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Geeks We Love: Doug Aamoth of CrunchGear

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, we're kicking off our third annual Geeks We Love interview series to showcase some of the most talented and loved tech writers in the industry. And who better to get things under way, than the charming Doug Aamoth, who spends most of his days reviewing high-tech gadget goods for CrunchGear? I had the pleasure of meeting Doug at the HTC Touch Diamond Event in London last year, and found him to be very much the way he comes across in his work — passionate and knowledgeable about technology, and a really great guy with an addictive sense of humor. By the end of this interview, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about — enjoy!

GS: Considering you're the king of product reviews, what types of gadgets are you most excited to take for a test drive?

DA: I'll review just about anything, but I really like to take a look at stuff that has some sort of technological slant to it instead of being a full-fledged technology product. Basically, if I think it's something that would be interesting to other geeks, I'll review it. We get some pretty good response from stuff like the Penguin Home Soda Machine and a little four dollar keychain breathalyzer that also has a built-in stopwatch and flashlight. Of course, right? Every breathalyzer should have a stopwatch just in case you want to have an emergency footrace outside the bar before you figure out if you're okay to drive home.

As far as "real" technology products go, I'm really enjoying this netbook craze right now. I think it'll get much better, too, once Intel sees some more competition from AMD, NVIDIA, and VIA. Other than that, I also really like reviewing things that make people's lives easier. The simpler the better. Oh, and energy drinks. I love taste-testing energy drinks.

To learn more about Doug, including his "ah-ha" moment and his thoughts on technology and dating,

GS: What's the most outrageous and hilarious gadget that's arrived on your doorstep?

DA: I think that one of the best reviews I've done was for a product that never showed up. I spent a few days waiting for the new Flip Mino to arrive, at first thinking it would be here on a Tuesday morning, then being told Wednesday instead, then getting a press release envelope but no camera on Thursday, and finally having it show up Friday morning after all our competitors had gotten theirs on Wednesday. It wasn't really that big of a deal but I thought it'd be funny to chronicle the event as though it were an episode of The Office.

Aside from that, the most outrageous review would definitely be for a product called FyreTV, which is a set-top box that streams, um, "non-traditional" video. It's weird because it's basically a review just like any other. We rarely look at the media content for set-top boxes, but more at the actual hardware and how well it handles streaming. So for the FyreTV review it was like, "Here's the box, here are the connections, here's the remote, it streams stuff really quickly, and the video quality is pretty good. Oh, whoops, sorry I had to blur everything out and block the camera with my hand at certain points but you get the idea."

GS: Describe one of the most memorable moments of your career thus far. . .

DA: I had an "a-ha" moment about six months into my career when I was at this Acer conference in Spain. It was my first real work trip and I postponed my own bachelor party to go to it. I remember getting into this big conference hall with a bunch of other reporters, and sitting down at this long table with my laptop and my voice recorder waiting for the presentation to begin. I looked around and thought to myself, "This is what I'm supposed to be doing with my life. I love this stuff." I've had over 30 jobs in my lifetime (I get kind of restless) but I finally felt pretty calm for the first time.

In retrospect, I wouldn't have moved my bachelor party for a work trip but at the time I didn't know how often an opportunity like that Acer conference would come around. Turns out, it was a lot. It was still a great experience, though. Singing White Wedding at CES this year was pretty cool, too.

Also, any time I meet someone that I used to read before I started blogging is always really cool. Every person I meet always looks at me weird when I tell them I'm a big fan of theirs or that they're like a hero to me. I used to read tech blogs and magazines and think "Man, that would be the best job." Now that I'm actually doing it, I still haven't forgotten that feeling. I consider myself to be really fortunate.

GS: How geeky is your significant other? Who makes the final decision when it comes to gadgets for the home?

DA: My wife is probably about a three out of ten on the geekiness scale. She's not into tech stuff whatsoever, but she'll think some of the things I tell her about and some of the products I show her are cool. So she's definitely not against technology and she's pretty savvy with the stuff she uses on a daily basis. She does NOT like all the boxes we have around the house, but I can't blame her for that. It gets pretty out of hand sometimes.

I handle all the IT administration and technical support in the Aamoth household. Interestingly enough, I've been terrible about picking a good cell phone for my wife. I got her the LG Chocolate a few years ago and she didn't like it. Then I recommended the Samsung Glyde and between the non-responsive touchscreen and the poor reception, it's really been a terrible device as far as our relationship goes. One of these days, though, I'm going to pick out a good phone for her. It's just tough being in the doghouse for two whole years while we wait for her contract to come up for renewal!

GS: In the new movie He's Just Not That Into You, Drew Barrymore's character has the following to say about technology and dating:

"I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work, and so I called him at home, and he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting."

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think technology makes dating more complicated?

DA: Sure, I can see technology complicating things for people who don't embrace it. As someone who's into all this stuff, though, the thought of having seven different technologies that don't synchronize with one another is mortifying to me. I have a single Grand Central phone number that forwards to any other phones I might currently be using and my various e-mail addresses all funnel into a single Gmail account.

It's funny, though, because people will be like, "Give me your cell phone number, I can never get a hold of you at your work number," and I'll try to explain that my work, home, and cell phone numbers all forward to the same place. So they'll leave a voicemail on what they think is my home number saying that they'll try me on my cell, which leads to them leaving the same message in the same voicemail system two minutes later. Same thing with email: the same message three times to three different email accounts.

I think just starting to date someone would be really weird nowadays with Facebook and Twitter and everything. Do you friend this person right away or what? Is there a rule as to how many dates you go on before you can friend someone? And it'd be super weird if you were dating someone for a little bit and then they told you they were getting too busy with work or whatever, and then all of a sudden you see their status change on their profile and you see photos of them with someone else and all that. My buddy told me he watched his little brother's relationship with his girlfriend fall apart over Facebook, which seems totally surreal to me. That's what happens now, though, I guess. Everyone has access to everyone else's private lives with all the social networking stuff.

I'm really apprehensive to admit this but a former girlfriend and I actually broke up over AIM once. And we'd been seeing each other for a long time — like a couple years. We'd been living together in Seattle and I'd moved home to Minneapolis and I think we were both kind of ready to move on, so the mutuality of it made everything easier. I don't think most breakups would work that well over AIM but if you're both pretty much on the same page and it's going to be a relatively clean breakup because you both want the same thing, then it actually kinda works. Weird, huh?

GS: Now for the lightning round!
Mac or PC? DA: PC
iPhone or BlackBerry? DA: I love my T-Mobile G1 but I'd take a BlackBerry. I need a real, physical keyboard.
MySpace or Facebook? DA: Facebook (as the lesser of two evils).
iPod or Zune? DA: I really like my iPod Touch.
The Hills or Gossip Girl? DA: I've never seen Gossip Girl, but The Hills is absolutely, positively, 100 percent the bane of my existence. My wife has to watch it in our bedroom with the door closed or when I'm not around because the way the brats on that show talk is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. So Gossip Girl.
Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? DA: Bill Gates. His acting in the Seinfeld Microsoft commercials was mesmerizing.
Picasa or Flickr? DA: Picasa. Great example of a desktop app working harmoniously "in the cloud."
Texting or Emailing? DA: Email. I like the cost better.
WiFi or Wired? DA: I'll borrow from a golf saying here and say WiFi for show, Wired for dough.
Pac Man or Space Invaders? DA: Pac Man, preferably Ms. Pac Man.
Star Wars or Star Trek? DA: Star Wars
Laptop or Desktop? DA: Ouch. That's like Sophie's Choice. I have both and could never part with either of them.
The Bachelor or the Bachelorette? DA: ABC should cut out the fluff and have them marry each other. I mean, they're both looking for the same thing, right? Set them up together and spare us all from having to sit through it.
Coffee or Tea? DA: Monster Low Carb energy drink. Coffee will do in a pinch, though.

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