Feedly – Because If You Are Still Starting Your Morning With a Zigzag…

“… through a standard set of Web sites (sic), you’re wasting time and energy. Feedly is what you Needly.” That corny quote is courtesy of a New York Times article from May 2013 and in terms of reading blogs, not much has changed since then.

And it’s not just blogs. Many people still visit a list of websites every day such as news, fitness, sports, celebrities, etc., quickly resulting in a deluge of information peppered with tons of intrusive ads. What they don’t know is that many websites offer one or more “RSS feeds” containing direct links to articles posted each day. For example, The Verge is an excellent source of technology news. They even break down their feeds into useful categories such as posts about “Microsoft, Apple, Google, Apps, Mobile, Science, Features, etc.”  Many companies large and small also have their own blogs with RSS feeds. National Instruments (NI) has a webpage with links to not only their own blog (with over 1,500 posts!), but the technology blogs of their partners as well.

The confusing part is that everybody from the New York Times to The Verge to NI use something called “RSS” to publish their feeds even though they are completely different sources of information published on completely different schedules. The Verge might publish more than 20 articles on a busy day while NI only publishes one article every couple weeks. So why visit multiple sites everyday, some of which might only publish occasionally? That’s where an “RSS reader” comes in. After setup and subscribing to various websites’ RSS feeds, it only displays a list of new articles. Articles in this list are marked as “read” either by being read (duh) or by skimming through headlines. Once marked as read, they do not show up again.

The easiest part is finding a good RSS reader. No need to do a Google search, just use Feedly.com. It’s free, simple to setup, and synchronizes content across its website, smartphone app, and tablet app. It is also fast, straightforward, and provides direct access to a wide variety of high quality news sites organized by topic such as Technology, Business, Design, Photography, Science, and Travel. Other websites and blogs can easily be added via the search box. Once the basic setup is complete, each time Feedly is accessed, it only displays a list of headlines from unread material.

So if you have some free time during these last few weeks of summer, setup Feedly and enjoy distraction free reading of your favorite websites and blogs. By the way, the Elephant Tech blog can be subscribed to by searching for “elephanttech.com” using the search box in the upper right corner…

Leaving LinkedIn After Over a Decade

It was a tough decision, but I finally closed and deleted my LinkedIn account. A professional lifeline for over a decade, it is hard to measure the value of the contacts I had there. However some online transgressions are impossible to overlook and violating privacy is at the top of my list. To be fair, it was probably in their terms and conditions, one of those “sacrifices” we make everyday as a trade for a valuable service offered at no charge, but flagrantly breaking the implicit trust involved in privacy required immediate action.

What did LinkedIn do? They accessed my profession and personal email contacts without my permission and used them to suggest new connections. Before you ask, I am 99.9% sure that I NEVER gave them permission to do this with the other 0.1% reserved for the remote possibility that they tricked me into it somehow. Throwaway email addresses that I only used once and have not used for 10 years were showing up in this list. Doing some research online, it was suggested that LinkedIn might have gotten these addresses when I had LinkedIn open and Gmail open in two browser tabs at the same time. I’m not sure if this is true, but it would be one way to explain it.

It must be tempting for a company like LinkedIn to think that they are helping the world by connecting people professionally and the more connections, the more they are helping. Gmail does something similar by looking into Gmail accounts and suggesting ads so why can’t LinkedIn do the same? But it’s not the same by a long shot. There is an expectation of separation when multiple tabs are open in a browser. Amazon doesn’t look to see what I purchased recently from Nordstrom online and even Facebook, for all their privacy issues over the years, doesn’t seem to make personal suggestions based on my email contacts stored in Gmail.

So goodby LinkedIn, we had a good run where I published over 180 articles on your publishing platform and connected with hundreds of other professionals. As your email said, maybe you’re sorry to see me go, but if you had wanted me to stay, you would have never have violated the trust we worked so hard to build.

Watch Out Google! – 303 Links to Acoustics and Vibration Companies

Of course you could always do a detailed Google search and get millions of results, use Google’s Custom Search feature to create you own list, or even use the Duck, Duck, Go search engine if you don’t want to end up with tons of ads for custom acoustic foam fabricators for the rest of your life, but isn’t this list just a bit handier? Besides, these are from a website I created with Chip Doyle almost 20 years ago called NVHmaterials.com. It was a big deal back in a time when Google was still “in beta” with only 60 million pages indexed and Lycos ruled the search engine world. Interestingly, over 70% of the companies from the original list are still around today!

The list is broken down into five categories:

Consultants – 80 links
Educational Websites – 31 links
Enclosures, Barriers, Panels, and Chambers – 23 links
Materials – 66 links
Test Services – 17 links
Test Systems, Equipment, and Sensors – 76 links
Other (Trade Magazines, etc.) – 10 links

If you have any additions or corrections, please let me know, but in the meantime there are several gems in here that won’t be found until page three of a Google search like Acoustical Systems Inc. and Environmental Noise Control. Enjoy!

How Southwest Airlines Treats Passengers

I just had a great experience on Southwest Airlines and it is worth writing about considering that most airlines passengers are back flying their favorite horrible low-cost carrier. Southwest is not perfect: no seat assignments, full flights, and very limited food options, but they are mostly on-time, treat passengers well, and don’t “nickel and dime” with hidden fees such as checked baggage. Maybe a seat assignment doesn’t matter considering what people have to put up with on other airlines? Besides who on earth flies to enjoy a good meal?! Plus their frequent flier program is without equal with no blackout dates and generous rewards for their credit card.

Now they are flying to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and will soon add Hawaii. It’s the best time ever to make the switch and start building up miles.

Finally, after complimenting the flight attendants during a recent trip, I found myself being handed this gem of a card as I walked off this plane, “Thank you, for being an amazing customer.” Thank you Southwest, for being an amazing airline!

Cuba Is NOT Covered in Your T-Mobile Data Plan!

But over 140 other countries are included at no charge and wow, thank you T-Mobile for this honest and useful text message!

It is amazing how mobile communication has unified the world. A T-Mobile customer can take their phone from Argentina to Venezuela in South America and from Bahrain to Zambia in the Middle East / Africa enjoying free 2G data and texting at no charge. Voice calls are only $0.20 a minute.

To be fair, T-Mobile has its share of problems. Some truly terrible customer service, overloaded networks, a lack of coverage outside of major cities, and a load of salespeople in stores that could benefit from adult supervision top the list, but overall they are pushing the industry toward more open and fair access for all. They have also forced the duopoly of AT&T and Verizon into cleaning up some of their horrible business practices.

Some people think the world gets worse and worse every year, but in truth some of the changes brought about by technology are for the better. Global communication is one area that is critical to creating a better world. On a side note, one of our fellow travelers pre-paid AT&T $5,000 for unlimited voice / data service in Cuba. Ouch!