Thoughts & Tips For September 2020

Paris-woodPhoto by Steve Holden. MORE LIKE THIS!

CURRENT EVENTS

No big change for us on the COVD-19 front.  We continue to be vigilant and focused: #wear_a_mask; #wash_your_hands, #social_distance, and #stay_home_if_sick.  The good news is that Christy's school as been able to go back to teaching kids in person with a host of safe guards which is a blessing and an answer to prayer.

Tour de France 2020. Who doesn't want to watch 4 to 5 hours nearly every day during September seeing some of the best athletes in the world do what most people would consider completely impossible? I am all in. I am watching via NBC Sports via YouTube TV.

Screenshot 2020-09-07 at 19.33.32

My candidate for President of the United States in 2020 is Jo Jorgensen (#letherspeak, #letherdebate). While I don't agree with everything she is advocating, she is in my humble opinion the best option for a President Of The United States who believes in and will fight for:

  • right to life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness
  • right to keep & bear arms
  • right to live where you choose & how you chose
  • right to privacy
  • right to worship how, when, & where you choose
  • right to be treated equally under the law

OTHER THINGS THAT ARE GOING WELL

  • The PodCraft Beer Show just had episode 7 and next week is episode 8. I have had some super spectacular craft beers that have blown my palette away.  As a craft beer fan I have actually realized how much I've missed by not paying attention to the special releases that many breweries do and I had no clue how amazing they are.
  • I am still playing D&D every week or so with friends from high school.  It is frankly one of the best unattended consequences of COVID-19 for me.
  • I am still loving my water-proof MP3 player -- AfterShokz Black Diamond Xtrainerz.
  • We were able to camp at San Elijo State Beach in August which was awesome ...

Beach-2020

EXPERIMENTING WITH MEDITATION

The book "10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found a Self-Help That Actually Works"
By: Dan Harris (#meditation) got me to do a little experiment over the last month since finishing the book. I've been doing five minutes of unguided meditation using the Apple iOS app Oak from Kevin Rose before I stretch in the morning.  Nothing bad has happened (Ha Ha!) I actually now think a little "mind exercise" is a good thing. My monkey mind is strong! More updates as time goes on.

Screenshot 2020-09-07 at 20.33.57

If you are interested in guided meditations, then the only examples I've had experience with are Mike Foster's Guided Meditations. The Oak app has them but I haven't used them before.

TECHNOLOGY, TIPS, & SUGGESTIONS

I have just started using this new Google Chrome browser feature for organizing tabs.  So far it is an awesome new feature.

This what I've been listening to on Audible (you can try Audible for free for 30-days and get two free books if you want). Over the last month:

I am currently doing all my Audible listening on my cell phone Samsung Galaxy S10+.

I also managed to finish a few Kindle books (I am currently using a Kindle Paperwhite for nearly all my reading):

One of my "newer" (I've heard in the past that this isn't a word, but I still use it all the time) favorite bands is Lo Moon.  They opened last year for several shows that the CHVRCHES did, and I'm super impressed with them.  I recently bought their album Lo Moon on Amazon so I could load the MP3s on my AfterShokz Black Diamond Xtrainerz  as I really wanted to listen to them while swimming.  Other specific albums I listen to frequently while swimming are: CHVRCHES (Bones of What You Believe, Every Open Eye, Love Is Dead) and Maggie Rogers (Heard It In A Past Life).  I will also drag a lot of 80s New Wave to a folder for 'random' mode listening.

Def Con (the yearly hacker conference I've been going to since #18) was completely virtual this year.  A ton of solid cybersecurity content is readily available if you are interested.

QUOTE I'M THINKING ABOUT

"We are what we repeatedly do, therefore, excellence is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle


Thoughts & Tips for June 2020

Wood-steps-beachPhoto by Steve Holden. MORE LIKE THIS!

CURRENT EVENTS

Basically all is well with regards to COVID-19 since the last update. Everyone is healthy. Maximum telework. Virtual school. Social distancing. Major home bodies with home projects in full swing. And a good amount of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) as an escape vice binge watching shows.

The ongoing justice crisis with #blacklivesmatter has left me sad, angry, frustrated, and motivated.  The horrible murder of George Floyd, and the peaceful protests turning violent with illegal rioting and looting have then been exasperated by some in law enforcement using unconscionable illegal force and tactics. And then we have some elected politicians and civil servants make things worse not better. Change must happen: 

  • Love your neighbor as yourself -- treat and value others with the dignity, respect, and grace you would like others to show to you.
  • Work towards a society based on justice, equality, liberty, and opportunities.
  • Condemn and reject at-all-times covert and overt hatred, racism, bigotry, and discrimination.
  • Realize and acknowledge that your place in life probably has more positives and privilege, than others who have suffered greatly, and do not have the hope that you have, or feel that their voices have been heard in the past or currently being valued or heard.

Freedom is hard work and not to be taken for granted -- FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!

EXERCISE UPDATE

I continue to enjoying my two mornings a week (Tue & Thu) riding this bike trainer while watching YouTube cycling videos using this iPad stand, and listening to audio books or podcasts.  On Sunday mornings I am completing a route around Fletcher Hills that is about 10 miles.  I have noticed that my time to complete the route keeps getting shorter so overall my biking has improved during COVID-19.

So the pool at our house has been open since last month's post.  I am doing mini-laps and training with a DIY bungie-harness setup.  Very nice to be back in the water.  More info here.

I also did pick up a recovery tool that I've been meaning to get -- Theragun recently came out with the mini.  I've only had it for a short time but it has really given me some relief on parts of my left leg that is still giving me some issues since my bulged disc two years ago.

TECHNOLOGY AND TIPS

SOME MUSIC RECOMMENDATIONS

I have been listening to a lot more music recently.  Here are some suggestions from YouTube:

OTHER TOPICS

  • I am prepping for a 9 person David Allen Getting Things Done (GTD) class at work in June but it isn't confirmed yet.  The wheels of purchasing stuff at work have been going slow, and I still don't have digital licenses, but I am told that could change any day now.
  • I am still playing at least one day of the week Dungeons & Dragons with some friends online.  The main books that I bought were the: DM Guide, Player Guide, Monster Manual, and DM Screen.  The tools we are using to play online include: Zoom, BeyondD&D, and Roll20.  I am trying out some mapping tools.  More about that next month.

QUOTE I'M THINKING ABOUT

"Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one." - Bruce Lee

 


Thoughts & Tips For March & April 2019

Photos_2016_9_1_fst_840fcd2b47a-9065-4481-98e1-9d5d4f66b32eBrown Wood Plank

Sorry I never got around to posting in March 2019 ...

Getting Back To Healthy

TritonI went a little backwards on my back injury (bulged disc), and issues with my left leg (sciatica) since the last post in February.  The week before my last sprint triathlon I hurt my back trying to lift something that I shouldn't have. I took the next 6 days off, and then I did the UCSD Triton Sprint Triathlon (actually it was Dual-atholon -- 1.5km run, 21-km bike, & 5-km run -- as they had to cancel the swim because of rain run-off health concerns).  The bad news is that I fell off my bike in transition and hurt my knee, hip, elbow, and hands.  I was able to push through it during race day, but by the following day I couldn't run at all.  So, I've pretty much taken the full month off from running, and did a treatment of steroids to get me back to how I felt back in late October (run 60 seconds, walk 30 seconds, repeat 28x times).  Thank goodness for a good stretching routine, walking in the morning (instead of running), Pilates (2 days a week), and swimming (3 days a week) during this non-running time.  Hopefully April will be a month of full run recovery, and then maybe another sprint triathlon early in May.

Thankful For

A bunch of stuff has been going on that has been really cool:

Technology & Tips

I have tried several waterproof headphones for listening to music while swimming. These are the best so far: Underwater Audio's HydroActive Short-Cord Waterproof Headphones.

Since Apple started supporting podcasts in iTunes, I've always used some sort of Apple iPod for my own listening. In my quest to simplify my life, I decided to retire the Apple iPod Touch I've been using the last couple of years with my Android phone. This decision was basically about having one less device to care and feed.  After testing several Android application options, I finally made the switch to using Podcast Addict for Android. (Support) So far, so good!

Bourbon & Whiskey Update

Here is a collage of recent bourbons** that I've tried since January (last post on the topic):

BourboncollectionIf I had to rank these, then it would be in the following order: #1.) Longbranch, #2.) Basil Hayden's; #3.) IW Harper; #4.) Buffalo Trace; #5.) Cooper's Mark; #6.) Elmer T. Lee; #7.) Old Grand-Dad, and #8.) Sunshine Rye Whiskey (not really a bourbon - distilled in Ramona, CA).  The only one I wouldn't buy again is unfortunately the Rye Whiskey.

** Another bourbon that I've tried that I didn't take a picture of yet is Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. It is by far my overall favorite bourbon. #1.

Craft Beer Update

I made a collection of photos of recent craft beers that I've tried over the 1st Quarter of 2019. All of them were good and recommended.

Future

There is a lot going on in April:

  • Carson's play is also playing again next weekend, followed by her Sweet 16 Birthday party the following week.
  • Christy and I are celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary this month!
  • Carson and I get to see Chvrches on April 18, 2019.
  • Finishing up Lent and celebrating Easter!
  • We are doing my Mom's memorial on Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Roseville, CA. (RSVP)

Quote I'm Thinking About

"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." - Bill Keane


Can you get a Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M to work with Windows?

Fujitsu-scansnap-s510mThe short answer is "Yes."

I was able to get a S510M that is marketed towards to Apple Mac users to work on Windows 7 by loading the latest ScanSnap software for Fujitsu for the S510.  Once loaded and patched to the latest version, hook up via USB to the Windows 7 computer.

When I did this I got an error that no driver was available, but I went to Computer > Manage > System Tools > Device Manager and right mouse clicked on the Unknown device for the scanner. Choose Properties and then the Driver tab.  Click Update Driver ... and then manually select the Fujitsu S510 driver to apply to this device.  You should get a warning message saying it might not work but say OK.

Once that drive was applied to the Device the S510M (with S510 driver) showed up in the Imaging device area and scanning worked without any issues.


Google Nexus 7 (2013) Review

I have decided to upgrade my Google Nexus 7 (2012) to the new version (2013) that was released at the end of July 2013.  Here is a link to my previous review of the 2012 version.

Nexus_7_2013_Blog_Post_Diagram

The main reasons I think this new version (2013) in the base model configuration (WIFI only with 16-GBs)  is a big improvement over the last base model version (2012):

  • Form factor: the width is less so it is easier to hold in one hand
  • Upgraded internal specs (processor, sensors, etc)
  • Front and back facing cameras
  • Improved speakers
  • Improved screen
  • Also comes with Android v4.3 (the 2012 edition is also supported)

That being said, one of the reasons that it took me more than six weeks (I'm writing this on 9/2/2013) to feel comfortable recommending this version was that the GPS interface had a bad hardware bug that made it pretty much useless for navigation.  Since this is a critical feature for me I wanted to make sure there was a fix (released late in August) that addressed the problem. The fixes to v4.3 list below from Google did solve my issues.  These fixes were also suppose to fix some touch screen issues but I never had those.

2013-11-24 22.07.05

One of the reasons that I decided to not get the 1st generation of the Apple iPad Mini (released in November 2012) and try out the Google Nexus 7 (2012) was mostly: form factor (pretty wide to hold in one hand), cost ($299), no integrated GPS on the WIFI model, and non-Retina display. Plus I was able to get my Nexus 7 (2012) for $150 used via Craigslist (see review).

The one thing that I'm still not 100% happy about is that the camera on the back for "standard pictures" (5-MB) is not that great except in ideal lighting situations.  But that is pretty much my only complaint.

So, with all things considered, I do recommend the Google Nexus 7 (2013) tablet if you are in the market for a 7" tablet.  I use it everyday effectively for: email; personal productivity; social media; consuming media (news, podcasts, blogs, RSS, video, etc); navigation; games; and tracking stuff (notes, references, health, etc). 

UPDATE (11/24/2013): Now that there is a 2nd generation Apple iPad Mini with Retina display I did consider purchasing it, but decided that since I use the GPS everyday for navigation that I'm staying with the Google Nexus 7 (2013).  Plus the price difference is something to consider.  There are rumors that the 2013 edition will get a new list price of $199 which will mean there is a $100 price difference.


Google Nexus 7 (2012) Review

I've noticed recently that since I carry my iPad around with me everywhere that I've been getting a lot more questions from people I know and meet about what type of tablet they should get.  While I follow the mobile market as close as possible, all my current experiences are with an iPad.

I am a huge fan of the iPad for me (see previous posts), but recently I've been really curious if all the buzz around the Nexus 7 and the latest Andriod OS 4.1.2 and future 4.2 (Jelly Bean) were true.

Related to this topic, is my ongoing evaluation of Windows 8 on a touch screen enabled HP laptop, the release of Microsoft Surface/Windows RT (no experience), and the new Apple iPad Mini (no experience).

So, I decided to expand my experiences and look for a used Google Nexus 7.  I was able to pick one up locally here in San Diego for $150 (25% off list) so that sealed the deal.

Google-nexus-7-blog-graphic

So here is my first impression after opening the box.  Nice hardware -- the rubber back feels great in my hands, and the smaller form factor (~7-inch) is excellent. To be honest it really brings back memories of the Apple Newton.  In fact, one of the cases I had for my Apple Newton, that I was using for my Marantz recorder, easily holds the Nexus 7, so that is my case at the moment.

After using the device pretty much full time this past weekend, the current Andriod OS (4.1.2) is suprisingly easy to use, and I haven't found too many issues or problems I couldn't solve on the device.  It is defintiely more technical than Apple iOS, but that shouldn't cause any real issues, even for a novice.  The comments from others in the mobile analysis arena that there is now parity between this version of Andriod and iOS. I think this is a pretty accurate assessment from my short testing.

I find the integration with Google very tight, and if you are a heavy Google user (Gmail, Docs, Reader, Maps, Play, etc) than the Nexus 7 is an excellent tablet.  The new Google Now is a very good tool that floats up information that is pretty meaningful to me (weather, calendar items, sports scores, traffic, etc).  I also think the Widgets on the home/main screen are very power for getting quick updates to key information.

Some things that are working against me with the Nexus 7: no rear-facing camera (I use my iPad camera daily); trying to not purchase any software that I've already paid for iOS; screen seems to get dirtier than the new iPad (about has bad as the original iPad); and missing some core applications that I have on iOS (some games, native Toodledo app, iThoughtsHD, etc).

Some useful Nexus 7 features: integrated GPS and NFS; micro USB charger; Google Wallet; integrated speaker is similar to the iPad (maybe not as loud but good enough); and software buttons on the front for back, home screen, and running applications (ie. scrolling app switcher).

While I had some application gaps, there was a relatively high parity in standard applications that I use regularly on iOS: Amazon shopping, Bible, Camera+ alternatives, Drive, Evernote, Hulu Plus, LastPass, Dropbox, Netflix, PocketBible (alpha), RedBox, and Stitcher.  It is also good to know that there are really two main application stores: one from Google (Play) and one from Amazon (AppStore).  I recommend checking both to see if there is a possible deal between the two.

So, am I going to keep the Nexus 7 in my toolkit? I think so, but it might not be my main tablet. I'm going to keep using it as my main tablet for the next week or so and then re-evaluate my options.  

That would also include trying out the iPad Mini.  And I think another option is one tablet for home (aka the iPad) and one for being out-and-about (the Nexus).


"New" Things I Did Turn On Apple iOS 6

I was able to successfully upgrade to Apple iOS 6 (Apple's What's New Page) on my iPad without any issues.  Here are the "new" things I enabled:

  • Siri
  • No Not Disturb: 9 pm to 6 am
  • Limit Ad Tracking
  • Reviewed all my Privacy Settings
  • Clock (setup a bunch of cities)

I also had no problems updating Conrad's iPad 2.  Conrad is very happy with the new iOS 6, but when I asked him what specifically made him happy he wasn't able to pin any one thing down. ;-)

I am kinda bummed that Passbook isn't for the iPad yet. And the Panorama feature for the Camera that is in the iPhone/iPod isn't available on the iPad.

I also agree that Maps are in the need of work.  Here is a picture of downtown San Diego where the Star of India is at: just an outline of the Star of India (ghost ship?) and there is a monster of some sort coming out of the water at the pier to the north of where the Start of India is at.

UPDATE (3/23/2012): I was also able to update Christy's iPhone without any problems. 


Simple AppleScript to Open A URL From A List In Text File

One of the reasons I've always liked using an Apple Macintosh is AppleScript.  I know there is PowerShell on Windows but I don't find it as easy to just solve a problem as seamlessly with AppleScript.  

Here is an example ...

I have been subscribed to an email feed from DefenseLink that gives you pictures taken by DOD photographers.  However, the links get messed up (BLOCKED) by the anti-malware software on the mail servers at work.

So I take the messed up URLs and save them to a text file.   Then I run this script when I want to review the pictures:

property myURL : ""

tell application "TextWrangler"

activate

select line 1 of window 1

set myURL to contents of selection

delete line 1 of window 1

end tell

tell application "Google Chrome"

activate

set myTab to make new tab at end of tabs of window 1

set URL of myTab to myURL

end tell

Pretty easy.  Meets my needs. Solves a problem.  Good deal.


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?!?