.

"Mrs. Lee, my name is Joe Moreno. I have some dry cleaning to pickup and I'm out front behind the Budweiser truck...," I said.

She interrupted, "Oh, your stuff is here and it's all done."

"Do you need my ticket number?" I asked.

"No, I'll bring it out to you in just a minute," she answered.

Less than 60 seconds later I saw Mrs. Lee walk out of the store with my dry cleaning. As she handed it to me she pointed out that she was careful not to iron the seersucker shirt. A point I made to her when dropping it off. She also showed me where my ties were hanging too. The entire handoff took less than ten seconds.

It's impressive that she remembered not only my order, simply by name, but also the details. Everyone loves to be treated well, no matter what we're paying.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

'Cannonball Run' Speed Record Shattered

I was thrilled to see a photo of my buddy, Dave Black, in the lead article on as part of a team that broke the cross country driving record from NYC to LA in a Mercedes Benz. I just got off the phone with Dave – he and I worked together on a daily basis at Apple's K–12 division ten years ago – and he's very pleased at the favorable attention his team's received and his driving partner, Ed Bolian, is flying off to New York for an interview on the Today Show.

Dave's always been enamored with the opening scene of the Cannonball Run and he realized his dream of owning a Lamborghini last year.

There's nothing like hot women driving a hot car through the hot desert to stimulate the attention of a teenage boy.


Sure, speeding from NYC to LA is risky from both a safety and legal point; after all, they did average 98 mph and topped out at 158 mph. To that end, I'd say those who have never intentionally sped can cast the first stone. The team did some very detailed planning and Dave is experienced at high speed driving both on the race track and on the Autobahn. And, sure, they could get in trouble for this if some legal evidence is discovered and prosecuted – but I suspect that won't be the case for a couple reasons. First, no single law enforcement agency was embarrassed like the NYC police department this past summer. Second, the long arm of the law would have to prove who was driving and when.

This accomplishment, in a non-reckless manner, is a testimonial to the entrepreneurial spirit that defines Dave's life.