Category Archives: Geek Stuffs

Here, I’ll talk about anything and everything I geek out about.

I Never Thought I’d be in This Position

But I’m still here, and I’m still screwing around with mobile consumer tech. I’m not off meeting up and geek crushing on my favorite tech peeps in the tech world, but I am still able to play around with some really exciting tech toys. Since my last post, I’ve really dabbled in lots of things, from my brief obsession with power bricks to my latest foray in mobile phones and also my growing obsession with Kickstarter projects. It’s been a wild ride and I don’t think I’ll get off anytime soon. I may however, start up a new blog. I’m not sure yet. Because I still want to document my experiences. I know nobody reads this except for me (and maybe a select few who stumble across my occasional post). But there are so many things I want to write about. But all in due time.

Tomorrow marks another landmark event in my tech world. I am leaving iOS (and an over-inflated cell bill) for the Galaxy Note 3. I want to snatch one up while it’s still “the new hotness.” Freaking Android phones (especially from Samsung) are released en masse, it seems. I mean, the Note 2 isn’t even a year old yet, is it? And now Samsung is releasing the “Round” phone, which is a Note 3 without a stylus… So I’m not concerned too much about that. Plus it’s only being released in Asia for the time being…. Anyway, I am typing this up on my HP Envy X2 (yeah, I got me a Windows 8 convertible – go figure. It’s not the best around, but I have my reasons for getting this particular model) and after tomorrow, provided there are some in stock, I will be blogging from my new phablet. I’m already enjoying my new LG HBS-730 headphones. Don’t believe all the negative reviews on Amazon. Granted, I’ve not experienced the 700’s but for $50, you can’t beat the price:value ratio. I purchased mine from Radio Shack @ $69.99 for the fact that if these buggers performance worsens while using with the Note 3 (I currently have these headphones paired to my iPhone 4S and iPad 3), I still might return them. If I picked them up from Amazon, I may not be able to exchange them with as much ease as simply returning them at the store I physically purchased them from.

Speaking of price:value ratio, the headphones I’m replacing are my Porta Pros that I picked up from K-Mart for…. I want to say $35 but I think I paid closer to $38. It doesn’t matter. They sound phenomenal as I expected. Thanks to the high recommendation from @Audiophiliacman, @MalusBrutus and CNet’s 404 Podcast.

You see? So many great tech experiences I have been to busy enjoying, instead of blogging about. But before I get ahead of myself, I will break here. I will continue my journey from my phablet as I stated before. After all, I gotta squeeze all the use out of that S-Pen that I can.

(hello – why does the time stamp of the autosave say 5:35 am? It’s 10:30pm where I am…)


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Boxee Box is not Obsolete!

Boxee may be pushing their live TV + unlimited cloud DVR *service, but the market for the Boxee Box is still alive and kicking. It’s not as simple out of the box as I had once thought, but for the seasoned and the initiated, it is still a valuable piece of tech.

I have been a long time fan of Boxee media manager. I had been preaching it as a powerful media manager for years to my friends and family. In fact, I had been a fan of the all-in-one device from way back to the (original) XBMC. I still have one of the earlier mods on a first-gen Xbox tucked away in a closet somewhere. I had been torn between the two media managers because I loved the responsiveness of XBMC, with its dedicated community and reputation (not to mention limitless customizability). But Boxee had managed to tie in my growing love of streaming media. The only drawback being, at least in my experience, Boxee Media Manager was a bit sluggish on my computer. I don’t know if it was just the build of my machine or the software. I was pleased with it overall, regardless.

But then we grow up. Life happens and our needs (and wants) change. I have always been budget minded and have prided myself of building powerful computer systems on the cheap. My last project was to create a gaming desktop that I could use to create and edit video and also use as a DVR. Fast forward 3 years and along the way I discovered I really didn’t want to learn After Effects (nor pay for, or acquire by other means, Adobe CS5). I also had little interest in plunking $60 (or more) per new video game that a friend would be getting anyways. I never finish them and probably only get $10 worth of quality play per game. Yeah, big waste of money for me. I still had my great interest in up and coming movies and television programming though. I put my PS3 away for a year, only to use it as a bluray player. Up until recently, I had been purchasing about 1-2 BD per month. Then inflation happens, cost of living rises while recession continues, I remain employed but with little increase in pay. Oh, did I mention I enjoy eating out too?

Anyway, before I start retelling my entire life story, I just want to say I’ve slowly been returning to my old spending/saving habits. A great portion of cheap entertainment is staying at home and enjoying what I have around me. I read very occasionally, but I may rewatch my favorite programs and movies much in the same fashion a literary person will whip out their favorite book. But still some changes need to be made.

My desktop supposedly is built into one of the most compact, quietest and airflow efficient cases designed for budget HTPCs (I think it’s an Antec something or other). Unfortunately, the reduced footprint (it’s the size of a medium case) and uniquely designed innards only allowed me to be able to choose from 3 motherboards and only one CPU fan would fit. There would be no passive (massive) heatsink and to this day, my computer howls like a beast. Not only that, but it generates enough heat to raise whatever room it’s in by 5F-8F and probably uses more than 2x the electricity that my (fatty) PS3 ever did (we all remember the comparison between the PS3’s energy consumption and a standard sized refrigerator right?).

So what of the Boxee Box? I am a little disappointed in the device’s limited capability. Obviously it was not exactly designed with a power user in mind. But fortunately for me, my buddy is an enthusiast that can afford to get whatever toy strikes his fancy. You’d think he’s a gadget reviewer but he’s just a big kid that likes his toys. He’s got a device for Google TV (I think it’s the Logitech Revue, a Boxee Box and I think he might have the Western Digital device). He recommended the Boxee Box to me (even though I initially turned his attention to it during its initial press release) because he said it was the best of all the set tops to stream both online content and local media. Since I had collected and created quite a collection of movies, tv and music, and since I simply have always just wanted the Boxee Box, I finally picked one up when the price dropped again. I don’t care much for live tv. I am not a sports fan and do not have cable television (never had anything beyond basic). All my needs in those respects can be covered with OTA broadcasts. I love YouTube and various audio and video podcasts and all my favorite tv shows keep getting canceled. So I continue to lean on recorded tv shows and my dvd/bd collection. Pandora is my favorite radio station and Netflix…. I gave that up last spring.

The Boxee Box is a fantastic device and even though I just started using it a couple of days ago, I know it’ll get plenty of use. I love it for its ability to play all my archived stuff and for the variety of free content available through it. I will appreciate the miniscule energy consumption and already I am loving its nearly silent cooling fan. Right now, all I hear is the fan of my laptop as I type.

A significant drawback so far is I’ve already experienced 3 significant, negative incidents. Upon first reboot after the latest firmware update, my Boxee Box froze and had me seriously rethinking my purchase. Then, up until now, I’ve experienced 2 video hang ups. Sure, it could be network hiccups as my Boxee is not wired into my router (they are in separate rooms), but that is hardly an excuse. I have an iPhone, an iPad, a Touchpad and a laptop that I’ve been switching between with little or no issue. My laptop is due for an overhaul and is the only other thing that crashed on me. Seeing as how both the Boxee Box and my laptop are both running (and crashing) on linux, I will take extra care to shut down my streaming device more regularly.

As I mentioned, the seasoned and initiated are IMO, the ideal market for this particular device. It is us who might whine about its shortcomings but still have the patience to work with it. We will bitch about its simplicity but also praise it for the very same.

The Boxee Box is far from obsolete for this gadget enthusiast. I may not be able to recommend it to my parents as I had initially intended. But it will get plenty of use and praise from me. Those who are seriously considering the “Boxee killer,” the Boxee LiveTV thing, remember – it costs just a little less than a Boxee Box (I think I got a really good deal on mine at about 25% less than most retailers are selling it for) and requires a paid subscription to the unlimited cloud DVR function that is *only available in select cities at the time of this commentary.

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So I began to see the Light

I just finished my daily two hours of Scrubs marathon (Netflix). I’ve been on this iPad all friggin day and only took a few moments to break from it during the day. Right. Oh, and I took a short nap too, to give my brain a break from all the time wasting goodness.

So what was I getting at again? Oh yeah. My phone was charging this whole time too, which made me realize this toy was actually useful for something. Even though I stopped doing something purposeful hours ago, I was able to enjoy one thing at a time, for the first time in a long while. It was a good exercise for my brain. I have terrible short-term recall, which makes learning difficult for me. I’ve also developed a bad case of attention deficit. Now, whether it’s clinical or habitual remains to be diagnosed.

Since using this iPad the past few days has been somewhat of a challenge. Take now for example. I’m listening to Pandora and I want to make sure I give the current song a thumbs up, but I can’t because I’m typing this damn post. Don’t get me wrong. It’s forcing me to actually focus AND finish my current task before doing something trivial in its stead. I’m prioritizing and that’s good, isn’t it? Of course, this means I would be getting less done during the day, if I were using this for work. Or would I be learning to work harder, faster and finish with higher quality work?

Whether this is helping me or I’m just convincing myself that I should keep one for myself (and get another for my parents) is still a toss up I guess. I really don’t have the money to get another one or any other device like it. Not right now. I’ll have to save up for another few months.

I still would like to pick up a TouchPad. That’s still a device I can really enjoy, but with the smaller app catalog, I would really have to determine its usefulness. Would it be more toy than tool? Would it be worth it to pony up the extra cash, to be able to feed my desire to flip between tasks continuously throughout my day?

Apple really has something here. Something their competitors do not, and I’m sure they know it. They have a no brainer. Meaning, this iDevice doesn’t have to be a production tool. It doesn’t have to be a consumption device. It doesn’t have to be anything because the hardware is a doppleganger – it can be virtually anything you want it to be, with the right software (and the right accessories). So the only question is, “is it worth it?” For most of us, the question, more specifically is, “Is it worth one month’s rent/car payment/childcare…?” Because really, there’s an app for that. I want to stick a pen in my brain for thinking that but it’s true. Okay, maybe it can’t literally pay your bills, but there ARE apps to help you do that, and for just about anything else you can think of.

I shall enjoy this wondrous device for another week or so, then I gotta sell it to my mom. I know it’s a gift, but as curious as my mom is about tech, she’s still resistant. Rather, she’s intimidated by new and different things. Still assuming these things have to be difficult to use to get the full enjoyment out of them. My dad? He’s a much easier sell. Especially if my mom already accepts it. Usually, if my mom’s in, then he’s in.

That’s a wrap…. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some music to rate.

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From my Punch-Soaked Hands

So I found an excuse to get an iPad. Parents, of course! As if anyone really needed a reason. This is really fun to use. So much so, I’ve only had this thing since Thursday and I’ve already wasted a good portion of my evenings (after work) customizing this for MY personal use 🙂

I’ve always been fascinated with Apple products and the og Apple community. I now find myself with like company. At least that’s how I feel most of the time. I owe this to a friend of mine who first introduced me to my first Linux distro (Mandrake) and teased me with a nifty little gadget named after a snack (I so thought, many years ago), the Newton. Now I say, the “og” Apple community because the fanboys (and fangirls) of today are more like cultists, it seems. As was mentioned on one of my favorite podcasts, [iStuff] are now fashion statements.

I’ve always been one who prided himself in resisting the urge to “keep up with the Joneses.” but I feel that just encouraged me to follow another trend that is not spoken much of – until I find an official buzz phrase, I’ll call it, “keeping up with the Jenkins.” For every high fashion and trendy thing, there are low budget and equally useful, if not more so, items to follow. I could go into examples, but this post is about my recent tablet purchase.

When Apple first introduced the iPad, I was flabbergasted with how much they were asking for it. But I should have known. Not only had they revitalized the market for these things, but they found a way to make their customers feel like rock stars…. Or celebrity authors, film makers and artists. But $500 for the basest model cost, it was not, could not be reasonable. But it was. Well, now it is.

Every reiteration of a tablet device has been less than stellar and marked up in price. Perhaps the techie geeks and corporate customers value utilitarian design AND functionality, but that’s not the cash cow it once used to be. I mean, that was RIM’s bread and butter up until recent weeks, hasn’t it? Since the inception of the iPhone OS (now simply, iOS), Apple R&D team have been catering to the masses. Though unwillingly at first, Apple has come to embrace their app development community. Imagine where Apple (mobile) would be if they had taken extra measures to shut down independent app developers early on? Certainly not seeing the amount of success they have been enjoying these past few years.

I still fawn over the HP TouchPad though. I know it’s not an iPad! Do you think Apple would still be around at all if they allowed all the nay sayers who said, “Mac OS is nice, but it’s not Windows…” to shut them down? Exactly. We gotta keep competition alive people. It encourages innovation.

But my experience these past few days have been wonderful, really. I’ve been really fascinated by all the different apps available. I am much more impressed by the iPad versions than I had ever been when I had my iPod. I resisted all this Apple hype because of the devices’ dependency on apps to be useful. Apple really owes quite a debt of gratitude to the app developers, great and small.

I’ve always defined the “smartness” of a device by what’s built into it, out of the box, and how well it integrates into our ever growing busy schedules. It’s why I adored my Blackberry Curve so much. That was my first smart phone. I loved that thing so much, that when I transitioned to my Pre+, I promised my cousin he could have it. But it took me a year to finally wipe my data off of it and now it’s worthless :-/ (I think priced it at about $15). This is why I love my Pre+. I’m not an app fiend. On my BB, I had 6 programs I used daily. 3 of them were built into the phone. Likewise with my Pre+, I only use a handful of apps. But if Apple had taken the same approach as Palm did with webOS, by using the web interface as if it were a computer, at least 10% of Apple’s apps would be obsolete, I’m sure of it.

Smart or not, there is intelligence behind all of Apple’s products. Thank you, Steve and thank you Apple. I may have to keep this one for myself…

I almost forgot – where do my parents come in? I intend to give this iPad to my parents. My mother is not as energetic as she once was. She’s hard-working but should be retired by now, IMO. Last year my wife and I purchased a Kindle 3 for her birthday, so she could take her library of books wherever she went. A couple years before that, I purchased a net top computer (Acer Revo r1600) because her old eMachine wasn’t worth upgrading (the Acer came pre-installed with WinXP and I replaced it with Ubuntu 10.10, btw).

Now I’ve been eyeing the iPad since it came out. My cousin who was visiting from Canada picked one up on a whim, just weeks after it released in the US. We were all wowed, even though all he could do was open the free Winnie the Pooh iBook. But still….. $500. He was already a fanboy, the rest of my family shook our heads in disgust.

It’s now a year later, my mom has seen better days but really still works out of necessity. She still thinks $500 is a lot for a toy and while I agree with her, there are some things so compelling, you just can’t ignore it. I figure, if you’re gonna continue to work into your golden years, you can at least have some fun while you do it. My dad has also expressed an interest in “computing.” I quoted it because, like my mom, I think he’s more interested in the social aspects.

My dad is a retired veteran, of the US Navy. He was a SeaBee mechanic who specialized in heavy machinery. He’s never been too interested in electronics beyond learning how to use a tv remote (they’re complicated these days) and programming a VCR. I even think, up until a few years ago, he was disappointed that neither of his sons were mechanically inclined (though I’d like to think I’m a bit handier with a toolbox than my older brother). Instead, we’re both computer junkies.

So finally, where does this iPad come in? Facebook, Gmail and the Internet. That’s really all my mom does with her computer. Oh and the occasional document or form creation she does for her work. My dad, being the social butterfly that he is, made friends with some folks who are closer to my age than his. I think they’re all on Facebook. My dad has an email address he hardly uses too. Social networking, web surfing, occasional documentation….. Yup, sounds like the iPad fits the bill perfectly. Let’s not forget all the video and music you can access for life, with or without subscription, so long as you pay your master (in their case, Frontier FiOS).

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Ahh, now I remember

I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m out $300 and some dishonest thief is enjoying my iPod and its extended warranty 😛 BUT in recent weeks, Apple has made two things possible that makes getting a replacement worthwhile (to me anyways).

1.) Extended warranties are now transferable between devices.
2.) Find My iPhone app is free and usable without requiring Mobile Me subscription.

Granted, the latter is only partially useful for the iPod Touch if it’s only connected to the web. But who’s gonna get that thing and *never* log onto the web…..ever?

On the other hand, I’m about to receive my annual bonus and tablet devices are coming full force, post holiday season. I’ve already mentioned I’ve been smitten by the Galaxy Tab. If you haven’t tried one out or have any qualms about it at all, head to a Best Buy Mobile store near you and play with the sucker. I hate Best Buy, but Best Buy Mobile so far is a tolerable experience. Go check out the Galaxy Tab. It’s really neat!

Anyways, I have no need for either the iPod or a tablet device. The main thing I’m looking at is access to the vast app store of either camp (Apple vx. Android). I don’t plan on jailbreaking the iPod, nor will I root the tablet (Android). If the WebOS tablet comes out in March, as rumored, I might be tempted to play with homebrew but if it’s anything like how the Pre/Pixi turned out, actual rooting won’t be necessary. Just a quick run of WebOS quick install (whatever it’s called) and I’d be free to play with any home brew there is.

But Apple set the bar high, and I’m not just talking about features and software. What I’m really referring to is the price point. There are several less pricey Android devices out on the market now. But it’s starting to become more apparent that to get a good quality device, one must spend $500+. OUCH. Seriously. It’s painful just looking at the number. Sure there are Archos devices that are way more affordable and there’s the “poor man’s iPad,” the color Nook. But to get the premium experience without paying a premium price is, for now, just a fairy tale.

I don’t want a new phone. I like my Pre+. I LOVE IT. Sure, I’m disappointed with how every day it seems that product line is going the way of the dodo. But WebOS is still recognized as (one of) the best mobile OSes around. Heck, while I had my iPod Touch, I got so frustrated because I kept trying to use gesture strokes to navigate the iOS interface. Shoot Apple, if RIM stole Palm’s gesture interface to make the Playbook look even more like a WebOS copycat, you certainly could use such an elegant method of navigation on your iStuff.

Where was I? Oh yes. I don’t want a new phone…. yet. My phone still works fine. I’ve learned to live with the keyboard quirks and it’s overclocked and stable at 500/720 Conservative. I don’t want a new contract, but I still want the benefits of the device itself AND the premium experience, When my phone finally breaks or Palm breathes its last breath by the time my 2-yr contract is up, my next phone (or communication device) will be paid in cash, and at full retail price. So phone or tablet (as of today), I’m looking at a $600 luxury.

Whatever I decide, I want to get all my holiday shopping out of the way first. I’m going low budget and analog this year (except for mom’s present – she loves her Kindle 3). It’s not so much cuz I’m cheap (cuz I am), but because the consumer tech biz is booming and the new year is just around the corner. There are plenty of bargains to be had.

I’m not rich. I’m just a working class guy trying to keep entertained. I think if I had more money, I’d be traveling more rather than watching people do so on VOD from my phone.

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I’m Finally Playing With Gadgets!

So I’m finally playing with gadgets and I’m not writing anything about it! I can’t, I don’t have time! I’m too busy playing with gadgets!

I have, however, been smitten with the Galaxy Tab. I like what I’ve sen of it so far. It’s just that it’s way expensive! I suppose we can thank Apple for setting the price point of such a luxury. I don’t care what anyone says. Those tablets we’ve been reading about are all toys. The iPad is the biggest toy of them all. But what a great toy it is, no less.

I’m still bummed I’ve got to do without my most recent tech (luxury) purchase. And now I’m torn. I may soon be able to purchase another iPod Touch 4 but I haven’t been drinking Apple Kool-Aid long enough to feel a void where the iPod Touch once was. No, the I’ll feeling in my gut has to do with the actual parting of the cash I forked over. Some bonus money my wife was so proud to earn and share with me.

We’re not rich folks. In fact, I’d consider us just one month ahead of living paycheck-to-paycheck. Thanks to FPU and a shortlived business venture, we’ve learned to keep our spending within our means. But that’s a different story. One I’d be glad to share another time, in a different forum.

Anyways, back to this thing called “mobile tech.” I now wonder if I should join the early adopters of all things (Android) tablet? Or should I wait for later this year? It seems like I wait and wait… and wait. And when I finally give up and move on to something else, all that I’ve waited for happens the next day. That iPod was to be the first of many things I finally waited for patiently until it offered precisely what I was looking for. Then in less than a month, it was gone 😦 So maybe I didn’t wait long enough? I don’t need a tablet device, but it’s the type of tech I’d really like to move to. I already have a phone that does practically everything I’d ever want. For all you non-believers, I AM, in fact, speaking of my Pre+. As I stated in a previous post, I finally dropped some serious dough for the iPod Touch 4, only after extensive research of it and it’s current competitors. The thing that finally won me over was the the adoption of an official Netflix app and the realization that, thoug capable, Netflix would not likely come to WebOS, simply because of Palm’s dwindling popularity. BUT if any company was guaranteed to get such software, it would be Apple.

Allow me to switch gears here, a moment. Of all the companies, Apple tries their darndest to deny the masses their deepest desires, only to have content providers and others devs to try harder to get on their beloved platform. All the while, supporters of the less popular platforms are begging to get some little bit of the most mainstream content. Only to e left by the wayside.

Android is said to be rapidly gaining on iOS and is expected to surpass it in popularity quite soon. But Netflix, for example, still is not available for it. I’m sure the masses would be glad to risk “fragmentation” and the possibility their phone may not have the right guts to work with said app. Not everyone cares for VOD on their mobile device, or phone, as it may be. Maybe I represent a very niche group but I know I’m not the only one.

My point is, I went ahead with iOS for a few reasons. Those being 1.) quality of build 2.) variety of software available 3.) longevity 4.) use experience 5.) overall value (yes, I wanted the iPod Touch 4 for $200, but I figured $229 was as close as I’d get).

Nobody mention reputation. I don’t give a shit about Apple’s reputation. Ok, maybe a little. But not because it’s “cool.” I’m talking about the reputation of its solid architecture, its elegant OS and how their continuing innovations have changed the way we think about how we compute and consume media. No, value isn’t one of their innovations. Not when these things are designed to be disposable. What, no user replaceable battery? = disposable gadget.

Anyways… I got sidetracked again didn’t I? Dang… No I forgot what I was going to say completely. Damn you Jimmy Kimmel and your Skype Scavenger Hunt!

Until next distraction kiddies…!

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