Thoughts & Tips For May 2020

DSC01811Photo by Steve Holden. MORE LIKE THIS!

COVID-19

Basically all is well with us 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.

WORKING OUT

I am 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. I am almost done re-listening to all the Mark Greaney's Gray Man Series books.

One thing I really miss is swimming at the YMCA.  I have been tempted to put on my tri-wetsuit to swim mini-laps in our pool, but I haven't pulled the trigger. They just opened up the beaches and ocean in San Diego this weekend so maybe a swim in the ocean is going to happen sooner than later.

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 have had to postponed by May David Allen Getting Things Done (GTD) class at work until July.  The next class is scheduled for the middle of June, however if we still have strict social distancing rules in place at work then I am probably going to have to postpone that one also.  I am still working on getting permission to teach virtually but that has been slow going.
  • Playing Dungeons & Dragons has been super fun and one of the best things that I hopes continues after COVID-19.  The main books that I bought were the: DM Guide, Player Guide, Monster Manual, and DM Screen.

QUOTE I'M THINKING ABOUT

"There's more than one way to look at a problem, and they may all be right." - Norman Schwarzkopf


Gray Man Series - Major Book Recommendation

Screenshot 2020-05-10 at 15.23.41I am a big fan of Mark Greaney's Gray Man Series.

I have consumed all of them using Audible.

These are the books in order (I do recommend listening or reading in order if you can. However, they do stand alone if want to listen or read them out of order).:

  1. The Gray Man
  2. On Target
  3. Ballistic
  4. Dead Eye
  5. Back Blast
  6. Gunmetal Gray
  7. Agent In Place
  8. Mission Critical
  9. One Minute Out

Here are several reasons why I enjoy them:

  • Court has a moral compass.
  • The moral compass gets him in all sorts of unintended consequences.
  • It is action packed.
  • It is fast moving.
  • The story telling is exceptional.
  • The locations are well researched.
  • I like action spy/espionage/intelligence/special operations/covert/clandestine/etc. stories.

Thoughts On The Sony RX 100 VI

Screenshot 2019-07-20 at 15.10.45

I've had my Sony RX 100 VI since early June and I have been using it a lot since then.  Most of the photos and movies were taken as a "travel" camera during a recent trip to Europe. 

I've also been carrying it around with me just about everywhere I go, and I have found the pictures to be so much better than my Samsung Galaxy S8+. 

I recently read this review on Wired about the Sony RX 100 VI. I agree with most of what is written in this review, but I haven't seen the poor low light performance reported or the overheating at 4K video (I haven't tried to do 5 minutes of recording to be honest.  At the most 30-45 seconds at a time).

I posted some of my pictures taken at the GTD 2019 Summit in Amsterdam on Google Photos (most of them are mine, a couple are from the official photographer who used a different camera body and lens).  Most of these were in low light.

Screenshot 2019-07-20 at 15.03.25

 


Near Real-Time Tracking

You can find out what I'm up to in near real-time via: Twitter (@sholden) or Facebook (sholden). I also recommend checking out my AztecMedia.net produced sites: Chvrches Fan Podcast (@chvrchespodcast), Tech News Radio (@technewsradio), Air Gapped Networks (@airgapnet), Jersey Boys Podcast, and Veteran Stories. [Updated: Nov. 20, 2018]


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?

 


Quote from John Brown's Body poem by Stephen Vincent Benet

My friend Mark Horstman readily shares that his favorite part of John Brown's Body (Poem) by Stephen Vincent Benet is ...

If you take a flat map

And move wooden blocks upon it strategically,

The thing looks well, the blocks behave as they should.

The science of war is moving live men like blocks.

And getting the blocks into place at a fixed moment.

But it takes time to mold your men into blocks

And flat maps turn into country where creeks and gullies

Hamper your wooden squares. They stick in the brush,

They are tired and rest, they straggle after ripe blackberries,

And you cannot lift them up in your hand and move them.

It is all so clear in the maps, so clear in the mind,

But the orders are slow, the men in the blocks are slow

To move, when they start they take too long on the way -

The General loses his stars, and the block-men die

In unstrategic defiance of martial law

Because still used to just being men, not block parts.

Very powerful, thoughtful, and meaningful words that have now become one of my favorites also.

I recently noticed that Mark (who is co-host of Manager-Tools.com) read this part of the poem in a Career Tools podcast entitled How Not To Multi-Task (Part 2).

I took the liberty to edit a version of just the poem from the podcast.  It is going in my Monday motivational playlists and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Tip - Subscribing to Twitter Accounts in Google Reader

NOTE: As of October 16, 2012 the official Twitter API turned off RSS options per this article.  What I wrote here doesn't work anymore.

I personally like keeping track of some Twitter accounts (especially security related ones) using Google Reader.  Unfortunately, I've found lately though that Twitter keeps messing with RSS urls, and getting subscribed without errors can be hit and miss.

Here is my understanding of the current format as of this posting ...

If you have a Twitter account like @johnswayer that you want to follow in Google Reader.  Then take the following main URL (twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/) and add <twittername>+.rss -- for example:

"https://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/" + "johnhsawyer.rss"

Becomes:

 "https://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/johnhsawyer.rss"

And use that for the subscribe url.  I usually use a text editor to this (Notepad+ on Windows or TextWrangler on Mac).

Did I get this right? Did Twitter change this already? Is there a better way?  Leave a comment or send me email and I'll update this post.

 


Ambient Information Display with Google Chrome

For a while I've been doing a little bit of ambient information testing DIY style by loading up webpages that I want to see information from and then automatically moving through the tabs after ~20 seconds.  

These sites are loaded on an external display and then running in the "ambient" background most of the day.  I have been accomplishing this using Firefox and an add-on called Tab Slideshow.

Ambient-device-displays

Ambient information displays and displaying information in a meaningful way seems to be a growing area of interest within new products and computer science research circles.  The new version of Windows 8 is going to have some of these features that Microsoft has already brought to Windows Phone.  

There is also a company called Ambient Devices making alarm clock size devices that show you what you want in a very customizable way.  Another major player in this market is chumby with a complete line of options including support for Android.

Today, I was wonder what options were available for replicating this DIY browser approach with Google Chrome. In Firefox, I've been using the feature Full Screen after launching Tab Slideshow. There is a similar feature called Enter Presentation Mode in Chrome which seems to do a better job IMHO of getting more of the computer out of the display.  

To get the tabs you want to autmoatically cycle through there appears to be three plugins to check out for Chrome:

I think I'm going to start with Resolver - Tabs and see how it works.  Anyone have any other suggestions?!?

 


Tech Tracking #003 - Android, Gune, MacWorld, WordPress, Etc.

Here are some tech items I've been tracking:


Getting PDF Feeds Automatically On Your iPad

With the release of Apple's iTunes 9.2 and the iBook 1.1 application release for the iPad (this also works reportedly on any iPhone or iPod Touch with iBook 1.1), you can now get PDF files automatically downloaded into the iBook application.

RSS-to-iBook 

Here is how I was able to get it done:

  1. Subscribe to a RSS feed in iTunes that provides you PDF content.  For me that was Make Magazine, Beatweek magazine, and premium content from Manager Tools.
  2. Then hook your iPad to your computer and do a Sync.  After the sync is done, go to the iPad icon in iTunes and select the Podcasts tab and make sure your iPad is syncing to the RSS feed content. If the feed like Beatweek is selected in the Podcasts tab you won't see anything in the Episode list since a PDF isn't according to Apple a media format like MP3 or MOV.
  3. Now go to the the Books tab on the iPad and check Sync Books.  Depending on your preference you can select All Books or Select Books to sync.  I used Select Books and then checked the books I wanted.
  4. Then you can do a Sync and your PDF's will be in the iBooks applications on the iPad.

I did notice two "bugs" or "issues".  The first, only PDFs that appear to be listed in the Books Selection area in iTunes are PDFs that have been downloaded since iTunes 9.2 was released.  I haven't been able to seamless get older PDFs to load in this manner. The second, the feeds now show up in your Podcast list in iTunes.  If you go to a podcast feed with PDF files, the PDFs are listed there (--:--), and if you click on them the screen goes blank trying to play them like an audio or video file.  Just tap once and you should be able to exit out.

Before this option, I have been successfully using GoodReader for PDFs reading, but this new iBook method is pretty compelling as it can be setup to be automatic.  These two bugs are pretty distracting though, and hopefully they will get addressed soon.

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know!