Flying My First Drone

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For my 30th birthday, my parents decided to tap into the joy of childhood by purchasing me something that has been nothing but pure fun: my first drone.

This Chinese quadcopter packs a ton of technology into an incredibly small package at an alarmingly reasonable price. This Hubsan x4 Quadcopter includes a 480p digital video camera, 6-axis control and enough battery power for approximately 7 minutes of flight on each charge. The included wireless controller offers a “Playstation-esque” feel but offers superb control of the aircraft.

It is absolutely amazing to me that this aircraft, which weighs 0.98 oz (28g), can pack a payload of 16GB of memory. The pace in which technology has improved in my short lifetime is unbelievable. When I was 10 years old, it would take a shoulder-mounted VHS camcorder and a stack of VHS tapes to record this much video.

Today, while my wife and her friend took our dog to the park, I decided to take to the skies for my first outdoor flight session. Living in Dallas, wind is always an issue, so today my focus was on controlling the aircraft under steady winds, and I must say that it takes an incredible amount of focus just to keep the drone aloft.

With about 45 minutes of flying time under some moderate wind conditions I’m definitely glad that I am starting with such a small and inexpensive aircraft. This drone has taken a beating. Falling from 100 ft in the sky to the ground with not even a bent prop, this drone is prefect for the curious or novice pilot (like me).

If you’re curious about the world of unmanned aircraft and want to try your hand at piloting a drone, definitely start small, but with a high quality aircraft. Get used to adjusting the trim, calibrating the gimbals and keeping the aircraft oriented with your controls. Try to practice “hovering” and keeping the aircraft as steady as possible before you learn to zip it across the sky.

As you learn, you will undoubtedly “over-control” as you panic when the aircraft does the opposite of what you intend. These over corrections will likely cause for an abrupt crash landing making you glad you decided to start the hobby with an inexpensive aircraft.

After a few more months of mastering this quadcopter, I think I might be interested in investing in a more sturdy aircraft that will be less affected by the wind with a sharper camera and more precise controls. Until then, I’m going to work on getting my unmanned wings and snagging some great grainy video in the process.

Next time you’re bored, go fly a kite drone. It’s great to feel like a kid again.

Nexus 7 Hands-On Review

I’ve had my Asus Nexus 7 for almost a day now. I–amazingly–resisted the urge to unpackage it yesterday as I wanted to see how long I could make the excitement last. After opening it up and playing around with it for a few hours I am simply amazed.

Now, if you are looking for some crazy new innovative technology, look elsewhere. If you are looking for the perfection of technology already available today, look no further. This thing is just a gem.

Before you go off thinking I’m a Google fan boy and worship all things Google, I need to let you in a little secret: I love technology. That means I love Apple, Samsung, Sony, Asus, Logitech, Audio-Technica, Behringer…well you get the idea. Our house is full of all sorts of fun gadgets, computers tablets and phones and we love them all–some more than others.

If you read my last post on how I ended up buying a Nexus 7 (, then you probably know that I wasn’t really keen on getting one until I had an opportunity to save even more money. After playing around with it, I have realized that the price point of $229 was extremely gracious. There is no reason this thing shouldn’t be selling for more than Apple’s iPad. It’s a better product, no doubt, but the value is what makes me really love it. Google is trying to tell consumers that they don’t need to pay an arm and a leg to have the latest and greatest and I’m glad they were able to pull it off (with the help of Asus, of course).

After the quick setup (no need for a user guide here) I had my device connected to my Wifi, synced to my Google account and before I knew it all of the apps from my Android phone magically appeared on my tablet. The first thing I went to try was Google Play Magazines. I know what you’re thinking, “of all things, he wanted to read a magazine?” Where the Nexus 7 comes out on top is with its super sharp display. I launched the magazine app and took a look at the latest issue of Real Simple and was simply amazed at the clarity. There is absolutely no pixelation visible to the naked eye. None.

Figuring that it couldn’t get better from there, I decided to launch the xfinity app to watch the next episode of Newsroom in my queue. The video was crystal clear and the immersive stereo speakers did a better job than the speakers embedded in my Sony TV could ever do. Because the sound is so close to your ears, it truly feels like you are enveloped in whatever you are watching. (Imagine wearing stereo headphones without wearing headphones.)

The bezel on the display is done just right: very narrow on the sides and tall on the top and bottom. This makes it easy to hold in portrait and incredibly comfortable in landscape. In fact, if the thin edge of the bezel were any thinner, I imagine people would have difficulty holding the tablet without accidentally touching the display.

I noticed that a few “design” bloggers were off put by the off center front facing camera. It really doesn’t take a genius to realize that when you hold the tablet in landscape format your thumb rests comfortably right below the camera meaning you can have widescreen face-to-face interaction without having to awkwardly hold the device. That, to someone that uses hangouts a ton, is a brilliant design feature.

The device came with about a 40% charge on the battery. I have been heavily using it all morning and then watched a one hour HD television program on it before needing to recharge. I suspect that I should be able to get a good solid day’s use out of the device with a convenient overnight charge.

The form factor of this device is just swell. It fits easily in the hand (or hands). Video viewed from my lap is about the same relative size as a 40″ television six feet away. Text appears beautifully but not so small that you need a pair of reading glasses. I can fill the home screen with widgets and not have to thumb through to find what I’m looking for. I can simply turn it on, take a peek and put it back to sleep.

I’m excited to see where, when and how I start using this device. My iPad was too big/heavy to tote around casually. I felt like if I took my iPad somewhere I was taking it with purpose. At 7″, I think I see myself toting my Nexus around more often to do the things I enjoy.

The only negative things I have to say about this is that it doesn’t have truly separate user profiles and the glare is the same that you would find with other glass displays. Although I would love an Android device with full functioning multiple user capabilities, I guess it defies the whole point of “personal” computing, which is exactly what these devices are for.

That’s my take on the Nexus 7. If you’re thinking about buying one then just go and get it. It’s a nice and affordable treat for the tech-savvy user that likes to keep up with the latest and greatest.

If you’re on the fence about getting on, definitely add it to your Christmas list and let someone else bear the expense. That way this year you will get something that I guarantee you will love.

If you have any questions about the device or want me to try something out, demonstrate a feature or see if something works, please let me know in the comments below. If you’ve purchased one yourself and would like to argue any of my points above, chime in below. Let me know what you think!

Great Customer Service Is Easy As Pie

Today I got a good old fashioned lesson in great customer service and it all started with pie.

Ice box full of pie at Sylvan Park Restaurant
This is the ice box full of pie that taught me the most valuable lesson in great customer service.

Brittani and I were wandering through a neighborhood and decided to have breakfast at a meat and three. The humbly named Sylvan Park Restaurant was our choice for one this particular beautiful late Saturday morning.

I hadn’t eaten breakfast there, only lunch, on several occasions over the last few years. We argued whether or not they were open for breakfast but noticed a slew of cars in the parking lot and knew we needed to give it a try. Immediately after sitting down, we were enveloped by the dated decor and incredibly reasonably priced menu. It was really a trip back in time.

This wasn’t my first trip to Sylvan Park Restaurant. A few years ago, my sister from Pittsburgh had come to visit. While we were there the waitress offered us lemon meringue pie. She was insistent on telling us about how the pies were made fresh and in such high demand that they would have to separate literally hundreds of eggs each week just in order to keep up.

The pie was delicious and the time and care that the waitress took to tell us the story about separating eggs became a bit of a thing between my sister and me. Each year we would take turns buying each other a different type of egg separating gadget to celebrate the memory of our visit to the restaurant. The waitress’s story left a lasting impression on us about the hospitality of Nashville and the quality of food at the restaurant.

As I was paying for our breakfast this morning, I walked by a glass cooler filled with beautiful coconut creme and pecan pies with a white board sign above it listing all of the day’s fresh pies. In an effort to remind my sister of our memorable encounter, I took out my cell phone to snap a photo to later send to her. Before I could even return my phone to my pocket, a member of the restaurant staff, a lady in her 60’s with blue jeans and a simple “Sylvan Park Restaurant” t-shirt walked over and exclaimed, “What are you doing!?”

Quickly, feeling guilty, I tried to explain to her how much my sister in Pittsburgh loved their pies and that I was going to send her the picture to remind her of our long ago visit. She looked at me calmly with a smile, looked over at Brittani and then leaned in and softly asked me, “would you like to take one home?”

I sighed with great relief. The lady had taken me totally by surprise; I was overwhelmed with gratitude. “Of course!” I emphatically replied.

The lady disappeared into the back of the restaurant, brought a cardboard box for the pie, began folding it and very carefully and skillfully placed one of the coconut creme pies inside. As she came over to present us with her offering, she made sure that we would go straight home to place it in the refrigerator.

We were so surprised by her act of generosity, we didn’t know what to do or what to say. I presented her with a $5 tip as a token of my appreciation. I didn’t want to offend her hospitality by offering to pay for the pie, but I wanted to make sure she understood how grateful I was. As I was about to walk away, Brittani asked her the simplest of questions, “What’s your name?”

“Regina,” she replied. “My sister owns this place.”

She went on to explain the that the restaurant is closed on Sunday and they don’t always sell out of pie on Saturday but she wanted to make sure this particular one had a home to go to tonight.

Although I will never understand why the lady thought to surprise me by offering such a lovely treat, her hospitality and thoughtfulness will leave me talking about that restaurant and my particular experience for years and years to come. That one moment. That one exercise of selflessness and thoughtfulness will always remain with me each and every time I see an ice box full of pie.

It doesn’t matter what you sell, how much it costs or who is there to buy it, if you want to create a strong and positive reputation for your business, treat your customers with respect. Every once in a while, do something special because the special moments are the ones that get shared.

Walmart Neighborhood Market Review

Normally, I wouldn’t share reviews of grocery stores on a blog focused on digital marketing and customer engagement. However, I think customer service is evolving and I want to share a story about my trip to the local Walmart Neighborhood Market. It goes something like this… Continue reading Walmart Neighborhood Market Review Unveils New Website Design

After midnight, Amazon released a fresh new makeover to their e commerce website. Although there was not information available from their Press section, the new design is much sleeker, trimmer and visually appealing than previous versions. If you haven’t seen the new design, check it out here, using this affiliate link.

How Much is Convenience Worth?

The Consumerist recently posted about two articles, one from +CNBC and the other from +The New York Times about the price of single-serving coffee packages.

I, for one, own a single-serving brewing system. I am a fan of the device (a Keurig) because it removes a lot of barriers from me brewing my own coffee. The most important of these barriers in time.

Before owning my Keurig, it took a lot of effort to brew a cup of coffee. More often than not, when I would brew a “pot” of coffee in the morning, most of it would go to waste. So, between cleaning the pot, cleaning the basket and measuring the cofee each morning I was spending a lot of time. Even after all of the preparation I would have to wait several minutes for the stuff to brew.

Now I find myself flying down the stairs with an extra 15 minutes of sleep, ready to press a button while I grab my banana and have my coffee in my thermos, the exact amount, the right temperature, perfectly fresh and all ready to go. I realize that on a “cost-per-pound” basis, this is way more than I would ever consider paying for high end coffee.

photo by rudolf_schuba on Flickr

+Starbucks Coffee offers select roasts for $13.95/lb and I’m paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-$30. Surely, this is way more expensive using my perfered method when viewed in a cost-per-pound perspective. However, if you look at the amount of coffee that is wasted and the amount of time spent brewing a “pot” of coffee each morning, I think I’m actually saving a lot more time and money than I would with the traditional method.

So, what’s your bottom line? What do you think the convenience is worth? Just because it costs more per pound does that mean you’re spending more overall? How do you do your coffee in the morning?

Roku 2 XD 1080p Unboxing, Review, Tutorial & Demo

Peter G McDermott unboxes, reviews, demonstrates and teaches you how to use the Roku 2 XD 1080p high definition (hi-def) set top box for your television. All you need is a TV, power source and Internet connection to get started.

To order a Roku 2 XD for a great price, visit Amazon:

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