Category Archives: Blog

My Take on the Google Nexus Player and Other Things

Tech

I picked a Google Nexus player last week for our TV in the bedroom. We typically use an Amazon Fire TV in the living room for all of our streaming and stuff. The Nexus player is pretty good with only two downsides. First, the remote that comes with it is lacking a menu button. You may not realize how useful this button is unless you have had one like on the Fire TV. When using Kodi you can’t add things to favorites or mark them as watched like you can do with the Fire TV remote. The good news is that I can buy another of the old Fire TV remotes off eBay and use it with the Nexus player and solve that issue.

The other problem is that there is no support for Amazon Instant Video on the Nexus Player. This caught me by surprise. I’ve had a lot of streaming stuff over the last few years and no one doesn’t support Amazon. Until now. I did some reading about it and Amazon were being some little bitches that decided to take their ball and go home. They got mad because Google runs Android and Amazon doesn’t want Instant Video in the Play Store. This is bad for business. This irritates me enough that I’m reconsidering whether we will renewing our Prime subscription. If I wanted to support self righteous assholes I would buy Apple products.

The original Fire Tv was great though and that can’t be ignored. Everything I’m reading says that Amazon screwed up the latest version of the Fire Tv so I avoided it and got the Nexus box instead.

 

Games

I picked up Counterstrike Global Offensive on Steam a few days back and have been playing that regularly. Its good to have a good FPS again since my switch to PC gaming. I enjoy it more than all of the Call of Duty games I used to play. All of the killstreak bonuses and grenade use really clutter up those games.

I tried out Team Fortress 2, but couldn’t get into it. That game has too much of the character bouncing off the walls for me.

Hearthstone has me entertained lately too, but I’m on a massive losing streak and am starting to realize I really suck at this game.

Music

I’ve been listening to Scar Symmetry’s 2008 album Holographic Universe this week. This is a solid melodic death metal band. They remind me a lot of the great Soilwork tunes I’ve enjoyed throughout the years.

I listened to Tool’s Lateralus album in its entirety the other day too. It’s been several years I’ve done that. When the hell are they going to put out something new? It’s been over 10 years now. I’ve heard rumors and reports aboht a new album, but haven’t see anything about a release date. Also, where is Seventh Wonder’s new album? Last year that single “Inner Enemy” came out and I thought for sure a new album would be coming shortly after. I can’t find any news on when we might get to hear that one. They at least need to release that single on Spotify so I can jam it in my car. Myrath is recording a new one that I’ve been looking forward to also. Always looking to hear some new music.

I’m planning on writing up some more guitar lessons for this site for those of you who are interested in that. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to work on that this weekend.

I would like to start doing YouTube videos again soon. This time with some guitar lesson content. I think that might be coming after the holidays.

Other than that I have just been doing normal everyday things. The Christmas tree is already up early as hell. I usually don’t do this until after Thanksgiving, but the wife insisted. Since, its still hot outside everyday we have to just pretend its the holiday season.

I’ve been reading the first Acacia book still. I’m digging that, but it is going to take a while for me go finish up. It is a trilogy so there is plenty of content there left for me to consume.

That really all I’ve got to say for now. Until next time…

Talking about random stuff

I’m going to start doing a regular blog entry probably weekly. This will just be a compilation of my thoughts and whats going on in my world. I finished a fourth song this weekend called Saturn’s Hexagon. This one came together fairly quickly. You can check that one out here on my site soon. Its a very simple track with some nice synth in the track. It’s kind of spacey so it got a space related name. This is a little different from what I’ve done so far. Probably go further in that direction in the future and just mix it up with some heavier songs.

I did some work on the website this weekend too. I working on transitioning it from the prior technology blog form to the current music showcase and whatever form it is going to be in the future. I got my songs created as videos and on my personal YouTube page. More work to come on YouTube. I want to write more guitar lesson posts and eventually jump into some guitar lesson videos. I think those would get more attention to the rest of the content.

I caught a handful of Grand Theft Auto games for dirt cheap on a steam sale last week and picked them up. I tried to install GTA4 last weekend, but ran into all kinds of problems with the Games for Windows crap and got an infinite loading screen too. Still working through all of that, but kind of stopped trying. I installed GTA3 for the nostalgia and am playing that. Did a few missions and it takes me back. I also picked up the original Splinter Cell and am enjoying that one too.

I picked up the first of the Acacia series of books on audible this month too. I bought this one on ebook last year, but didn’t get very far. Earlier this year, I came to the realization that I’m too distracted to read unless I do audiobooks. I have been buying them ever since. Its going to take a while to listen to the whole series. Especially since I’m sure each one is over 30 hours each. I’m sure it will be February before I finish this one up. Its nice though. I like it.

Other than that, it has just been work and gearing up for the holidays. I’m almost certain the Christmas tree will make an appearance later today in our place.

I’m going to start working on a song soon. I have some basic ideas of what I want to do with a chord progression, but haven’t started work on anything yet. I want to play around with some pitch axis parallel mode stuff. I want to put together some chord progressions that will introduce as many modal progressions in the same key as possible and keep the song musical. This will probably be interesting to play around with and we will see what becomes of it.

That is really about it. We have been re-watching Psych on Netflix because it is one of the best shows ever and have been catching up on new episodes of Supernatural.

Later

 

Where We Are and Where We Are Likely Going

The Internet of Things may be something that we have or have not yet started to think about, but it is coming quick and will likely change everything. I think the Aha moment for me was a few days ago when I was looking online at the FitBit Charge HR. This is one of the new fitness trackers that has recently caught my eye. However, I’m not currently in love with their app’s ability for me to add food correctly to the list of things I’ve eaten for the day. The Myfitnesspal app is much more suited for this task. Now I’m discovering there are ways to sync the two apps together, although I have not bought the device and have not pursued this further. However, that is where the light-bulb moment came in.

Everyone is currently focused on building and developing IoT devices and they will all have their own proprietary user interfaces and apps. That is good, but not great. Remember in the early days of social media when there were tons of them and you were lucky if you actually knew someone who was on the same one as you? It took the Myspaces and Facebooks of the world to be that unifying force to bring everything together before people starting getting real value out of them. I don’t believe the IoT revolution will be any different. We are currently in the wild west of the IoT movement and that great unifying force has not come along yet.

I believe the next big successful company will be the one who can come in and focus of the software side of IoT and do it right. People aren’t going to want 50 different apps to control all of their IoT devices once this all ramps up. The next big thing needs to be Apple simple and support all of the hot devices that are already out and are on the horizon. Most importantly, there needs to be conditional interactions between devices. Maybe if I tell my fitness tracker that I’m awake or it records my first steps for the day I can have a rule that knows to kick on the smart home outlet in the living that has the lamp plugged in.

This is already the vision of the IoT, so I’m not going to pretend I came up with it.  I’m just simply stating that the next software company that does this right will move the ball forward for the IoT. IoT device interactions can’t just be for the geeks or this will never take off. The average person needs to be able to set this up in a few minutes. There should also be a social aspect too so people can share their device interaction actions with others.

If you are a software developer its time to get to work on this!

Google Glass: The Future or a Passing Trend

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So as of last week, Google Glass is now open to the public for purchase. That means anyone with $1500 burning a hole in their back pocket can now go out and get themselves a pair.

I’ve been following Google Glass since the idea was first released a few years ago. I’ve always imagined that if they could get the battery life right, get developers making applications for them, and not screw anything up in the process then this was going to be the next smartphone. That might be what actually happens. Google Glass can offer a lot of value to the world by putting the information you need right in front of your face without you even having to ask for it. Of course the backlash has and will continue to be huge. Never before has there been a piece of technology that could push privacy boundaries as far as this little wearable device.

With Glass, doing things like recording people without their knowledge, quickly identifying people you meet on the street, and even pulling up their social profiles and street address will probably be too easy to do. When you think about that it sounds like they designed the unit for stalkers. There are a lot of positives also. Being able to superimpose Google maps directions into your field of vision would be nice. It will also be useful for doctors and other professionals who need to quickly access personal files and records in their jobs.

One setback Google Glass has is that it still kind of looks funny. I’m curious to see whether the general public will embrace Glass in its current form. They may just become as status system for all of the geeks out there and not connect with the general public. I’ve heard that they are going to be working with Ray Ban and Oakley in the future to make them more stylish. This may help the adoption rate. I feel like we will all move to something like Google Glass eventually. The question is whether now is the time and if Google Glass will be the product to do it.

 

Free FE Exam Review Material

There are several books and even courses to help prepare for the FE Exam. However, some of this material can get kind of expensive. I found collection of videos for reviewing some of the material that you would find on the test. These are older review videos made available by Texas A&M.

All of the files are in a Real Media format which isn’t really popular or supported anymore. However, you can successfully convert them to other formats using http://www.convertfiles.com/ or some other tool. There are even PDF notes made available. These videos will give you a nice review of some of the general subjects like Chemistry, Economics, and Statistics with the information presented with the FE Exam in mind. It may take some effort to get the large files downloaded and converted, but it is a nice resource when preparing for the exam and its totally free.

Link to the video downloads page here.

 

 

Proof-listening

I’ve been writing a lot of reports lately at work. I’m a fairly good writer when it comes to this kind of thing. Like most people, I make grammatical mistakes and leave words out of my sentences every so often. Especially, when I’m in the zone with my writing and trying to get all my thoughts out before I forget them. I catch a lot of this stuff when I’m proofreading my work. Sometimes I would print out the page and read it like that. For some reason that helps a little. Another thing that helps is to let someone else proofread it for me. However, sometimes I don’t want to bother anyone else because they are busy too. Some kinds of mistakes are hard to catch. My brain knows what I want to say so if I skip a work or use the wrong one I sometimes won’t see it.

This is a little technique that I came up with back in college. I’m probably not the first one to ever do something like this I’m sure. I call it proof-listening. Adobe Reader has a nice little feature called Read Out Loud. By downloading a PDF printer and opening the document in Adobe Reader, you can use this feature to listen to your document and catch all of those silly mistakes.

Here’s what you need to do. Download a PDF printer. I mention BullZip PDF printer because its free. Install the printer when it gets finished downloading. Flip back to your document you are creating and go to the print menu. You should see the PDF printer and select that one and click print. Save the file to somewhere you can find it like your desktop.

Open you new PDF file in Adobe Reader. Under the View menu, go to the bottom where is says Read Out Loud. Select Activate Read Out Loud. Get some ear buds so you don’t disturb your coworkers and plug them in. When you click on a paragraph Adobe will read it back to you in a robot voice. Read along while listening and scan for hard to find mistakes. Fix the ones you find in the word document and print again if you need to. Depending on how much time you have, go through your document several times to get a flawless report or paper.

Hope this helps someone. Enjoy!

Crowdfunding The Future

The more I think about crowdfunding lately, the more I realize how good of a thing it is. If you are not familiar with crowdfunding I would like you to check out Kickstarter. Kickstarter and similar sites are doing something truly unique. They are letting people decide what kind of products, services, and entertainment they want in the world.

The way it works is there is a financial goal to do a project and a deadline to reach that goal. People go to the site and decide whether they want to fund your project and for how much. If the goal is reached by the deadline, then all of the money is billed and the project gets the money to make it happen. If it doesn’t reach the goal, everybody gets their money back.

The great thing about this is we are again using the internet and technology to take a middleman out from between what products go to market and the people who will consume them. In every industry there are people who are responsible for deciding what kind of content people will like and usually this input shapes the goods and services we have available. This is the recording industry, the movie industry, the gaming industry and so many more. Sometimes these people are good at their job and the world receives great treasures that are wanted and enjoyed. Its when they don’t that we get product that nobody wants. Then something even worse happens. The companies who make the rejected products try to cram it down the public’s throat or do forced marketing to try and make the products cool.

The world is always changing and people are changing. Big companies in charge of making money and staring at the bottom line don’t usually want to change what they are doing.

Crowdfunding is solution to some of these problems. It gives people what they want. Even if a large piece of the population is happy with what is given to them, there is always a subset of us who are wishing things existed. Crowdfunding is a solution to a problem that puts a sick feeling in my stomach. That is when a great idea is beat down by the money over everything mindset. I think this will push innovation and put those middlemen out of business. If not, at least get them listening to the people.

Cryptocurrencies

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One of the more interesting things I’ve seen over the last few years is the rise of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is the largest of the cryptocurrencies so far. It seems to be a natural progression that eventually the world will adopt digital and nation-less money. However, it is kind of interesting that we are hearing about all of these new cryptocurrencies all of the time. Some nations have come out and banned Bitcoin. Last year the value of the Bitcoin spiked and it brought a lot of attention to the currency.

Bitcoin got its start in 2009, but has really come into popularity in the last couple years. I don’t think Bitcoin is going to be around forever. I think Bitcoin is an innovative idea that is working to test ideas about the future of money. With the way technology is going and increasing, it just kind of seems obvious that the future of money is going to be in digital format. When everyone is carrying things like smartphones these days, I believe payment using devices like a smartphone will be eventually become a secure and regularly accepted way to pay for things. Our money is already basically in a digital format anyways. I basically never use cash ever. My check hits the bank on payday and the bank cards are used for every transaction. Whether I would be spending dollars or some sort of cryptocurrency would not really make much of a difference.

They are going to keep coming out with different versions of crytocurrencies, but I would not recommend buying into anything at this point. You would probably lose your money. I suspect some of these crytocurrencies are just short term financial schemes to pad the pockets of the creators involved. Even with Bitcoin being the first and largest, its value is still very volatile. Unless you are looking for some kind of short term risky investment, I would suggest staying away. I imagine one day the world can standardize something like this and agree on a currency acceptable all of over the world. I’m not an economist, but I imagine something like this could help stabilize financial systems over the world. Especially since one of the things about cryptocurrencies is that they are usually limited in the amount that can be circulated. This is to simulate the limited amount of precious metals and to solve some of the problems with currencies like the dollar. In the US, the currency is devalued when more money is printed. This has become a trend and is devaluing the money at a quick rate.

Again, I’m not an economist so do your own research and form your own opinions. I think cryptocurrencies will end up being a good thing when the time is right. I would not suggest being an early adopter. It is the wild west of cryptocurrency and it will be interesting to watch and see how everything plays out over time.

 

Photo Credit: Ava Callie Photography. Copyright 2014

Wearable Tech Vs. Privacy

There is no denying it. The internet of things is upon us. Wearable tech is inevitably going to be a part of our lives. Its already started and will be ramping up over the next few years.

People are already having fits about Google Glass and it hasn’t made it out of the paid beta testing yet. There was a story just last week about a man that was detained for wearing it into a movie theater. To the MPAA, this is about the equivalent of walking into the theater with a HD camera strapped to your head.

It may be a gray area as to whether you can use these devices in movie theaters, but are they going to be able to enforce a ban on these kinds of devices when they are released to the masses? Google Glass may not be the one to do it, but something like this will become popular in the near future. They will be bundling glasses when you buy your smart phone.

I’ve heard stories of restaurants and bars across the nation banning them also. In public where does your right to privacy end exactly? Someone could be recording just as easily with a smartphone, but it is only somewhat more noticeable. Being in out in public is exactly the opposite of privacy and it would be safe to assume that you have none and should act accordingly.

I believe people will push back for a while, but inevitably the technology will win out. The music industry did not beat the MP3 file and movie industry won’t beat this. We’ll just have to get used to the idea that we may be being recorded by somebody’s little device.