Posts Tagged 'Iphone'

November 1, 2011

SoftLayer on the iPad

Shortly after we began implementing the SoftLayer Mobile application for the iPhone and Android, Apple released the iPad. With our development resources limited, we focused on adding the functionality our customers required to the iPhone application with only a few small features added to support the new device.

As we became more familiar with the iPad, we started seeing a few key areas where SoftLayer Mobile could benefit from the large format iPad user interface. We've been able to incorporate a phenomenal feature set in the SoftLayer Mobile application, and as our desired feature set has become more and more complete, we've gotten a bit of breathing room from our iPhone releases. We used that breathing room to re-visit the iPad and what it could mean for the SoftLayer Mobile customer experience on a tablet. The result of that investigation is the SoftLayer Mobile HD application:

SL HD

As you might expect, SoftLayer Mobile HD shares quite a bit of functionality with its iPhone sibling. The application offers a window into your SoftLayer environment so that you can browse, create and edit support tickets; discover information about computing resources and bandwidth; and keep up-to-date on the latest notifications from our data centers. The iPad application also helps you keep track of financial information by allowing you to browse your account and its invoices. All this functionality benefits from the intuitive interface of the iPad. You have more room to browse, more room to edit, and fewer screens to navigate as you manage and explore your virtual SoftLayer data center.

SL HD

SL HD

Best of all: The application is only in its first release, and already shows great promise! We have plenty of room to grow and tons of ideas about the next features and functions we want to add. If you're iPad-equipped, get the SoftLayer Mobile HD application in the iTunes App Store. When you're navigating through the interface, take note of anything you'd like to see us change or add, and let us know!

-Scott

October 8, 2011

Smart Phones: Technology Replacing Contact?

So much of our life has been moved to digital devices these days. Smart phones are one of many devices that have made an impression on our lives. Smart phones these days have become a must for most, whether it is for business or personal use, almost everyone has one.

On the plus side, smart phones enable users to conduct business from just about anywhere in the world. Access to email accounts, VPNs and other tools that make business move on a daily basis have become accessible from the palm of your hand. You can even administer your web server from your smart phone with the right application setup.

You're carrying a small computer around in your pocket. It'll be interesting to see what new devices will emerge in the market in the next few years. Tablets are becoming wildly popular, and mainstream consumers are starting to keep an eye on the newest innovations, joining the "tech geeks" in the "early adopter" line.

There are several players in this market with Google, RIM and Apple leading the pack, and dedicated fans rally behind each. With smart phones becoming so increasingly common, I've started wondering if it's really for the best. Do we really need to check our e-mail every 10 minutes? If we're not on Twitter, Facebook or one of our other social networks, will they be there when we get to our computer?

Being digitally connected all the time give us a false sense of "socializing" in the old school face-to-face sense, and that pull us away from those IRL (in real life) encounters. Numerous crashes have been caused by people texting or updating their statuses while driving, and there have been cases of people walking into a busy street while being distracted by their phones.

When it comes to technology like smart phones, how do you keep those devices from becoming a dependency? How do you keep yourself from letting them take the place of direct human contact rather? It's something to think about as technology continues to evolve and permeate our lives.

-James

May 27, 2011

SoftLayer Mobile - Coming of Age

The SoftLayer Mobile application allows customers to work with support tickets, examine and control servers, monitor bandwidth information and more. The application is available on two platform: Apple iOS - supporting iPhones and iPads, and the Google Android operating system - supporting mobile phones and devices from a variety of vendors.

The SoftLayer Mobile application is quickly approaching its first birthday. The application was first introduced to the world in June of 2010. Frequent visitors to this blog may remember when we introduced the iPhone application right here in the SoftLayer blog. We got back with you again when the Android application reached the milestone of 100 downloads. Our success with the application continues to this day with the both the iOS and Android versions sporting impressive download statistics which multiply those of a year ago many dozens of times over.

In the course of the past year, we've gotten some great suggestions for improvements from our customers. The first request was for the application to store account passwords a feature which we implemented quickly. From those humble beginnings we added some larger, more complex functionality based on your feedback like two-factor authentication using VeriSign Identity Protection, bandwidth charting, and the ability to check account balances and make one-time payments against those balances from your phone.

We'd love to continue that trend and hope to tap into the experience of the thousands of you who are working with the application. In the coming year, we hope to expand our existing functionality, include new features, and support both new operating systems and new devices. We'd love to hear about your ideas on how we can best improve the SoftLayer Mobile application to make it an even more valuable tool for you.

Would you like improved tracking of your bandwidth? Can we offer greater control over your server's network ports? Do you need to monitor your server's CPU usage even while you're in line at the bank? Is there one particular task that compels you to visit the SoftLayer Customer Portal time and again? If so, and if it would be convenient for you to have that information on the phone in your pocket rather than on the computer at your desk, please let us know!

To offer your suggestions, please create a support ticket in your SoftLayer account detailing your needs. Alternatively, if you are already using the SoftLayer Mobile application, drop us a line through the feedback links built into the Support section.

If you haven't been using the SoftLayer Mobile application, then we'd like to invite you to download it and explore its features. For more information, and for links and information about downloading and installing the application, visit our Mobile Application resource page.

Keep watching that page over the coming months as well. We have some exciting projects in the works and hope to share them with you very soon!

-Scott

August 12, 2010

The Great iPhone 4 Case Quest

I recently was able to get ahold of a 32GB iPhone 4. It is the first iPhone I have owned, and seems like a good model to start my 2 year AT&T contract with. I can say that it lives up to all of the hype (positive and negative), so I will not bore you with yet another review that repeats what is already out there.

Instead, I would like to share my case-quest story.

Shortly after getting my new iPhone 4, I inadvertently dropped it in a parking lot. I am happy to report that the front and back panels are truly scratch resistant. After falling on asphalt, amazingly, there were no scratches or marks on either the front or back panels. Because of this, I feel comfortable forgoing the screen protector I was considering buying.

However, the corners of the phone were another matter. After the drop, the corners got slightly chipped, but not badly. No one besides my fellow webby colleague Steven Rogers has been able to notice them, but they bug me nonetheless.

Sadly, these corner chips could have been avoided if I was able to buy a case at the same time as my phone, but unfortunately, there were none to be found at the time of purchase. The iPhone 4 compatible cases seem to be more scarce than the actual phones!

After my un-paid stress test for Apple, I began looking around for an iPhone 4 Case that I like. At one place, I saw an Apple bumper case that a fellow iPhone 4 owner had, and that seemed like an ideal match. It protects the corners, and looks like an extension of the device.

I began my case-quest by going around to several Apple Stores, but it was the same story at each one I went to: "Sorry, we had some earlier today, but we sold out." These bumper cases have been flying off the shelves of Apple Stores and seem to be gone moments after they are put on the racks. I heard reports that some customers were so eager to get one, they even got it in a color they didn't care for.

I also tried going to a couple of different Best Buy mobile stores, but the types of cases they had were not appealing to me, and were in low supply as well.

After looking around at many stores, I was able to get a "temporary" case at a mall kiosk shop. It is a decent gel-type case, but has a closed back, so you can't see the beautiful glass-back with the Apple logo on it.

The gel case protects my corners, but I still wasn't satisfied with it completely, so I renewed my bumper case quest.

Fortunately, I was able to get one from an Apple Store during a week day and so finally fulfilled my quest. I really like my new case. It has metal buttons for the volume buttons, and the sleep/wake button, and it has an extra thick enclosure around the mute switch so you don't accidentally bump it.

So, the moral of this story is that if you are planning to get an iPhone 4 and want a case, try to line up a case that you like ahead of time as well.

Oh, and one more thing, if you haven't done so already, check out the SoftLayer iPhone Mobile Client app that I helped make.

-Brad

Categories: 
July 14, 2010

Build on Strength

Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 4 has had an interestingly polarized reaction. While many have praised the all-new design and unprecedented screen quality, others, who are already happy with another platform, have found it almost completely un-compelling. Beyond the natural tendency for human bias and the obvious contrast in priorities of the two platforms, this difference of opinion still provides some food for thought.

If you had asked me what the iPhone’s strongest advantages over its competitors were before the iPhone 4 announcement, I probably would have cited, among other things, build quality and text rendering. And yet, apparently, those are two of the things Apple has most focused on improving. It could be argued that this is an illogical move on Apple’s part—that Apple should have instead focused on the software features touted by competitors. (I’m not an Android user, but I’m told its notification system, for example, is excellent.)

But I don’t think Apple’s decisions are at all illogical. I think they’ve employed a principle we could all do well to realize and remember: when your company has a best-in-class product or service, it shouldn’t get too distracted with beating its competitors to beat itself. Certainly there are things to be learned from competitors in any industry; but the most important customers are always the ones you already have.

So, why strengthen what’s already strong? Current customers probably chose your company because of its strengths and in spite of its weaknesses. In a way, then, they’ve already identified that what your company does well is extremely important to them. This is, of course, no excuse to ignore weaknesses—doing so could be catastrophic. But it is a charge to never get complacent about what your company does well. One day, someone else will do it better. But no company is in a better position to do so than yours.

Categories: 
April 28, 2010

A Review of the Opera Mini for the iPhone

Opera Mini for the iPhone

Opera’s new mobile browser for the iPhone has finally been approved by Apple to be included on the App Store. Read the official announcement.

I’ve played around with the browser for the past 30 minutes. My impressions are as follows:

Pros

  • It’s a wicked fast mobile browser. No doubts about that. A definite improvement over the other browser options on the iPhone.
  • The Dashboard is a very welcome addition.
  • Zooming in and out of the web page to read different portions of the web page was something I didn’t like at first. After browser a few pages, it grew on me. You can turn on “mobile view” in the settings to force the content to narrow to the view screen.
  • Opera’s version of tabbed browsing is remarkable!
  • Opera has great offline support through “Saved Pages”.

Cons

  • Bookmarks were a little difficult to find at first. It’s located under “Settings” which seems to be the wrong place in my opinion. Trivial, I know.
  • You can NOT set the Opera mini as the “default” browser. Though this is directed more towards a failing of the iPhone OS than the Opera browser itself.
  • Text heavy pages tend to have some text overlapping issues.
  • Unlike its PC brother, the Opera Mini does not pass the ACID 2 or ACID 3 tests.
    • On this note, Safari on the iPhone does pass both the ACID 2 and ACID 3 tests.
  • My overall impression of the new Opera Mini for the iPhone is good. For me, ease of use is a major clincher for mobile internet browsing and the Opera Mini hits the target.

March 31, 2010

I Am the Cell Phone Person

Being the “cell phone person” here at SoftLayer has its challenges, to put it mildly. I thought that working with mostly boys (yes, I meant to say boys) would be a breeze compared to a bunch of women (we tend to be a bit ummm, picky?). I was terribly wrong! They are WORSE! Especially with gadgets like cell phones, considering the field we are in. For some reason a lot of them think that because they can configure a server they also know exactly what is wrong with their phone without actually troubleshooting it at all or why they MUST have this phone or that phone.

Reboot?! Why?! Hmmmm that was one of the first things I learned to ALWAYS do. I learned this from Jacob Linscott, my first IT guy back in 1997, who I work with once again; he is our Director of IT – Linux. I learned very quickly that I had better not EVEN think about calling him until I had rebooted my computer. Amazingly enough, I’d say the odds on a reboot fixing the issue with both computers and cell phones is very high, but that’s about the only thing that is similar in regards to issues between the two. I have been amazed at the multitude of varying issues as well as the information you can find online to fix a phone without having to call the carrier; and, that is a real life saver!

What baffles me is that everyone seems to know what’s wrong with their phone without actually researching it. When I say “So you Googled that and found info that said it was most likely the issue?” I get “nah, I just think that’s it.” I just shake my head, take their phone, and walk away. I Google my rear end off all the time! I am as specific as possible when I do a search. Such as, “my 8320 can send SMS, but is not receiving them.” Seems obvious, right? Wrong!

One would think the Geektopia of staff we have would do the same, WRONG! There is a world of knowledge and information out there regarding any number of BlackBerry and iPhone issues if you simply just take a few minutes to type your issue into a search engine. Heck, you don’t have to use Google, you can use whatever search engine you want! I’ve sent out emails regarding tips and tricks, the problem I seem to have is getting people to actually read the info. Admittedly, we get hundreds and hundreds of emails a day, some days thousands, depending on what group lists they are on; so I’ll give a little slack. It’s simply a case of missing the obvious, like when you are trying to fix a computer and it won’t work and it turns out to be the simplest thing that was forgotten, happens with phone issues too. Everyone just goes into panic mode when their phone isn’t functioning, amazing how we lived without cell phones just 20 years ago.

When SL was starting up just a few years ago, our VP of Sales was the cell phone person and he wasn’t too thrilled. He couldn’t WAIT to pass it on to someone else. I was the chosen one or sucker, depending how you look at it. I remember sitting in my cube my first week at SL, which wasn’t too far from his office, and giggling when he had to call the carrier and deal with some phone issues. I don’t giggle anymore. They told me by no means was it a punishment, taking over this particular job duty, but some days I wonder—especially the days when I get stuck on the phone for hours and hours trying to get a phone fixed, repeating myself over and over to 5 different people in 5 departments! It’s a source of some major meltdowns to say the least.

You see, we have about 130 phones throughout the company in four different locations. Dallas has Corporate and the DC and of course Seattle and WDC. So a lot of phones, a lot of folks, a lot of issues; from “My phone got ruined when I went hiking wearing khaki’s and got caught in a rain storm, the rain soaked through and ruined my phone, can I have a better one now?” to, “I lost it at the Christmas Party, sorry” to “If I step on it, does that mean I have to pay for it, because I want a better one?!” Yes, those are just a few of them, and obviously some of my favorites.

I, with the help of a few others, just recently upgraded 31 phones; Lance our CEO is cool like that. You see, the 31 were 8700c BB models, or fondly referred to as “coasters” around here. Of course they were spread across our four locations, so this required lots of coordination with someone on the other end of the line. This upgrade took over a month due to device issues (new phone to market at the time).

The guys in the Dallas NOC all know better than to laugh as they hear my cursing due to being on the phone for countless hours; or if they do, they’ve gotten much better about hiding it. The point of all of this is to remind you that if you have a company cell phone and it has issues, be kind to your cell phone person and know that you are not the only one with an issue. Cell phones break. Cell phones die. Cell phones get dropped on the ground, in the toilet, or, my favorite, thrown across a room in anger every single day. So if your cell phone person can’t get to you RIGHT THAT MINUTE, try trouble shooting it yourself. No, not installing things, but maybe just try and look up your issue, and let them know what you found. Send them the link or print it out. It will make their day. Trust me on this one!

July 27, 2008

What if SoftLayer Managed Inventory and Demand Like Apple?

Quick Answer: It would be disastrous!

Consider Apple's rollout of the iPhone 3G. Full disclosure: I'm trying to get my hands on one of those new iPhones, but as yet I have been unsuccessful.

When the first iPhones rolled out in June 2007, it was understandable that Apple had no idea how many to produce in advance of the launch. It was a product that moved the smart phone concept forward in several ways, but it wasn't perfect. Also, buyers set it up at home on their own using iTunes, so the buying process was simple. Get in, pay up, and get out. The long lines moved quickly. There were rumors of overproduction based on realized demand. I bought one for my wife's birthday at the 2007 release. Buying it and setting it up was easy.

This year is very different. Because of aftermarket hacking, you are required to activate and set up the phone with AT&T service in person this time around. So if you want to jailbreak the iPhone 3G, you'll have to pay a cancellation fee to AT&T. There is no get in, pay up, and get out. The buying process is running 20 to 30 minutes at this point, and Apple and AT&T are selling TONS more phones than at last year's rollout. Stock outs are occurring everywhere. But yet, Apple is still selling them on a first come/first served basis. Yes, you can prepay at an AT&T store, but they're quoting a minimum 10 business day wait for your phone.

It would make complete sense if a few months before the launch date, folks could have logged in, paid a deposit, reserved a phone, and set up a time for activation. Apple could have better anticipated demand and tailored phone production and store staffing accordingly.

Suffice it to say that SoftLayer does not manage inventory and customer demand like Apple. We strive to anticipate demand and arrange our inventory and staffing accordingly. We do our best to find that balance to keep our inventory lean so as to not waste money on maintaining unused product, yet have enough on hand so that our customers' businesses can be scalable. In other words, when you need another server or two or two hundred, we've got ‘em for you – and ready for you to use in a few hours, tops.

Yes, you can order enough servers for us to require a few days to call in a shipment. But that would be quite a large order, and you can rest assured that you wouldn't be a nameless "first come, first served" patron.

Bottom line, if we treated the customers who want our services as Apple does their iPhone customers, we'd have a lot less of them. That's customers, not iPhones.

-Gary

Categories: 
August 27, 2007

Ditch Klunky, Hot-Running Servers for iPhones

Yes, servers shrink with size over time, but after reading this post about iPhones being web servers, I'm thinking about sending the following to David Letterman:

And now, the Top Ten Reasons Hosting Companies Should Replace Their Servers with iPhones

#10: At $500 a pop, they’re cheaper than new servers
#9: They come with more standard RAM than most servers
#8: They use less power than servers (just think how many you could cram on a rack!)
#7: They’ve got a multi-hour battery backup soldered right inside – so dispo your UPS’s also
#6: There’s no spinning disk drive to wear out
#5: You can ditch your bandwidth providers and leverage AT&T’s blistering fast EDGE network
#4: The operating system (Mac OS X) is pre-loaded – just rack it up and go
#3: Since you can’t crack it open, the expense of delivering custom builds is gone
#2: There’s a YouTube shortcut icon standard on every one
#1: They just look cool!

</sarcasm>

-Gary

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