Thoughts & Tips For July 2018

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Picture from RawPixel

Thrown For A Curve

On the morning of June 5th I tried to sit down in my office chair before going to work, and suffered some major lower back pain and sciatica down my left leg. In an instant was pretty much in deep pain and immobile. Luckily my son Conrad was able immediately take me in to see my doctor, and I was given some medication to ease the pain, relax the muscles, and hopefully heal the back pain area.  I am slowly recovering, but I am still experiencing some tingling in my left foot, so I have an MRI being scheduled and physical therapy planned for early July.  I pretty much can't run (which is a big transition for me), however I can swim, walk/hike, and ride a bike so that is better than being on bed rest for sure.  Currently most of my exercise is being supplemented with 45 minutes of daily stretches and strength training.

Technology

I was able to move to Windows 10 on a new Dell tablet at work before the end of June 2018 deadline.  All in all it is working great, and I like having Type-C connectors on my work tablet and my personal HP Chromebook 13G1. For instance the same power adapter can be used on both.

Thankful For

My 5oth birthday party was great.  I had it at one of my favorite breweries -- Burning Beard.

I am thankful that I have improved as much as I have, and I need to realize how much my current mobility is when compared to June 5th.

I wasn't able to finish the MBSE class in early June because of my back injury, but the 2nd course at the end of June was good.  I passed so I'll be completing my certification in Systems Engineering (Level 2) soon.

Future

I am offering three more Vital Smarts' 1-day Getting Things Done (GTD) classes at work -- one in July, one in August, and then one in September.

DEFCON is coming up in August.  That should be fun.

We also have a camping trip to San Elijo State Beach planned for the end of July.

Tips

One of things that made it possible for me to sleep during the first two weeks of back pain & sciatica was a TENS machine that I got on Amazon last year  to help with healing an achilles injury I had.  I am now a super big fan of the TENS devices.    

I am pretty excited to share my Retro 80's Synth playlist (also on Spotify) that I started as part of www.chvrchespodcast.com. It is especially cool when fans of the podcast say they are enjoying the playlist.

Quote I'm Thinking About

"Your word is pure magic, and misuse of your word is black magic.” - Don Miguel Ruiz


Thoughts & Tips For June 2018

Kindfolk-703-unsplashPhoto by kindfolk on Unsplash

Technology

I took one of my Wyze cameras on travel in May to Washington, DC with me to watch over all my gear in my hotel room while I was at out of the room.  It worked out well.  No issues.

I am moving from a Windows 7 HP tablet/laptop to a Windows 10 Dell tablet at work by the end of June.  A lot of stuff to do to make that transition happen.

Thankful For

Mother's Day was great and Memorial day weekend was a lot of fun around our house.  We also had a good time seeing the Star War's Solo movie for Spencer's birthday.  The previous week Spencer and I saw the very funny Deadpool 2 movie.

My favorite band CHVRCHES released their 3rd album "Love Is Dead." If you are a crazy fan like me then please listen to the CHVRCHES Fan Podcast.

Future

June is going to be busy: my 50th Birthday Party, a lot of high school graduation parties with friends' kids graduating, and a possible trip to DC at the end of the month.  Plus I am taking two big courses in June - one on Systems Engineering (late in June) and another on Model Based Systems Engineering (early in June).

I also have three more Vital Smarts' new 1-day Getting Things Done (GTD) classes scheduled for the summer at work -- one in July, one in August, and then one in September.

Tips

I really like these instant coffee packets from South Korea -- Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix.  They are great for travel, camping, and mixing it up from standard coffee. And these sugar free sweeteners are great with sparkling water plus your favorite adult alcohol like vodka -- Jelly Belly Liquid Drink Mix.

Quote I'm Thinking About

"Society has arisen out of the works of peace; the essence of society is peacemaking." - Ludwig von Mises


Thoughts & Tips for December 2017

Jamie-hagan-37691-unsplashPhoto by Jamie Hagan on Unsplash

Technology

My primary computer for the last couple of years has been a Chromebook.  I recently upgraded to an HP Chromebook 13 G1, and I'm loving the 16-GB of RAM and Intel Core m7 processor.  I was able to find it on Craigslist, so I got a pretty good deal on it. Review of this chromebook at PC Magazine.

Another great find on Craigslist was a Garmin Fenix 3HR for tracking my runs, swims, and other health data.

Future

I'm really looking to A Holiday Variety Show in Hollywood, CA at the Fonda on Wednesday, December 13, 2017.  My favorite band CHVRCHES is organizing and playing as part of the show.

My family and I are planning to see the new Star Wars movie on Saturday, December 16, 2017.  I'm very excited about Episode 8!

Uncomfortable

Last month I took a today training class from Vital Smarts that will enable me to teach the new 1-day Getting Things Done (GTD) at work.  It was a great experience and it will be awesome to be able to help others with GTD at work. As an introvert this really got me out of my comfort zone. More info on train the trainer programs at Vital Smarts.

Tips

One of the key take-a-ways from the GTD training was looking at my Next Action list before doing anything in the morning like checking email.   While hard to do at first, this has really given me a focus on what was on my plate for the day in a way I've never experienced before.

During the month of December I re-evaluate all the email lists I am on.  I usually unsubscribe to 90% of them.  It makes my inbox for the new year all fresh!


If You Can Do One Thing In San Diego ...

1st Draft Posted: April 6, 2016 - 2113 PT

Lajollashoressunset

Motivation: One of my favorite bands Chvrches is coming to San Diego next week (April 14, 2015 - SOLD OUT) and this is a gift to them. If they have time and have a good experience doing any of these, then I've paid them back just a little bit for the joy I've gotten from their music and how they treat their fans.  If you have other suggestions, questions, thoughts, etc. ... then leave a comment or let me know on Twitter @ sholden.

Thrill Ride

Burger & Fries*

Walk On The Beach

Pizza & Beer

Hike

Brewery

Neighborhood

Something New

Really Good Mexican Food + View To Die For + Great Place To Camp

The Best Mexican Food

Books

Seafood

Ice Cream

*I really like burgers & fries at In-N-Out and Five Guys.  These are worth experiencing if you haven't.  Picking one is hard.


Some Recommendations For Headphones

Headphones

I am pretty happy with my Sennheiser HD202 headphones that I use at work, my Sony MDR-XD-200 that I use at home, and my travel  audio-technica Quiet-Point ATA-ANC7.  

I picked each one specific to issues I was trying to resolve where I use headphones.  The HD202 cover my ears very comfortably, but aren't so noise reducing that if someone knocked on my office door I would still hear them.  The MDR-XD-200 were 50% off, have excel sound quality, and are something you can wear for hours without much fatigue which is great for movies and audio editing.  The Quiet Points were cheaper than the Bose that I had before the were stolen, and fold up pretty well in thier protected case for travel.

Even though I'm content, I find it very interesting to get other folks opinions, suggestions, recommendations, etc. on headphones.

A recent This Week In Google (TWIG) [#234] recommended the following after discussing the recent ad during the Super Bowl for Beats:

Leo also mentioned that Headroom was a good site with more info.  And the Home Theater Geeks podcast have several very detailed podcasts in their library about headphones.  If you want to get very technical on headphones (and even some ear buds) these podcasts are highly recommended.

So ... do you have a favorite headphone? And why?

 


Analysis Of "New" iPad Application Size Increase Claims

As a "new" iPad owner, one of issues outlined as a possible negative impact of having a Retina display was that application memory storage was going to be much bigger.  Since my plan was to move from iPad 2 with 16-GB to the new iPad with 16-GB, I was a little concerned since I seemed to have between 500-MBs to 1-GB free.

So, after a couple of recent updates where I noticed "Retina display' updates listed in the new feature list, I decided to try and track file sizes as updates were happening.  Here is the first sample of applications updated:

Recent-ipad-updates

And this is the summary of increases for these apps:

  • Stitcher v4.8.1 (13.9-MB) went to v4.8.2 (14.1-MB)
  • Wikipanion v1.7.5.4 (2.5-MB) went v1.7.6 (4.9-MB)
  • Khan Academy v1.01 (1.8-MB) went to v1.1.1 (1.9-MB)
  • iThoughtsHD v3.3 (7.1-MB) went to v3.4 (12.7-MB) 
  • The Weather Channel (TWC ) v2.3.2 (8.2-MB) went to v3.2.0 (97.7-MB) 

1st-ipad-app-analysis

My second sampling included (less than a week ago):

Ipad-app2-update

With the following analysis:

2nd-ipad-app-analysis

So, it does appears that in general 'new' iPad applications are larger, and based on my sampling it looks like about 1.5x larger on average.  Most of the applications I tracked are all new Retina-savvy applications, but they also have other upgraded capabilities, new features, fixes, etc.  As the saying goes "correlation does not mean causation."

It was interesting that the iThoughtsHD most recent update went down in size (but did increase when it added "Retina display" feature).  Also the Google+ application is not Retina-savvy  per the application notes but it did have a small increase between versions.

The impact to my own iPad seems relatively minor since I seem to have between one to two GBs free (mostly changing based on music or video uploads) since moving from iPad 2 to new iPad.  I'll keep monitoring and will do an update post if something significant turns up.

Thoughts?!?

 


You Are Invited To Christmas Eve Services 2012

Church

Our church - Christ Lutheran La Mesa (7929 La Mesa Blvd., La Mesa, CA 91942) - is having three Christmas Eve services in 2012:

  • Saturday, December 24 - Family Christmas Worship with Children's Message at 3:30 p.m. in the Church Sanctuary. This service is designed for young families and incorporates traditional Christmas carols that are family friendly to sing as well as a special children's message geared for our kids, led by Cheri. Childcare is available in the nursery.
  • Saturday, December 24 - Christmas Worship with Communion at 5:30 p.m. in the Church Sanctuary. This service features the celebration of Holy Communion as we celebrate Christ's birth. Join us afterwards for hot cider and cookies on the patio. Childcare is available in the nursery.
  • Saturday, December 24 - Candlelight Worship at 7:30 p.m. in the Church Sanctuary. This service features our choir as well as our traditional "candlelight ending" as we sing together the great carols of Christmas for those passing by on La Mesa Boulevard. As we conclude, we will have the opportunity for hot cider and cookies on the patio.

There will also be a service on Christmas morning:

  • Sunday, December 25 - Christmas Day Communion Worship at 10 a.m. in the Church Sanctuary. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate the gift of His Supper, receiving the body and the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. The message is from John 1, the Christmas Day Gospel reading, and speaks of God among Us which the Christ Child brings as He moves into our hearts and lives.

Will The Motorola Zoom Replace My Apple iPad?

I got a question from a friend asking if I was considering replacing my Apple iPad with a Motorola Zoom now that Best Buy is running ads for them.

The short answer is no.  I am still very happy with my iPad and use it every day as my primary personal "knowledge navigator."

Motorla-zoomAfter reviewing the Best Buy ad (the Zoom is expected to be released Feb. 24), I think the things that are attractive about this device:

  • 10.1" screen
  • 32-GB memory
  • Adobe Flash support
  • Front (2-MP) & rear (5-MP) camera for pictures & video capture
  • Andriod OS
  • 3G upgradeable to 4G LTE

Some things that are big negatives for me:

  • $800 price range
  • WI-FI can only be used after paying for a 1 month data subscription with Verizon

The other thing that is going to be hard for iPad users who are comfortable with using iTunes as their primary media sync tool (podcasts, music, movies, etc) is finding that same experience in the Android/Zoom eccosystem.  There are some good alternatives like doubletwist, but they are different.

The other big negative is going to be people's investment in iPad applications.  I know that is going to be something I'd have to consider because I do have some key applications I've purchased and use everyday that paying for them over again isn't very appealing.


Battle For The Living Room - Round 1 Roku

Media-playersOver the last couple of months I've been trying to decide what the best device was to purchase that would allow the family to access the "most" digital content in our living room.

Some things that mattered:

  • Access to Internet content: NetFlix, Amazon, Hulu, Pandora, podcasts, etc
  • Streaming media from the local network
  • Ability to play media from local storage
  • Reasonable up front cost, upgradeable, viable roadmap, track record of improvements
  • Technical features: easy GUI, upgradable, Ethernet, WiFi, and HDMI

The choices were pretty competitive in many ways -- Apple TV (new & old), Roku, Google TV, Western Digital WD TV, Game Players (Xbox, Wii, PS3), Boxee Box, etc with each having many good points but also a number of issues that just couldn't be over come.

My decision was to go with the Roku XDS Streaming Player 1080p that is currently on sale at Amazon for $99.  It seems to be the one that hits most of the requirements with the only big issue right now is that it does not seem to play well in the Apple ecosystem with video, but you can reportedly stream audio from existing iTunes collections to the device.

After I get the device up and running (it should arrive in a couple of days) I'll send out an updated review.  If you have done a similar analysis, I'd love to hear what decision you have made.  If you have any suggestions or hints on how to better use a Roku device, I'd like to hear that also.

 


One Week With The Apple iPad Review

Ipad-mosaicAfter experiencing the Apple iPad for the last week, I thought I'd outline my thoughts on the device that seems to still have a lot of buzz and interest.

In a nutshell, I am very happy with the iPad and I believe that it is a compelling device that fits in well between laptops/desktops and mobile phones.

I believe this device is going to help me be more effective with reading, podcast & audio book listening, and consuming professional content in eBook, PDF, and other standard formats.  I expect it will also help me on the organizational front with more ubiquitous access to reference material, project support data, and communications services.  Plus, it will be a fun device to decompress with casual games, videos, and music.

No device is perfect -- says the former Newton & still TabletPC laptop fan. As I outlined in a previous blog post, I had some concerns with the hardware and software as proposed by Apple for iPad v1.0 before picking up the device. 

The good news is that as far as I can tell there isn't anything new that the iPad can't do that wasn't already publicly announced before it was released. So, I don't have any buyer's remorse. I know there are now confirmed Wi-Fi issues, but I haven't experienced those with the Wi-Fi networks I have available to me.

Things that are great:
  • The screen is awesome.
  • Battery life is equally impressive.
  • Bluetooth keyboard support is solid.
  • Surfing the web is fast and fluid on the screen with the pinch-to-zoom working as expected.
  • Books via Amazon's Kindle application are readable and easy to consume over hours of reading.
  • Physically the device is solid and feels good in your hands.
  • Goodreader.net is a very nice $0.99 application for reading PDFs.
  • The interface and applications run fast -- so the custom Apple A4 processor was a very good idea IMHO.
  • The built-in Apple iPad applications are well designed.  The Email application with support for viewing a large number attachment formats is especially functional.
  • Native 3rd party iPad/HD applications look spectacular on the device. Some of the ones I've been using include: USA Today, Reuters, TweetDeck, The Weather Channel, Zino, Evernote, Toodledo, Kayak Flights, Dictionary, ABC Player, Yahoo! Entertainment, Sudoku Tablet, YouVersion Bible, and Box.net.
  • On screen keyboard is significantly better than my previous iPod Touch experiences.
  • Internal speaker is better than I expected and so is the microphone.
  • Doing a one on one demo with someone is pretty powerful for sharing and viewing information. The built-in Photos application is especially noteworthy as a good example.
  • Maps with Wi-Fi geolocation is remarkably accurate.
  • I haven't really ran into situations where multi-tasking would be an issue, but I can think of one area I am going to run into problems -- browsing in Safari and then wanting to post via TweetDeck.
Things that are not so great (from a consumer perspective):
  • Screen gets smudged very easily, but cleans up well.
  • Can't subscribe to podcasts directly in iTunes on the iPad.
  • The iPad could lose a half-a-pound in weight, and be more portable plus easier to hold over a longer period of time.
  • Pricing on new iPad specific applications is way to high in my humble opinion. Kudos to many of the application developers I currently use for creating 'free' upgrade versions.
  • The 2x upscale for standard iPhone apps leaves a lot of pixelation issues that distracts from the experience.
  • Safari has crashed more than I expected when consuming media files directly from sites like podcast RSS feeds.
  • I don't like having to sync to iTunes to get Contact updates.  You can get Google Calendar updates directly via CalDAV.
  • iBook prices appear to be on average more expensive than Amazon Kindle prices.  For instance, David Allen's "Getting Things Done (GTD)" is $9.99 on Amazon and $12.99 on Apple's iBook store.
Things that are not great (from my own Enterprise work perspective):
  • No DOD PKI CAC support so you can't sign emails or read encrypted emails.  You also can't use many DOD sites without DOD PKI CAC support in the browser.  Plus at my organization, VPN access and authenticated WIFI is not currently possible without DOD PKI CAC support.
  • Currently there is no way to encrypt the whole device and/or all the application specific storage areas.  This will be a problem as Data At Rest (DAR) requirements become more prevalent and no longer optional.  I've heard rumors about possible 3rd party solutions being released soon that solves this type of problem but nothing definitive as I post this review.  If anyone knows anything about future iPhone/iPad DAR solutions, then please let me know.
Other than fixing the items that are not so great, what could Apple do for improving iPad 2.0 hardware?  Here are a few suggestions:
  • More Bluetooth device support (i.e. networking, GPS, DOD CAC PKI, etc),
  • Integrate a native USB port,
  • Add an SD Card slot, and
  • Drop the price for all units by $100.
I'm sort of ambivalent on adding the camera from a video conferencing/chat perspective, but I think the camera as a sensor to capture location views, barcodes, snapshots, etc would be useful.

With recent news of the iPhone/iPad OS v4.0 coming out soon there is a good chance that many of the software issues will be either solved by this v4.0 release or an earlier v3.x release.  Given that the current release date for iPad support for v4.0 is Fall 2010, I'd expect a hardware update for the iPad when this actually comes out.  Regular Fall releases for new iPad hardware makes more sense for Holiday Sales, and future iPad release will probably be part of Apple's traditional new iPod releases usally in September or October.

The one thing I have not had a chance to try out but would like to is using the iPad to remotely connect to Windows or Mac systems.   I think this could be a big business area for Apple when the 3G version comes out.  With this feature, businesses could leverage the iPad for mobile computing solutions like access to intranet applications, sales presentations, eLearning, etc outside their internal physically controlled Wi-Fi networks.  The only reason I haven't tried them out is the three that look good for evaluation had prices ranging from $15 to $35.  Apple and their developers really need a 'demo' option for items in their AppStore, especially for applications with high price tags. Spending money to do multi-product evaluations is not that appealing to me.

Another thing worth noting is that there is definitely going to be more iPad-like products coming to the market in the near future. I think some of these will be pretty competitive, especially those with Google's Android and more than likely Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Series.  The big change, when compared to the past, is that the iPad is based on an operating system geared for being mobile, and the full blown operating system software like those on previous TabletPCs is not the right answer for devices in this middle ground between laptops/desktops and mobile phones.

Want to learn more? One of the better Apple iPad consolidated tips, tricks, and pointers articles is posted at HowToGeek.com (link via Kreg Steppe @ FriendsInTech.com)  Another tool that looks interesting is a Google Docs editing tool called Office2Pro that was recently reviewed on one of my favorite mobile technology blogs JK On The Run.

If you have any comments, then please post them below and I'll definitely respond.  If you have any questions that you'd like to have answered, then you can send me email at: sholden@pobox.com or send me a Twitter message (@sholden) or on direct message on Facebook (sholden).