12.21.14

Rachel visits Santa

Posted in Autism, kids, Personal at 1:49 am by admin

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My daughter Rachel went to the respite house for a few days this week ( she is autistic), so she could have some time away from us old folks and spend some time with some other young adults her age and some time focused on her. At the same time Jen and I got to spend a few days being a couple alone, something we haven’t done in over 5 years. Rachel got to visit Santa, I took my wife out to dinner , it was a win/win . I love being a parent, and though autism is a great challenge, I wouldn’t trade any of my kids, but I won’t say that after 10 years of helping to raise triplets that the idea of getting some consistent time to just be together isn’t welcome.

12.08.14

Books I’ve bought from Amazon.

Posted in amazon, books, ereader, Kindle, shelfari, testing at 3:25 pm by admin

 

12.05.14

“MEDIEVAL LAND FUN-TIME WORLD” EXTENDED TRAILER — A Bad Lip Reading of Game of Thrones

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:57 am by admin

12.01.14

Apple makes really crappy mice- Sudden Bluetooth signal loss with Apple Magic Mouse. Turns out all size matters when it comes to batteries and not all AA’s are alike.

Posted in Computer stuff, tips, Uncategorized at 7:17 pm by admin

 

Short link for this post http://blei.org/blog/?p=88

Let me begin this post by saying that Apple has had issues for years with producing a decent mouse. I don’t know why, but this is an area where they consistently fail. If you look at their history of mouse production they’ve got some that look good, but looks aside, they just haven’t kept up with their cheaper easier to use PC brethren.

One of the things that always freaked me out about moving to Mac before I did was the concept of using a computer that only had a one button mouse. “who the hell wants a mouse with only one giant f*cking button” I recall saying to numerous girlfriends and relatives that were Mac users back in the day. “You don’t even notice it” I got told.  Yea, well, I’ve been using a mac now for 5 months, and theoretically it has right click , duel button capability, and I still notice it. Why does Apple fight so hard at trying to redesign something that actually already works? If there’s something that I consistently don’t have problems with using Windows , it’s the mouse . I only notice it when it breaks, and since it’s moved to opticals that’s hardly ever. Two buttons and  scroll wheel . Easy, simple, it works.

Even when working perfectly, the $75 Magic Mouse that  shipped with my iMac has trouble discerning when I’m trying to do a secondary ( right click) and when I want that secondary click to open in a new tab.  You would think that for $75, something like opening a link in a new tab would be the easiest thing to do, but in fact even though the entire things set up to be one huge touch device that supposed to be 100 times more sensitive and user friendly than a windows mouse, opening a link in a new tab is something that i have trouble with, and have to stop my flow to pay attention to all the time.

I can go buy a $3 mouse from the Dollar store in my local mall ( which is what i eventually did ) that will always right click properly and will always open that right clicked content in a new tab, but my nearly hundred dollar “Magic” device won’t do it operating properly .

When i’m working with the Magic Mouse, I actually have to worry that I’m going to lose the content I’m currently reading or working on, and (this is especially true if I’m filling out a web based form ) if I go to click a link and it doesn’t read my intention of opening the link in a new window but instead simply opens the new link by  moving the tab I currently have open to a new page, I lose all the content I may have filled out in the page I was on just previously .  So i’ve got adoption issues with the thing to begin with, and this is why I’ve ordered the Apple Magic Trackpad for my birthday this year. I’ll do some content on that at a later time after I’ve had some time to work with it.

So I’ve been using my Apple Magic Mouse since August, and throughout that time, i’ve had occasional issues where I’d lose the Bluetooth connection for a few moments, maybe once or twice per day , but the week before last all of a sudden I started getting signal loss that began at 2-3 times and hour, and then escalated and grew to 20-30 disconnects per hour and eventually the thing just became totally unusable.

It got to be really frustrating. I had recently changed batteries to some Panasonic Super heavy Duty Power Carbon Zinc  AA batteries and the power percentage was reading at 100%, but I was getting these disconnects , and the frequency was growing.

Since my Magic Mouse was covered under my Apple Care plan, I called up technical support and the first thing they had me do was run a bunch of diagnostic tests including doing a PRAM reset that all indicated that there was nothing internally with the programming of OS X that was getting in the way of the mouse operation. Even though the apple tech support person was the first to raise this possibility -There was nothing that I could see specifically related to the latest update of Yosemite that indicated that anyone else was experiencing any additional Bluetooth connectivity issues, plus my keyboard was a bluetooth device and that wasn’t disconnecting at all.

My basis, and she agreed, for not pursuing any  idea that it was OS related was that none of my other bluetooth devices were having any sort of connectivity issues .  I then changed to another form of Energizer battery , but still had the issue.

Whatever it was, was specifically going wrong with the mouse itself. Once we had established that it was not an issue with OS X or any degradation of the code on my computer the only things they could do was send me a new mouse.  So I agreed to that, and  I had Apple ship me a new mouse, and while I was there, I bought myself the Magic Trackpad for my birthday ( Thanks honey :) ), however from what I could see this was an issue that some people had periodically despite mouse replacement and semi persistently.  Apple requires that I send in the old part when they send me a new part covered on my apple care, and I have to lay out the money for that part until they get it back into their stock.  It can take between 6-8 weeks before the refund comes all the way through my bank and I’m not going to be in a position to lay out $75 for the 6-8 weeks in takes apple to get the old part back and refund me if this issue happens to me again, and it looked like there was a manual fix out there for this.

While I was waiting for the new mouse to come in, it wasn’t going to hurt me to try and MacGyver the mouse that was having the issues to see if i could get it working .

I found two fixes in this article here that looked like they would address my problem http://macs.about.com/od/tipstricks/qt/Fix-Magic-Mouse-Disconnects.htm I’ll be quite honest with you, in that neither of these was very impressive to me, as I think  that something thats as intentionally designed and frankly as costly as Apple products are should NOT require this type of user intercession. a $75 peripheral that has one job certainly shouldn’t. But what I think should be and what is are two different things,  if the fix works then I want to know, even if it means Apple has over designed it’s peripherals to the point where it’s not usable with every battery out there, which definitely turned out to be the case.

 

There were two possibilities here. One, that there was some issue with the battery leads itself having connectivity with the battery itself and as the battery was used and moved caused it to disconnect from the powersource. . The other second possibility was the particular panasonic batteries I had just switched to were slightly less in circumference than the batteries ( Energizer) that i was using previously .

 

The first thing I did was take a small piece of aluminum foil about a half inch thick and wedged them between the battery and the negative leads in the mouse. This seemed to help restore about 30%  of the battery drop out’s but I was still having them 70% more than before the issue occurred. I then followed the next step of instructions on the website above I cut  a postcard thick piece of cardboard about the size of the batteries and roughly centered it on the battery area and then reinstalled the battery cover and Boom! Problem over! I wasn’t even getting the once to twice per day disconnects that i had been experiencing before. I then went and removed those additions and installed yet a third set of batteries, these being some store brand batteries that I got in bulk from a nearby discount store, and lo and behold, the problem wasn’t occurring there either.

 

Here’s what i learned. Not all double A batteries are actually the same size.  They may be the same length , but they are not the same circumference.  Some AA batteries are up to two millimeters smaller  and often rechargeable batteries are slightly bigger than non rechargeable batteries and Apple obviously has made their mouse so that it’s designed for their rechargeable batteries and other batteries that are slightly bigger, and the ones that are slightly smaller disconnect periodically as they are moved around within the case. So the long term answer to this is 1- Stick to one brand of battery that i know works, and 2- if I must use another battery that is smaller to shim it with cardboard as in the tip, and hopefully with this I will not have return another magic mouse.

 

What this means is that when apple designed this, they designed it so that it worked with their rechargeable batteries which are slightly larger in circumference, and any other batteries that happen to match that , but that it was so intentionally designed that it doesn’t work with ALL AA batteries, I’ve tested a bunch of AA batteries I have in the house and about 30% of them have the issue and 70% do not. Apple felt that they didn’t need to design the product so that it fit all AA batteries, just the ones they tested around.

 

 

UPDATE

 

You know quite honestly even with the issues with the battery fixed, the issues relating to the magic mouse not clicking into new tabs or opening new tabs properly in a new window, when I tested out a regular 2 button scroll wheel mouse from my local dollar store on the mac, the accuracy of the mouse was so pleasurable, that i finally just turned the Magic mouse off all together and am now using the aforementioned $3 Dollar Store mouse happily. I have to ay I’m really disappointed with apples mouse. i’m using the Magic trackpad to see if I can get better use out of that than the $3 Dollar store mouse, but I’m frankly ( aside from signing PDF documents) not impressed as of yet.

 

 

 

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11.29.14

I have a birthday request

Posted in cancer, charity, donate, friends, help at 8:09 pm by admin

I’ve talked about my friend Sue before.  November 29th is my 47th birthday , for my birthday this year if you could ,  would you please donate just a few dollars to help my friends struggling with cancer? The site for the fundraiser is http://www.gofundme.com/chegak. Thank you so much.

 

Mark

11.23.14

On Cruise Trip Investments, or Is My Tanzanite Really Worth Anything?

Posted in cruise, tips, travel at 5:08 pm by admin

Before I ended up on online media, I sold cruises for a living and worked in the travel industry. As a young guy I loved ships the way other kids love construction machines or fire engines or race cars or airplanes. I still love sea-going ships. When I worked in the cruise industry, the pay wasn’t so great; in fact, most cruise-only travel agents were housewives looking to make  some extra money or get discounted travel. There were no bonuses, and the commissions never seemed to balance over the base salary. I was among the top ten—and often the top three—salespeople for my agency, which had more than 19 offices for ten years, and never once did my commission level beat my base salary, nor did I ever have insurance coverage. But at the same time, I was an unattached person in my twenties and I made just enough money to keep myself alive. The real benefit, though, was almost unrestricted ship travel.

If I told you the number of cruises I’ve been on, you wouldn’t believe me. I mean it—you really wouldn’t think its possible for a man to work, keep his rent paid, and spend as many days at sea as I did—and not literally be working on the ship itself.   

Let’s just say that I’ve been at sea for way ( way, way) over a hundred days. Break that up into cruises and leave it there. I’m a three-star mariner with Holland America (At least 75 cruise days) , a Platinum cruiser with Carnival ( at least 10 cruises, all mine were 7 days so call that at least 70 days ) , I’ve sailed NCL , Cunard, and all the Princess ships built between the 80s and 90s, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and a countless number of older lines and ships that sadly no longer exist. In fact, it was the smaller, more intimate ships that I loved. While the fad now is to build bigger and more, my preference was always for the older ships that had history attached to them. Yes, they often didn’t have the latest in modern technology, but they represented a time when ships were made as works of art as well as methods of transportation. They were the ships that brought my grandparents, and very possibly your grandparents, from the Old World to the New.

Refurbished, painted white, and put into cruise service, it was these ships that were in the 30,000- to 40,000-ton range that I love and miss, and that are impossible to find except at great expense or by cruising in some of the smaller European countries. In North America, we’ve legislated those ships out of existence with the SOLAS laws. My very first cruise was on the Fair Princess—the Love Boat cruise line—and it went to all the Love Boat ports: Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas, and Puerto Vallarta! I spent my first night on the Pacific Ocean, having never traveled outside of the country, away from the lights of any city, and I saw more stars in that sky than I ever even new existed. I was hooked. The rest of my group, sponsored by Princess itself, was partying and dancing in the club. Not me. The only thing I wanted to do that trip was be on the water, staring out at the sea, and watching the porpoises jumping in the bow wake.

The Cruise money pit / Tanzanite.

 

One thing I  experienced during that cruise—and on every other cruise since—was the push to buy what was called “investment-grade jewelry and art,” and specifically, Tanzanite. Within my first day on board I started hearing the cruise director urging me not to get off the ship without making sure I got in on getting tanzanite.  I’d never heard of it before, and since the only place I’ve heard of it outside of cruises has been on hope shopping channels and QVC . So what is Tanzanite? 

The Tanzanite Mythology

The mythology behind Tanzanite is that since its discovery in 1967, it’s been found only in “limited quantities,” meaning that according to the lore, it’s only been mined within a 4-kilometre area at the foot of mysterious Mt. Kilimanjaro in darkest Africa and, therefore, is more rare than diamonds themselves, and that after that 4 km area is mined out (which was theoretically supposed to be in the year 2000, and I heard this claim consistently until the year 2000), there will be no more Tanzanite found on earth, as the specific set of geological circumstances that happened to create Tanzanite were so rare, that to have it reproduced in another location would have odds somewhere around a million to one and, therefore, once the Tanzanite in Africa is mined out, the price of it will skyrocket, making the cruise-ship- or cruise-port-bought ring or stone skyrocket in price accordingly.

The Tanzanite Reality as I’ve seen it.

First of all, let me state that I’m not a gemological expert, I’m not a jewellery expert, nor am I an expert in reselling or retail selling. I was a cruise industry professional for over a decade, and I’ve taken enough cruises to qualify as a cruise expert.

There may be value in Tanzanite, but I can’t link to anything here that outright proves it by any company that is not in the business of selling Tanzanite to the public.  If it is there, the value of a stone needs to be established and assessed by an independent gemologist who’s familiar with the Tanzanite market and not in between mai-tai’s, snorkelling, or while in the cab heading back to the ship. From what I’ve found—even on an investment scale—the value lies mostly in mining and not in gemstone holding.

As a buyer, it seems there’s value in knowing the difference between  “true blue” Tanzanite gem versus a brown gem that was converted to blue via laboratory heating, which I’m told is impossible to distinguish at the time of buying and after the treatment is done. What sources I have found on the subject say that “Today almost all retail tanzanite gemstones are heated to increase the hue and  intensity of the colour of blue,” It was discovered that heating the brown Tanzanite stones, which are of lesser value, resulted in turning them a bright blue.

So you’re on a cruise ship and you start hearing these pressured calls to buy Tanzanite.

The first thing you should realize is it’s not the cruise line who’s selling it. In fact, any purchase you make on board the ship is always a third party concession. If you decide or discover that you’ve not gotten the best deal, or theres a problem, you’ll very quickly discover the cruise line throwing the ball elsewhere .  Although you may hear claims that “the company stands behind and guarantees any purchase you make,” you’ll quickly find out  “the company” isn’t the cruise line, but the third party concession, and  the cruise line wants nothing to do with whatever problem you’re having with the transaction  you’ve had with these vendors. The cruise lines relationship to these vendors is that of independent contractors who work out of the ships and pay the cruise line a fee and a cut of the profits.

The cruise director may also direct you to certain stores in ports, whom they also say they stand behind if you have a problem. Here’s the secret , the they who are standing behind your purchase whoever ” they “are, are never the cruise line itself.   So while you may sit there about to reach hand to wallet thinking that Carnival Cruise line, or Royal Caribbean isn’t going to sell you something that they have to warranty with their good name, be advised, on board, they’re doing everything they can to give you the impression that it is the cruise line standing behind your purchase but if you have trouble, you’ll be quick to discover that it isn’t.

You don’t have to believe me on this; a simple Google search will tell you all you need to know about the level of support you’ll actually have once you get home and there’s a problem.

Let’s say you take the piece to your local jeweller and he appraises it for only half or a quarter of the price you paid. The cruise line isn’t going to leap to your defence. The cruise ship is there to make money and so are the stores. While there may be investment-grade Tanzanite out there, you’re never going to be paying truly competitive true market value while on a cruise ship.

Resale value of Tanzanite .

I’ve been cruising since I was 19 years old. I’m 46 now, so that’s 28 years of cruise experience, and I’ve never heard even one time of any person reselling their Tanzanite for anything close to what they bought it for—not one single time. While I was a travel agent, I never once had a client tell me that they resold a gem. And in all the shopping I’ve done, the most valuable thing I’ve ever bought on a cruise (and it was bought as a gift for me) that gave me anything close to resale value was a Rolex watch. Although I’ve found industry papers of organizations that are invested in the gem who say that the top stones have increased in value by 20% over the last 5 years, as well as independent reviews of the industry that site poor management and suggest fixes to improve the overall marketing and value of Tanzanite, I’ve never seen it translate into an investment opportunity for anyone I’ve ever met. An eBay search for Tanzanite doesn’t come up with anything that’s all that stunning either. If the gem (and this is not backed up by anything but personal experience) was as valuable or more valuable than diamonds, you would not see a 4.5-carat gem starting at $17 OBO or a 1.5-carat gem with a buy-it-now of $82. And a search of Amazon comes up with similarly low prices compared with what I’ve seen on cruise ships. If you’re going to buy a gem on a cruise, buy it because you like it, and buy it because it’s worth the price that you pay for it as something that you will own and wear, but don’t buy it because you think you’re going to get home and turn it over, because if that were the case, everyone would be doing it, and we’d all be going on cruises buying gems and sneaking them into the country and reselling them, and that’s just not happening.

tanzaniteClick to enlarge picture of Tanzanite sold on ebay for dollars a karat 

But what about diamonds, they’re forever, right?

Let me first tell you what I discovered after being on cruise ships and knowing many of the people who worked for these companies, drinking with them, and doing other things that frankly I’ll have to save for memoirs once I’m no longer in the job market: The simple truth is that all these companies that are selling these diamonds to be sold in cruise ports (and there are really only two or three big ones that you’re going to be seeing, and under many different covers) will tell you that because you’re buying outside of the States (if you’re an American) that you’re going to save so much money because it’s duty fee, which is also not entirely true. You must claim everything you buy while re-entering your home country, and here’s the truth: Of the big sellers in the Caribbean, the biggest ones  are based in New York City, New Jersey, Chicago, and Switzerland, with very few of the larger ones not owned by some conglomerate that isn’t buying its diamonds from the diamond district in New York to begin with. If duty free/offshore prices are so good, how come the very biggest of these dealers were all present the last time I ported in Alaska? Alaska is a U.S. state, and there’s no duty-free there. 

When these companies send their diamonds to the Caribbean, they’re often sending them from either their New York diamond district headquarters to their own retail outlet establishments to be sold at a profit or selling to others with an additional level of profit that needs to be factored into the resale. I found out that most of the time I could have found better prices by going to the diamond district in New York City when I lived there (which I did for 37 years). Having spoken to people around the country and the world, it turns out that whether you’re in Spokane, Washington, Guelph, Ontario, Saugerties, New York, or wherever, asking for a good bargain at your local jewellery shop will often get you a better bargain and a better-quality gem.

Be careful” says the Washington Post.

These recommended listings have not been proven to sell higher quality products than any other stores. Carol Wilkins visited St. Maarten in 2008 and found better deals at onshore stores that her cruise line did not advertise.”

Cruise ships promote shore-based stores for a cut of the profits, not on any  benevolent ideology to get you the best price.

Show me the Monet!  Buying onboard art for investment.

Huff calls it “The worst place on a cruise ship.”

Again, know that unless you’re dealing with Princess Cruise Line, you’re working with an outside vendor, most likely Park West Gallery.

Please, if you’re going to take one piece of advice away from this post it is this: If you do not want the memory of your cruise ending up with the feeling that you’ve been playing a rigged carnival game, then never buy art on a cruise! There are simply no good deals on art at sea. The only possible way this makes sense is if you see a print you like and buy it, but knowing that you’ll never be able to sell it for anything near the price you’ve paid, and also knowing that you could have bought the same print on shore for a quarter of the price. But if that’s what makes you happy, then by all means, go ahead. 

There have been many complaints made against Park West Gallery and other on-board art auctioneers, and if you want to read a book by a man with the inside scoop, I believe Ship for Brains by David Bruns covers it, and if you want to read an insider’s view of the industry, his whole series on living and working onboard ship is interesting and worthy of a read

What’s the secret to what I should buy on board a cruise?

The secret is this: The cruise lines know that most people innately feel bad about the amount of money they’re spending on vacation. Paying $9.00 for a margarita we could buy on land for $4.00 makes us want to do something to feel better about spending all that money on ourselves. Deep in the back of our minds we want to justify the $300 we spent in the casino on a whim before lunch, or the $100 in tchotchkes that will probably just end up in a drawer at home. We want a reason to justify pampering ourselves, to be able to say, “It’s okay honey. We didn’t lose money.” Whether that means scoring big at bingo or buying a signed Picasso print, we tend to look for something that will make us feel better about our self-indulgence and come home feeling like we didn’t just drain our bank accounts on a huge party that’s now over.The cruise lines and shore stores know this, and they speak to the reptilian part of the brain that convinces us we’re going to get a deal that the other 4,000 people on our ship—and the other 12,000 people in port on that day alone—are not going to get, as if we’ve sniffed out some sort of steal that everyone else has missed. It’s easy to fall for when you’re jacked up on booze, hot and sweaty, in a strange environment, and are being pressured by people whose job it is to talk us into making that purchase. But it’s our duty to be good consumers and protect ourselves from being taken advantage of. Bear in mind that you don’t have the same protections at sea or in third-world ports that you do at home. Do your research and realize that no matter what it is, chances are you’ll be able to find it at home.     

When should I buy jewellery, art, or anything else while on vacation?

Go ahead and pamper yourself while on vacation if you see something that you would buy at the list price at your local department store or jewellery store, and that you would have no interest in trying to resell. If you see a $100 pair of pearl earrings that you’d like to wear every day and you’re not interested in them for their resale value, then go ahead and buy them. If it’s something you’ll enjoy having and using and the price tag isn’t important to you or anyone else, go for it!

Never Buy

Items that are mechanical and are not covered by a manufacturer’s warranty from your home country. Those $10 watches that go on sale the last day of the cruise? Often they’ll last about as long as a $10 watch would. Gadgets like cameras, that might be broken out of the box, are often grey market items that you’ll have issues getting serviced unless they’re covered by a manufacturer’s warranty that’s valid where you live. Be careful that the DVD you want is the right zone for your country.

Buying in port— Or -“The natives will not be insulted if you don’t negotiate over that $10 T-shirt. It’s not part of their culture, and most of the time they think you’re a di*k, oh, and you’re ruining it for the rest of us.”

If there’s one thing that cruise directors do that completely muck up our relationships with the people who live in the ports, it’s that they spread this totally bullshit mythology that  the people at whatever island will be insulted if for some reason you don’t negotiate on whatever item you’re considering buying.

This is factually wrong. There are a few cultures, in the Middle East and Asia where part of the process of conducting business there is a cultural standard of negotiating, but none of the place that your cruise ship is stopping, especially if you’re in the Caribbean , South America or even the more popular parts of Asia have this as part of the culture, where they’ll be insulted if you don;t bargain, nor in fact do they want to bargain. 

What ends up happening more often is that people carry it way too far. If you’re looking at buying a T shirt in Mexico that the vendor is looking to sell 3 for $10 , and you offer him $5.00 for the three T-Shirts, the only thing you’re going to do is

A-piss him off and

B-If enough people do it, he’s going to raise his price to $20  so that people can bargain him down to  the $10 that he wanted in the first place.

Again, your vacation isn’t a profit making adventure, What I see time and time again is people who have paid big chunks of their salary to go on these once in a lifetime vacations wasting their entire time in port arguing over a few cents on a piece of shit T-shirt that most of the time they’re never going to wear more than once or twice anyway.

Think of the amount of money you’ve spent on your cruise, then think about how much of that limited amount of time you have to be in that port.

Usually six hours, eight to ten if you’re lucky.  Is it really that important for you to take maybe  a sixth of the time you’ll spend on this tropical paradise worrying about paying $5 less on some $10 thing? You should negotiate when you’re buying high ticket items, and how you should negotiate is using the low stress technique which i’m going to lay out for you.   

Marks easy way to negotiate while in port 

You see a vendor who has something that you want. The vendor is there to sell you stuff, he wants you to buy it from him. You ask him one simple question about the cost, by doing this, you’re letting him know you’re interested in it. Thats all the vendor needs to start focusing on you .

If the price he quotes you is higher than you want to pay or you think there’s some wiggle room in there, then you say “ No thanks, too much” and you go and start to walk out or walk away.

I promise you, if he or she’s at all capable of letting that item go at a lower price they will call you back or even follow you out of the store.

Once this happens you should have an idea of what you’re willing to pay for it, not a maybe number, the real number that you’re willing to buy the item at if the vendor hits . If the vendor asks you what you want to pay, give him that number. Remember he isn’t there to lose money, he’s there to make money to his family, so don’t insult him.

He will either counter with another price, or ask you what you’re willing to pay for the item . If he asked you what you’re willing to pay, you respectfully tell him  I can only afford $X .  If he says no, then again, walk away, you should fully be prepared to either walk away here, or to pay his price.

Thank him, and go walking away. If he lets you walk, it means he cannot sell you the item at your price. But be human. I’ve seen people try and negotiate in drugstores over the price of a bottle of Pepto Bizmol or a bag of potato chips. I’ve seen people who have gotten discount on getting 4 T shirts for $10 annoying the shit out of the vendor because even though originally he was selling them 2 for $10 and now he’s giving you 100% more than his original offer they then want to pay $5.00 for it, and then when I talk to the people they tell me “ Oh, the vendors enjoy it, They’d be insulted if I didn’t try and bargain them down” Let me tell you that’s 100% not what that vendor was thinking, he was thinking that you were an insulting stingy disrespectful asshole , and what the guy is going to do is raise his prices all around, because he knows that the next time he gets another stingy disrespectful asshole like this who takes up a half hour of his time bargaining with him  only at the very last second to try and cut the price by half after he’s already given out twice as much product he has somewhere to go negotiation wise.

Remember also that you’re here as someone lucky enough to take a luxury vacation, it doesn’t matter where you are on the earnings scale at home if you’re rich or poor, in these countries that you’re visiting most of the time you represent people who have access to jobs and opportunities that these people will never have. When you go back to your luxurious cruise ship after spending the day in the oppressive caribbean heat, they go home to their shanties and use whatever money they’ve gotten from selling you T shirts or bracelets or braiding your hair in order to feed their families and send their kids to school. I personally get no joy of out of buying some trinket if after I’ve left, the vendor is angry, and I’m angry and I’ve just spend 30-45 minutes of my time at this beautiful tropical port arguing over $5.  If you’re buying a piece of jewelry, and you’re spending a few hundred dollars , absolutely do some negotiating, but after all the cruises I’ve taken, I’ve still found that walking away seems to be the best negotiation tactic, because as soon as he calls me back and asks me what i can pay, I have a number in my head, and often if I give that number, and this is really the number that if he gives it to me I’ll take out my wallet. I’ve gotten the biggest discounts this way, the least amount of arguing.

11.12.14

Rosette/Philae landing coverage

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:05 pm by admin

11.07.14

An iOS User Tests The Android Waters

Posted in Computer stuff at 10:09 pm by admin

Q: How many Apple iPhone early adopters does it take to change a light bulb? A: 3001. 1 to do the work and 3000 to go online and bitch about the lack of obscure features!

For years I was a solid iOS user, and for as many years my wife mercilessly mocked my love of my iOS products, from being accused of being a “fanboi” to a “ Devotee of Steve” my adoring wife left no stone unturned in her incessant distain of my iDevices.

When it came time for her to get her first smart phone it was a no brainer that she went to the dark side and chose a Samsung Galaxy S 3, with a larger screen and many more options than seemed to be available on my iPhone 4. She was in love with the ability to customize it to the Nth degree, and eventually I started becoming impressed with what she could do. Since my phone contract expired within a week of hers, I tried a Galaxy S3 for a few days, before deciding to go with the iPhone 5.

I’m using that iPhone 5 today. That Android S3 experience is not the sole source for my opinion of Android- I eventually went out and bought myself an Android Tablet that I still own and use today.  But I found that owning the Galaxy S3, coming directly from an iPhone, showed me that I was unable to establish what I felt like was a relationship with the technology.

I know that sounds terribly hipster thing of me to say, but hey, I’m an Apple user, I guess one of the things that comes with being an Apple user is you get to sound like a hipster and no one is surprised :) 

My iPhone enabled me in a positive way that the S3 didnt. I’ve spoken before about the fact that I’m dyslexic, and Ive also spoken before about the fact that my iDevices have been the tools that have helped me bridge the gap with a good deal of what is called executive dysfunction. This isn’t just unique to me- Im not the only one to have found organizational help by using a Tablet for executive functionality.

Now, whereas I felt that my iPhone was helping with the executive dysfunction that is innate to many people who have learning disabilities, I found the Android phone challenging it. The iPhone is surely a more simplistic device to operate, but I felt like it almost also knew what I was trying to do before I input commands into it. Yet it felt like with the Galaxy I had to go to great lengths to get the S3 to do that, to get to the point where it was enabling my work as opposed to being a thing that created more obstacles. Something that I’m trying to use to work better, but that was in the end just creating more work.

I found some notes on the experience that are very representational on the issues I have with the OS as a whole. Please forgive the grammar and formatting as they are literally just jotted down as I was experiencing the OS and in the days immediately afterwards, they were for my personal reference in a discussion that I was having online, but were never supposed to be formatted for publishing in a blog post.

When I got my Galaxy S3 phone , one of the things that really bothered me was that a lot of the stock Samsung features didn’t work. The calendar on a Samsung Galaxy phone didn’t allow you to invite other people to an appointment, and wouldnt sync with other calendar programs like Outlook. I had to download a third party calendar program that would allow all my calendars to communicate , but I was very surprised that I could not invite anyone to an appointment in the stock Samsung calendar ( I’ve since found out that Samsung has pushed a fix to address this, but that it’s also caused severe latency issues with a lot of people until they pushed the KitKat update ).  I use my calendar to schedule my entire life, some days thats down to 15 minute increments of client and conference calls. If there’s any one thing that my mobile devices have been a blessing for, it’s been to replace the faux leather appointment book that I walked around with and replaced every year for nearly ten years.

(At the end of the day none of the stock calendars on any device I use are perfectly satisfying .  Though the stock iOS calendar works, it had at the time that I bought it a problem communicating with appointments made in the Google calendar .  I dumped it too in favour of Calendars 5, my OS X calendar is now helped by an app called Sunrise which helps it communicate to the outside world and on my windows computers I’m still on Outlook .)

The stock email program was pretty useless as well. I couldn’t get my personal domain to feed into it without a great deal of trial and error. My personal domain sits on Yahoo! servers.

I’m not even a huge fan of the Mac or iOS stock email either.  I’m someone who cut their teeth on Outlook .  I find the Mac emails use of rich text as opposed to HTML annoying when putting attachments onto emails, 

You have to understand, coming from an iPhone where all i had to do was put in my email address, put in the password and the system setup the email address and al the folders that I had created , it was a bit of a setback right away

It was also filled with stock bloatware , and between the OS and the stock apps there were 8 gigs used on the phone before I even started using the thing- half the space on the phone!   Some of it’s great, like the 50 gigs of free dropbox space I got for buying and Android device. I was more than happy to have dropbox pre-installed. But there were other apps- in fact both my Android phone and Tablet had preinstalled apps on them.  I was able to delete some of them, but other times there were third party apps pre installed that I couldn’t delete . My iPhone came with some Apple crap that I didn’t want (like iBooks), but there are a bunch more that came with the S3 and the Tab3 .

storage

Let me give you another example of why I didn’t like it. My wife doesnt want to see advertisements online, which is terribly ironic given that internet advertisements have put food and clothing in and on her and our kids for the last ten years, but that’s beside the point.

She found an app called adblock. She installed the app, which involved a good deal of customization as you needed to run the web traffic through a proxy server and do a bunch of other tweaks to the settings of the phone and after she had it set up and used it for a while she noticed some lag and latency in her browser.  So, she went and uninstalled it, but the proxy settings that had been installed as part of the app setup didn’t get uninstalled when she deleted the app, and her browser now wouldn’t work at all.  By that time she’d installed a few other apps and had no way to be sure which one was interfering with what, and it took her a few days to figure out what had gone wrong where and to back out of it. She had to go online and figure out which changes had to be made in order to re-set the settings on the browser so that the phone could work again. This never happens with iOS.

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So when people criticize Apple because of the closed off nature of their ecosystem I agree with them, but if I install an app that for some reason doesn’t work as advertised , then the app may not work (and I can usually tell by the reviews before installing it ), but no program has access to the core level of the devices functionality to the point where any app or feature I use on a non jailbroken device is going to make me have to worry about hurting the core functionality of the phone.  The app either does what it says it will do, or it may not do what it says it will do, but my phone or iPad will not be affected in it’s day-to-day performance  by it past that.

I’m not looking for a device that needs to be constantly tweaked in order to work the way I want it to work.  I use my phone and Tablets for business and to help me get stuff done. I felt like the Samsung Galaxy devices I’ve owned both the Tablet and the Galaxy 3 phone were adding an extra layer of work to those processes.

  I also found that i wasn’t able to give it a fair shot while was under the pressure of just having a few days to determine which phone I was going to stay with. I knew that I loved my iPhone 4, and knew for sure that I would love the iPhone 5.  I “thought”  that the Galaxy was impressing me, but I wasn’t really sure if those things that were impressing me were really surface things, or if they were deep things that were going to enable my productivity the way my iDevices  definitely did.

Having just a few days to make this decision was also not letting me give it a chance to stand up on its own, because as I set the thing up, I realized I was also trying to set it up as I would an iPhone and I was expecting it to function like an iPhone, which it wouldn’t do, because it wasn’t one and it wasn’t fair of me to get frustrated with the thing for not performing like one, which I was.

I finally realized that I was at that time not ready to give up the comfort level I had established with my iPhone, and so I gave it back and got the iPhone 5.  Later however I realized that when under a deadline like that, it is in no way fair to give a platform a test .

The way for me to best test Android was when under no deadline, when I wasn’t pressed to lose one device that had proven very useful to me over another that I was unsure about. The thing that finally drove me over to actually buying an Android Tablet was when I was professionally referred to as an expert in mobile technologies. Basically one of my business associates knew that I thoroughly used my iPhone , and iPad and though I had professionally sold products relations to mobile technology before, I didn’t feel like I had any expertise beyond the products I personally used, and I also didn’t feel that I had a holistic understanding of  the unique reasons that someone would use one platform versus another and I was potentially being asked to participate on a project that looked at preferences of one over another.  I think that there are deeper demographics to be gotten past price point and age. There’s a reason why my wife is using Android and I’m using iOS, and it has nothing to do with our availability of money for her devices versus mine. She prefers the Android OS because she has a greater feeling of control over how her device is set up and what it does.

At the end of the day yes, the great divide surely has to do with a price point, but between tech heads, there’s also a preference scale, because there are still people who are paying $800 for a Nexus Android Tablet that could have spent less money on an iPad. What do those people like about the Android experience?

Since I hadnt spent a great deal of time with my Galaxy S3, I needed to understand the Android system better.  Thinking on this line, I went out and bought a new Tablet, from what I thought was the most popular manufacturer, which was Samsung.  Their newest model (conveniently, the one I could most easily afford), was the Galaxy Tab 3.

samsung

When I bought it, in the winter of 2013  it came preloaded with 4.1.2 JellyBean, with an upgrade to Kit Kat 4.4.2 that came out in September of 2014 .

I’ll be honest, as a Tablet owner going out and buying the newest Tablet that Samsung had on the market at the time and finding out that I could not download Kitkat was upsetting. I thought Newest Tablet, newest OS. I was pissed off that not only did it not come with KitKat, but that when speaking to some Samsung people on reddit, they were unsure about if or when Kitkat would come to the Tablet at all.

KitKat was already on the market, So even though I had heard talk, mostly from the people selling me Android Tablets that eventually one day they would supposedly push Kitkat to this device, I was truly shocked when 13 months later all of a sudden my software update showed the Kitkat update ready to be downloaded. I had given up on that a long time before

Now I realize it’s difficult to compare an iPad Air which comes out of the box at a minimum of $399 with a Tablet that comes out of the box at $189 retail price, but I’m not going to be comparing the speed, processors , the pixels or the amount of storage (well, except that the Samsung has the ability to add on a microSD card that can bring the total storage up to 64 gigs, which is far superior to Apple’s refusal to add in any form of user removable/addable storage and which I think shows a much more consumer friendly face).

Neither am I going to deeply compare the gestures because again that’s something that I’ve been trained in from using my apple devices. I will say this- I find it odd that there arent consistent gestures between Android devices , but I find it even more odd that there are not consistent gestures between Samsung devices. The Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Tab 2 Tablet that I bought for my wife each have different gestures to them. For example, the gesture to take a screenshot on the Galaxy S3 phone is a karate chop motion with the side of your hand over the screen, The gesture for the Galaxy Tab 3 is a simultaneous click on the power and home button that seems to only work 1 out of 10 times, the Galaxy Tab 2 is the power button and the volume down button on a simultaneous click. The way that you take a screenshot on any iOS device is by clicking the power and home button simultaneously.  I understand that this variation might be considered one of the promotion points to some people, however quite honestly I think having different gestures between devices that are within the same family like the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Tab 3 are confusing for the user.

Email & Calendar 

The first thing that I had as an issue was the same calendar problems I had on the phone where I couldn’t invite people to appointments but additionally,none of the swipe keyboards would work inside the email app except the stock samsung swipe app, which was nowhere as good as the official Swype app nor the Google swipe and type app.

I was lucky to get to speak with Erick who worked at Samsung about this in a reddit thread and his comments are here. My Reddit account is not on this page, my comments have been deleted, but his answers are still there with the comments of others.

 .reddit1

 Click image to view

 

 

Erick’s advice was that it wasn’t a Samsung issue, and yet, I was only experiencing the issue in Samsung mail and the other advice he gave me was to use another app which unfortunately as I said before, the only one I could get to work within the email application was the Samsung swipe keyboard,  and that one was not nearly as good as any of the more popular ones. It prompted quite a bit more discussion on the page but all led to an agreement of this at the end

redditshit

But SamsungErick did give me a month of reddit gold for commenting . There was additional discussion about the bloatware I had previously touched on in this same thread , but in association with their more expensive real iPad competing device.

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Click image  to view

Setting up the Tablet taught me the core differences between people who prefer Android.

This to me was the biggest lesson.  In the process of setting up the Tablet, I and my wife spent a full week downloading launchers, helper apps, configuring the apps that I liked that my wife had, my Calibre library. The difference between an iOS user and an Android user was very clear here.

When I set up my iPad or iPhone, I go into the settings menu, select the options I want, and then from there I go and download the apps I want. The apps work as they are advertised to work, or they do not work the way they are advertised to work. In each Android app that I downloaded, almost in the majority of cases, the most useful apps also took additional time to configure to work in the way I wanted them to work. After my wife had helped me set the tablet up the first time, I then went back to factory default and looked at how much work had to go into resetting what i had just seen my wife assist me in setting up, and again, it took about three days of time of configuring (while also using the thing and working and carrying on with life ) to get it perfectly set up to where I felt like I was happy leaving it as it was and ready to just take it on the road with me.

Additionally however it also required much more ongoing day-to-day maintenance than my iOS devices ever did. I had to periodically clear up Ram from running processes to get it to be less sluggish and reset running background apps. In that way it was much more like a Windows device.  It required that I look at what background apps were running and how much resources were being used, and I had to frequently kill those apps to free up new resources. even though this was something I was continually advised to do by almost everyone who i considered an expert in using the system, when I performed these functions, the Android system still warned me that I was doing something that was contraindicated to how the device was supposed to be run. 

It seems to me that at the core of the people who like Android there’s a personality characteristic of people who like to have an enormous amount of control over their devices and the settings of them, and it also seems to me that part of their enjoyment is in setting up the device and configuring it, while I, and I believe many others who have stayed with the iOS platform get no joy out of the configuration of my device.

I want to download the apps I want to use, and I want the thing to work, and I get frustrated if I have to spend an hour configuring one app to behave in the way i want it to behave, whereas my wife will happily spend hours looking on google trying to figure out why her phone or an app on her phone is not running properly and will also happily spend hours reconfiguring that app in the setting of it to get it to run properly. I want the dammed thing to work, and if I install an app that doesn’t work, then I delete the app and go onto the next thing. Apple devices are made for people who are not interested in and don’t enjoy tracking down the mystery of configuring. These are exercises I expect to have to go through when I’m administrating PC’s, Mac’s and Servers, but I do not want to deal with stuff like this on my mobile devices. As an admin of several databases professionally I’m not someone who enjoys setting up the various details in the configuration of the output that I’m looking to get, other than the times I’m able to solve a problem that no one else can figure out how to solve. 

I’m happy when the software does what it says it will do when people enter their data the way its supposed to be entered and when I can run my reports with the least amount of trouble. As a technology person I expect that while dealing with PC’s or Mac’s or their derivative technologies and the software that goes on them I’ll have to deal with looking up unexpected errors, applications that aren’t performing to spec, and unexpected bugs. These are necessary fights that need to be fought. As a mobile device user (and I’m sure this is as a result of having cut my teeth on the iPad as opposed to having been exposed to the Android OS first),  I just want the thing to work. I want my options to be set up so I can maintain my privacy and so that I can do what’s important to me, but I want the configuration process to be as obvious as possible and in plain English so that I dont have to learn a new language to program the software or hardware to do what I want it to.

Just to be more detailed about the point I made above, I think truly that if Android had hit the market with their mobile OS before Apple did , then we would regard Android as the standard, and all the necessary configuration, and available customization that comes with Android devices would be the norm.  We would likely regard iOS as a much more limited OS in its ability to be customized.

As it is, thats not what happened. The iPhone was released first, sold tremendously and imprinted as the standard OS that all others were judged against. For years each new device has had to suffer not being judged on its own, but as to how it compares with its closest iOS device. Everything since the release of the first iOS devices all other platforms have been compared to either the iPhone or the iPad . It’s one of the biggest issues that still plague the industry, it’s going on  even today. Recently Microsoft paid the NFL $400,000,000 to use their surface Tablets, and yet they continually referred to them as either iPad’s or iPad like devices.   These types of issues affect people and the way people view the technology. Another hit came recently when CNN in their recent election coverage was shown to be using their Microsoft Surface Tablets as iPad stands.

And yet Android has been an operating system filled with firsts. Many features that iOS users are only getting to enjoy now with the arrival of iOS8 and Yosemite have been standard Android features for years. Things like third party swipe type keyboards, widgets, real time dictation, interactive notifications and the ability to transmit texts from phone to Tablet were all Android features or features that were only available if you had jailbroken your device. Even iCloud Drive and the iCloud photo library are concepts that were first explored via the Android OS.

On rooting and the multitude of flavours

So having established that Android users seem to love the challenge of getting into the guts of deep configuration, there also seems to be this pervasive answer to all of my questions that rooting my device would solve all my problems. In fact, almost all the hardcore Android users I’ve been exposed to seem to root their devices. When I make an investment in an OS, I dont want to be forced into rooting or jailbreaking my device, the apps that are out there should work and the device should work the way it comes out of the box, because for me personally, if I muck something up and then need to factory reset, I don;t want to have to factory reset and then have to go through the process of re-flashing the rom. It’s an additional step that I just prefer not to take, and when I’m dealing with iOS devices of course depending where you are Jailbreaking voids the warranty . I’m not someone who enjoys jailbreaking, I’ve seen the benefits it provides to people, and on iOS devices it seems that it makes many of those deep customizations that android users have available to people using iOS devices, but at the same time endangers the device of bricking  and I would prefer not to do it, thats just a personal preference.

Additionally frustrating, but universally accepted is that there are so many devices out there with so many flavours of Android running on them, its frustrating to find an app that does something that you really want to be able to do, only to find out that the app isn’t designed to work on your flavour of Android or just not designed to run on your device. I tried to put Blackberry messenger on my Galaxy Tab and apparently Blackberry in their wisdom doesn’t feel that Tablets are mobile devices I guess and therefore should not have access to blackberry messenger

bbm scotia

And then there’s the matter of my bank. 

I’m a Canadian these days and because of that I use a Canadian bank,and they in their wisdom have decided that I should not be able to use their mobile banking application from my tablet .. it  isn’t that it’s not Tablet friendly it’s just not friendly with this version. I have no idea what that means- is it not friendly with Kitkat and previously Jellybean, is it not compatible with my version of these OS’s? Is it another word for not compatible with Tablets? But here’s another thing, when you make an iOS app, you may make an iPhone only or iPad only app, but all iPhone apps will work on iPad, and if you make an app chances are it’s going to work with any and all of the devices going back at least 5 years . I used my iPad 1 until right before the holidays of 2013. I sold it then for a respectable $180 close to holiday time on eBay. I would have taken probably half that, but the auction went up and the bidder bid and there you have it , but right up until the moment I wiped it for the new owner, I was hitting some apps for iOS6 that i couldn’t use, but the device was functional and we were already at the iPad Air, 6 versions of the iPad later and I was still using the majority of my apps. I couldn’t download updates that were past iOS 6, but I could still use the older versions. The iPad 2 at the time of this writing is still supported by Apple and can load iOS8. It’s no speedy, but it runs. And for those of my American friends who think I might be banking with some Podunk banks here in the northlands, Scotiabank, while not serving the US greatly, is otherwise one of the biggest banks in the world and yet I cannot use my online banking with them using what was then my brand new Android device, and I still cannot use them. If this were iOS for iPhone I’d be able to use it on my iPhone or iPad . Now maybe theres a way by flashing the rom some of you would say that I could get both of these apps to work, but  I’m uninterested in doing it. At the end of the day it;s just easier for me to pick up my iPad .

What if instead I had an $500  Android Tablet?

Here’s where I think I may have experienced a significant difference in effectiveness. The Galaxy Tab I used was sluggish, and tended to crash. It’s at the end of the day impossible to put performance against performance when you’re comparing an iPad air to a $180 Tablet that can be had for $150 on sale ( in fact what I paid for it) . There are issues of Ram and processing power that are impossible to match. One of the big difficulties I had in doing a fair comparison was making sure that i keep the frustration of having a device that is such a lower cost alternative. If I had bumped myself to to a Galaxy note 10.1

Things I did not compare

The display on the iPad is  due to its 2048 x 1536 pixels , while the Galaxy Tab manages 1280 x 800. The iPad is so far ahead it’s not fair to compare. if I had wanted to compare Android versus iOS on display I would have had to buy an equal Tablet display wise on the Android side which I was not able to d and so have not discussed that in my comparison,

The iPad air has Apples A7 Chip in it, its duel ARMv8 core beats Androids Duel intel Atom Z2560 hands down. Again it’s a matter of me not paying for hardware thats fair to compare, so I’m leaving that comparison out of this. 

Do I like my Android Tablet?

The answer is yes, I enjoy using my Android tablet , I use it to consumer content much more than I use it to produce content. I use it as a reader,I use the browser, I use it to consumer video content, and for a device that cost less than a $160 I think thats pretty worthwhile. I would love to explore some of the more advanced Android tablets that compete processor wise and pixel wise with the iPad so I could do a comparison won system speed, crashes, and stability.

Would I buy another Android product?

 

In the face of the functionality that I get from my iOS devices, right now that answer is no. However as deeply set I am in not exploring Android any further, is as deeply set as my wife is in never exploring the idea of getting an iOS device. I guess it’s really a matter of to each their own.

10.31.14

There is a new album dropping by an old favourite band

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:21 pm by admin

Heres an old track remastered with new video

10.22.14

Please Help My Dear Friends Who Are fighting Cancer

Posted in announcments, friends, help at 7:27 pm by admin

Please help my friend Tom and Susan McAnulty. Sue is battling through a second occurrence of Large b cell non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Plus Tom’s brother died the day before yesterday and they are underwater with costs associated and relating to all of this, I’m asking you as a personal favor to please go to the fundraiser at http://www.gofundme.com/chegak and consider donating a few dollars if you can. Thank you so much!

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