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Darren Cohen Posts

Own Your Information With Known

With so many services and social networks it is hard to keep track of what information you are sharing where.  This is one of the reasons I have this site.  While I enjoy and use all of today’s social media services like Twitter and Facebook, where the data is and what happens to it should be something in the back of all our of minds.  

A new service call “Known” helps with this problem.  You can host the service on your web server or setup a hosted account.  Then use it to share your comments, links, photos, etc all across the web.  With built in social sharing to sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Four Square your friends will still see all you want them to see.  One of my favorite parts of this service is their mobile website.  No, they don’t have an app.  They don’t need one.  The mobile site works flawlessly on all platforms, and lets you share anything you want right from your phone.  

I am going to use Known as my primary link sharing service.  I have put a link to my Known site right on the menu bar here.  Go setup an account over at and let me know what you are using it for.     

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Stop The Insanity, Not Everything Is About Inversion

There are times you hear things over and over and over and over again, and you just can’t take it anymore.  This is one of those times. 

Last week Burger King announced that it was buying Tim Horton’s.  Immediately the pundit class went into crazy mode.  “Oh my god Burger King is buying Tim Horton’s to avoid paying US taxes!”. INVERSION, INVERSION, INVERSION…..

Let’s try and bring some sanity to this.  First of all, when a company buys another company for the reason of inversion the big company, looking to avoid paying taxes, looks to pick up a smaller company in a tax haven.  While the top line corporate tax rate in Canada might be a little lower than it is in the US, it is not Bermuda.  Second Tim Horton’s is not some small little company.  Third, the few percent saved on taxes is quickly diminished by the falling Canadian dollar compared the US dollar.  Maybe there were other reasons for this purchase……

This deal has more to do with Taco Bell’s waffle taco than it has to do with inversion.  McDonalds’s has McCafe, Subway has their egg sandwiches with Seattle’s Best coffee, and now Burger King has Tim Horton’s.  However, it is more fun for people to go on TV and yell.  This debate is more fun because both political sides are on the same side for different reasons. You have the liberals on the left who like to scream that every corporation is evil, and you have the conservatives on the right who like to yell that taxes are evil. 

Just remember this, the corporations who scream about the high corporate taxes are the same corporations who are literally buying the politicians.  There is a reason that the tax code has not been changed.  They like the high rate with all the loop holes.  At the same time they can yell about this fake high tax rate, while taking advantage of all the loop holes their well funded Congresspersons’ have given them.  Look up the effective tax rates of the largest corporation in the US, and then you will realize how stupid the taxes are high argument is. 

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Google Now Should Be Renamed GMAIL Now

I just responded to an e-mail the same way I have responded to e-mails asking the same question for months now.  The question of course is, “Why does my Galaxy not track my flight info?”.   The answer of course is that the Google Now feature of Android phones is only useful if you use Gmail.  We see advertisements and news articles all the time telling us how Google Now will automatically track your flight, your package, and as of yesterday your bus trip.  These all sound great.  Just one little issue.  This only works if you use Gmail for everything.

Many people travel for work, and it would make sense that their flight confirmations are sent to a work e-mail account.  The same can go for packages of course, and other things you want tracked.  Google is sad to tell you that you are out of luck.  Wait, what happens if you use Google Apps? Well this can work, right?  Yes you can use Google Now with a Google Apps account, but then it won’t use your personal e-mail account.  You must pick one!  So if you have a family vacation coming up, that trip will be missed.  Why can’t Google scan the e-mails you put on your phone and get the relevant information for you?  Is it that they want to force all of your e-mails onto their servers? 

The scariest thing I am starting to see are people forwarding their work e-mail to their Gmail accounts just to get this service to be useful.  So IT and legal teams across the world who craft policies and retention rules for their company are being circumvented.  I am sure we have all gotten those e-mails that state a message from Gmail is being sent on behalf of someone. 

Samsung has been working hard trying to prove that their devices are enterprise ready.  They are even sharing some of their Knox technology with Google to include in the next version of Android.  Microsoft has solved this issue by allowing it’s own version of Google Now to go through e-mails on a device, no matter where the e-mail is hosted.  I hope Google does something similar with their service or else many more enterprise customers are going to block Android devices, many have already.

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Updated: 5/1: I Love Windows Phone 8.1, but I Can’t Use It

A few weeks ago I did a quick review of my first two weeks with the Lumia 1520.   In the weeks since a lot has happened with Windows Phone including the release of Windows Phone 8.1 to developers.  So what has changed? How does Windows 8.1 change Windows Phone? The big new features that came with Windows Phone 8.1 are the Action Center, which is Microsoft’s answer to Android and iOS’s notification center, and the voice assistant named Cortana.  Both new features are really well done.  Action Center gives you that central place for all of your notifications, and at the same time gives you quick access to certain settings.   Cortana has taken parts of both Siri and Google Now, and has created a really nice voice assistant.  At this point I would say it is the best iteration of this feature that we have seen from any company.  It allows you as the user to setup the information you want Cortana to follow, whether a certain news topic or your favorite sports team.  Like Google Now, Cortana will use places like your home and work to let you know when to leave for events and how far you are from those places.  It also makes tasks like setting your alarm just a quick sentence away.

For in depth reviews of what is new with Windows Phone 8.1, go over to Paul Thurrott’s Supersite For Windows at where he is going over each feature .

Overall I am really impressed with what Microsoft has done with Windows Phone.  They have created a top class mobile operating system that is ready for the big time, but now more than ever they need the help of apps and app developers which brings me to my next point.  As much as I love my Lumia 1520 running Windows Phone 8.1, I can’t carry it with me as my main device. I went all in with the 1520, I was going to make this relationship work.  In the end I just found myself missing out on many things that I needed on a daily basis.  I will start just on the productivity front.  There are certain apps and services I need.  Many of them are not available on Windows Phone, and even those that do exist are in a half baked manner.  I will use Box for example.  There is an app for Box, but it is missing many of the core features.  Document collaboration is one of the major features of the service, and it does not exist.   Then there are the social apps we all use on a daily basis.  There are apps for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc on the platform.  However, in each and every case the Windows Phone version is light years behind their counterparts on Android and iOS.  I am even using the Twitter Beta that was built specifically for 8.1, and I feel like I am using a Twitter app from 2009.  Entertainment and sports apps? One of the apps I use most is Watch ESPN which is not available, and again even when an app is available like the NBC Live Extra app it does not work.  Last night while recording the latest edition of the “Surface Geeks” Podcast I wanted to have the NHL playoffs on my phone.  I took  out the 1520, and all I got were errors and crashes.  So I turned on the Moto X, and within seconds my Live Extra app had the game streaming without any issues.   That is why when I leave the house the only phone I take with me is Moto X running Android.  I can find ways to deal with the less than par social apps and entertainment apps, however the productivity apps I can’t do that with.  This is the real reason I carry my phone at all times, and not something most people are willing to give up. We always hear about the “app gap” and Microsoft truthfully tells us that the gap has closed.  However, the quality of apps being put on the platform are just not good enough.  I am not a developer so I don’t know if the issue is the apps themselves, or something in the OS that it makes it hard to develop for.  Either way, as an end-user this needs to change.  At this point I am very happy that Microsoft is making their services available everywhere.  I will continue to enjoy all of them on other devices. I look forward to revisiting this again in a few months to see what has changed.

Updated: May 1, 2014

Thank you for the comments below, and I love the passion so many have for Windows Phone and technology as a whole.  That said, there are common themes throughout the comments that I just can’t agree with.  That theme is to only use and support apps that support Windows Phone, that I should only use Microsoft services so my Windows Phone works better for me, and there are third party apps for many things.

Let me start with the first two since they are very similar.  I tell clients, friends, and even myself to use the best service or software for a given task.  I am not about to switch services that work for me in order to carry a phone.  While I enjoy the UI of Windows Phone, and many things it offers the main goal of my phone is as a tool to get work done.  I am not about to start telling those I work with that they need to drop their Box service or Dropbox so I can keep carrying a phone.  I really like keeping my world in many different platforms.  At this point Windows Phone is the worst for that scenario.  Both iOS and Android have apps from all the major vendors, including Microsoft.  I have a full section of Microsoft Apps on my MotoX, and they all work flawlessly.  On that same phone I can use all the functionality of Box while enjoying the Asana service.

On the last comment I saw that I can use third party apps.  For some fun stuff like Four Square and Instagram, i don’t mind using a third party app.  That said, there is no way I am going to use a third party Dropbox app that has access to my data or client data.  Whatever you think about online services, Dropbox and others have very clear terms of service you can read on their websites.  Who is making third party apps, and what happens to that data is never as clear.  While I am sure things would be fine most of the time, that is a risk I am not willing to take.

Again, I reiterate my love for the Lumia 1520 hardware and the 8.1 upgrade.  That said, the problems I lay out here is the reason Windows Phone is struggling.  Whatever momentum they did have late last year seems has stagnated according to the latest usage reports.

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Two Weeks With the Lumia 1520

I wrote this post for the Surface Geeks site last week.

I owned a Lumia 900, and then I upgraded to the Lumia 920 when Windows Phone 8 launched.  After that a funny thing happened, I left the Windows Phone ecosystem and got myself a Moto X running Android.  Though I loved the Window Phone operating system, there were many things missing that were bugging me on a daily basis. There were both business tools, and personal fun that Windows Phone users did not get to be a part of.

When Nokia launched the 6 inch Lumia 1520 I ran to the Microsoft store to take a look.  The first thing that came to mind was “holy sh*t, this thing is huge”!  I even held it up to my face so my wife could take a picture of how ridiculous this thing was.  Who would want to use such a device?  Two weeks ago I got a chance to get a 1520, and I took it.  So, who would want to use such a device? This guy!  After two weeks I can say that I will not be going back to the Moto X or any other phone in the near future.  The Lumia 1520 is for me, and it might just be for you too.

Read more over at…

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Surface Geeks 39: The New Surfaces Have Arrived


I joined the Surface Geeks podcast this week to discuss Microsoft’s big Surface announcement.

Listen to the audio here

Check out the links and show notes here

Join the conversation by going over to and joining the forums.

If you enjoy these shows, please subscribe to the podcast using iTunes or your favorite podcasting app on your devices.

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The Surface Pro 2 Is the Device You’ve Been Waiting For

prod_SurfaceFamily_WebOn Monday morning Microsoft once again took the stage to introduce us to their new lines of Surface.  After a rough year 1 Microsoft showed they are not backing down from what they believe are devices that can work for people.  As a SurfaceRT user for a year, and yes a happy one, I was glad to see the new products coming to life.

Let’s start with the new edition of the SurfaceRT which is now simply called Surface 2.  A year ago I wrote that the SurfaceRT name was a mess, and I am glad that Microsoft has seen the error in their ways.  The new Surface 2 is a nice upgrade from the original model.  It has a faster processor, a 1080p screen, and many new features that are part of WindowsRT 8.1 that will launch on the device.  I actually believe that the biggest upgrade to the original SurfaceRT is not the new hardware of the Surface 2 (which is nice), but the baked in operating system.  One of the biggest features of Surface is that a secure system with long battery life can run the full Office suite which is integral in many people’s personal and business lives.  Last years SurfaceRT launched with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote.  One huge missing application was Outlook.  That has now changed.  OutlookRT is now shipping with the Surface 2.

Now onto the device that has me very excited.  That is the Surface Pro 2.  You can call it a tablet, you can call it a laptop, or you can call it an ultrabook.  I don’t care what you call it, I am going to call it the best computing device ever made.  A 10 inch HD display running on the latest Intel Haswell processor with up to a 512GB SSD with 8GB RAM.  This machine is a beast in a small frame.  There are other laptops that have these specs, so why do I think this one is great?  It fits in a tablet frame with accessories available that put it over the top.  You have a choice of three keyboards (which work on both new versions of Surface).  The one that has me the most intrigued is the power keyboard which when connected will give you even greater battery life.  Then you have the docking station that can run all of your peripherals including two HD monitors.   This truly is a powerhouse in an iPad size.  You can run everything from Word to Visual Studio to Photoshop all on this little monster.  Now it will cost you as it starts at $899, but this device is not meant to compete with low end machines.  Microsoft has built a top end ultrabook, and it is priced as such.

When these devices launch in October, go and take a look for yourself.  Just one word of advice until then, if you read someone talking about these products in the same vein as an iPad or a Nexus 7 just assume they are clueless and go find someone who actually knows something.

For all the technical specs, pricing, and more go the Microsoft site.

I will be discussing the big Surface news and more tonight (Wednesday September, 25, 2013) on the Surface Geeks podcast with host David McCabe 9:30 Eastern time. Come watch live and join the chat at

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Surface Or SurfaceRT, Microsoft’s Rebranding is Misleading

Microsoft has put the newly announced Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 in their store for pre-order.  While doing this they subtly changed the name of the original SurfaceRT to just Surface.  They are going to continue to sell the original device under this new name.  I understand that they want to lose the RT part of the name in the new device as it was part of the problem with the original machine.  However, renaming the old device as just Surface gives the false impression that you are in fact not getting a SurfaceRT which is not the case.

Surface or SurfaceRT

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Surface Geeks Podcast

I have been really bad at posting the podcast on this site each week.  So instead of going back, and posting all the back episodes I am going to ask that you just go to and find them for yourself.  You should also subscribe to the podcast via your favorite podcast app on all platforms.

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Microsoft’s Whiff

Here is a small excerpt of an article I wrote last week on the Surface Geeks website.

Those who have listened to the Surface Geeks podcast over the last several months know that I have been an ardent supporter of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and the direction the company was going.  Sadly, those in charge of Microsoft did not share my optimism and in an effort to pander to a group who will never be happy with anything out of Redmond they have set themselves back years.

Read the whole article here

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