Geek Alert!

The Magic Of Radio

I can’t remember the last time radio was a part of my life. I got my first vehicle somewhere in the mid-90s and from that point on it was CDs, iPods, iPhones, and podcasts. The last real, strong radio related memories I have are laying in bed on Sunday nights during high school and listening to Dr. Demento from 10 until midnight.

Recently, my friend and band mate, Karl, was espousing the SiriusXM Beatles channel and I was intrigued. I have the capability in my car but have never subscribed since I have more than enough podcasts, audiobooks, music and Spotify to fill all my time. However this Beatles channel sounded cool and I wanted to check it out so eventually, after encountering a mountain of annoyances and technical problems in the research and signing up stages alone (bad form, SiriusXM), I finally managed to sign up for a free 30 day trial of their streaming service.

I found myself lying in bed trying to drift off to sleep to all things Beatles and feeling a little of that magic again. Feeling a connection to the world as these waves streamed in to my bedroom live. I had no control of what played (though there is on-demand content as well if you like) and no idea what would come next. I found it especially appropriate to be reliving this with The Beatles as they often spoke of the influences they heard on the radio that had such a hug impact on them. I felt a kinship knowing that John, Paul, George and Ringo probably spent many a night listening to these magical sounds of rock and roll streaming into their bedrooms.

I’m not sure if I’ll actually subscribe when my trial is over (I also hate the fact that they still use the outdated annoyance model of making customers call if they want to cancel), but the content of The Beatles channel has been cool enough to at least make me consider it.

Middle Earth: Austin

Elly and I just mapped out Austin as Middle Earth just based on names. Dwarves live on Oltorf. Common Elves on Woodland. High Elves on Riverside. Hobbits on Pleasant Valley. Orcs on Slaughter. Sauron’s fortress in Mordor is in The Domain. The Ents are at Arbor Walk. And there’s a major defensive fortress at Rundberg where the renowned Riders of Rundberg reside. Beware the Balrog in the Mines of Manchaca. Gondor would be The Capitol.

iPhone 6 Mini Review: Love It!

I’m one of those geeks who got up at 2am to order the new iPhone. After 5 phone calls to mostly incompetent AT&T representatives due to various order issues, I did indeed receive my phone on release day!

I’d always wanted an iPhone that was a little bit bigger but not too much. The iPhone 6 is perfect for my tastes. I was worried that I would wish I’d gotten the Plus but I’m happy I went with the regular. The Plus does have even more battery life since it has a bigger battery, but even the regular 6 has the best battery life of any iPhone yet.

I love the feel of the phone. Something about the glass of the screen feels better than any iPhone before it. Solid and smooth and just nice to touch and tap on. I was surprised how much bigger the phone seems than my 5. I didn’t think it would be much difference but it really feels larger in the best possible way. The screen looks far better to my eyes as well. Everything just looks sharper, more detailed and more vibrant. The whole phone just feels very well made, sturdy and very high quality. While I do like the new form factor, it can be difficult to pick up off of flat surfaces due to the rounded sides, but I don’t mind. We will see if this changes when my case gets here. It’s so thin, that I don’t think adding a case (which I really only do to preserve resale value when I inevitably upgrade) will really impact the general sleekness of the phone. I stopped using screen protectors several iPhones back and have not regretted the decision. The glass feels so much better and is very sturdy and scratch resistant. Your mileage may vary of course, and I am generally very mindful and take care of my phone without being too focused or obsessive about it. I’m just a little more attentive when pulling it out of my pocket to not fumble or drop it.

I’m also loving the whole touch ID to unlock the phone. I was surprised how fast it responds. I push the home button and leave my thumb there and it unlocks almost immediately. It took me a day to unlearn my muscle memory of pushing the home button and then swiping to unlock, but I got used to it fast. I didn’t use a lock code before because it was a pain. Now with touch ID, I don’t mind it at all. There have been a handful of occasions when, for some reason I wanted to unlock the phone with another finger besides my right thumb (which is the finger I used to set up touch ID) and in those cases I just have to type in the code since you can only set it up with one particular finger. I don’t know if I prefer the new power button placement on the side, but I don’t have strong feelings either way. I do find that I occasionally accidentally turn my volume down a notch with the opposite finger when pressing the power button to lock the phone with my thumb.

The speaker is also much louder and sounds better to me.

As for iOS 8, I’m pretty happy with that too aside from them taking “camera roll” view out which was far more efficient, in my opinion, than having to view collections. I just want all my photos in one big easily scrollable view. I can make albums if I want to.

Overall I’d say I am completely satisfied and love the new iPhone 6. It’s everything I wanted it to be and have no regrets not getting the Plus.

Why I Choose the iPhone

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had the conversation with people asking “Should I get an Android phone or an iPhone?” on social media. Every time it happens I’ve thought “I should just make a blog post so I don’t have to keep typing out my thoughts on the matter,” so here it is!

Short answer: iPhone

Long answer:
Before I made the jump into the smartphone market, I did a lot of research because that’s how I am. Hell, I do the same thing if I’m thinking of a new toothbrush. I always painstakingly research and read and think, and ponder and weigh proc and cons and get opinions and check forums and reviews and try things out and everything else I can think of to do. In the end, I decided (and still feel) that the iPhone is the best smartphone out there. And this is coming from a PC user who loves all things Google, so that’s saying something. I’m someone who wants to love Android, someone who constantly re-evaluates and dips my toes back in the water hoping that this is the time that I finally convince myself to make the switch, but as of yet that hasn’t happened. Why? Well, that’s hard to answer and it’s all subjective anyway so there is no right or wrong, but for better or worse, I’ll try to remember as many points as I can.

First off, let me say that everyone is different. What we like as individuals is different. Our needs, wants and how we use our phones is different. For this reason, it’s really almost impossible to base your choice off anything other than experiencing it yourself, but unfortunately, most of don’t have the luxury of “living” with two different phones for an extended period of time and seeing which we personally like better. Before I had my own iPhone, I had played with many friends phones to at least get a taste. I dated someone who had an Android phone and so had a lot of experience playing with her phone and helping her with it (I’m a very naturally technically apt person so I end up being tech consultant to lots of my friends as well). I’ve borrowed friends’ phones as often as I can to play with them as well.

My first reason is choice of phones. If you get an iPhone, there’s nothing to choose really other than whether you get the latest model or an earlier one. With Android, there’s overwhelming choice. Which brand? Which version of Android is it running? Which “overlay” user interface do they use on that phone? Normally, I’m all for choice, but for me personally, I don’t like this. I feel the iPhone is an easily definable quantity and you know what you’ll be getting and the experience will be the same no matter what. I am not a fan of Apples benevolent dictatorship attitude of “we know what’s best so you don’t need choice” in general, but for me, it’s a good thing when choosing a phone and they have gotten better about that over time, introducing at least a little more freedom and options but still nowhere near Android. That being said, I still like the iPhone best.

In all my experiences with Android phones, it just felt clunky and kind of pieced together. I found the user experience often unintuitive and clumsy, especially for any non-tech-savvy people. And it will vary greatly from phone to phone. Overall, it just never “felt” as good as an iPhone to me.

9 times out of 10, when I wanted to suggest an app or play a game with someone on an Android phone, that app was not available for Android. In the best case scenarios it became available later, long after the iOS version was out. Being that iPhones seem to be the dominant phone, most app developers tend to concentrate on it first. I have only ever encountered the reverse scenario once (I want to play Ingress, dammit!). Most of my top used apps are not available for Android.

Intercompatibility between iPhone users is better and more consistent. This one is harder to explain, but there’s things like Facetime (not that I really care about that), iMessage (which can be handy, especially if you have a limited text plan and don’t want to use some third party app that many times requires others to have the app as well and/or won’t show as your actual phone number), but more importantly there all kinds of little things that just work like they should. Again, with Android, you’re at the mercy of individual manufacturers, carriers, OD version, etc. For example, I can text contact, addresses, a Google map location (yes Google map, not Apple maps) and such and it just works. I remember some of these simple operations just didn’t work when sent to a friend’s Android phone. They would get the text but couldn’t open the information. Now, I have no idea where the breakdown is and it very well could be Apple’s fault in the way they implement it, or maybe not. I don’t know. The point is, I know certain things will work with other iPhone users but will be hit and miss with Android users (who knows which of the various phone/carrier/etc combinations they have).

I’ve found so many tiny, little things about iOS that are just great thinking and programming, but are so mall that people may not even know about or notice them but just take them for granted. So much so I have a hard time thinking of them right now. One is the fact that the camera knows its own orientation (which I’m sure is probably true in Android as well). If I want to use the back camera to take a picture of myself (I refuse to ever use the word “selfie” as it makes me cringe…just typing it made me wince a little), it’s very awkward and precarious to hold your phone right side up from the bottom of the phone, with the back facing you and try to press the camera button on the bottom of the screen. So on a whim, I turned the phone upside down, so now I could hold the whole phone as normal but my index finger could easily reach the camera button which was now at the top of upside down phone. When I snapped the picture, it was saved with the correct orientation (i.e. no matter which way I’m holding my phone, the picture is right side up and wasn’t taken upside down even though the phone was upside down.) I’ve often discovered simple little things that made me think “that’s smart programming.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there is a lot about Android phones that are awesome, and probably some things that I would like even better but overall, nothing has been able to touch the iPhone experience for me. For you, it might be a completely different and opposite experience. Even as long as this post is, I’m sure it’s only the tip of the iceberg and just what I could think of off the top of my head. Nothing is going to tell you what your experience with a phone will be like or how much you personally will like one over the other. If you do seek out opinions though, try to find opinions based on facts, usage, etc., and not just blind preference for one over the other. I find that most people on both sides of the fence don’t offer much that is helpful but just zealous “Mine rules and other one sucks!” In fact, I find this subject so volatile and often Jihad inducing, that I’m disabling comments on this post. I hope this may have been helpful i some way and that in the end, you end up with a phone that you are happy with, no matter what it is!

I also really like the new “ear pods” that come with the iPhone 5. I’ve always thought the default iPhone earbuds were actually really great quality but the Ear Pods are the best yet.

And I know I didn’t even touch on Windows phones but, frankly, they’ve never entered into these conversations. In my limited experience with them, I thought they were actually quite cool but they’re just too much of an underdog for me to ever consider using one. If I had that much trouble with apps not being available on Android, I imagine Windows phones would be exponentially worse in that regard.

If other things come to mind (as they surely will), I’ll update this post.

Epic Nerdsplosion

Heath posts:
Lunch with the moving and shaking Carlos A Samudio, then tonight, Star Trek IMAX with Greg Risley and Christopher Thompson! Socializing is good!

Erick Muñoz:
What time are you watching it?

Heath:
8p

Erick:
Boo, I’ll watch it at 11

Heath:
If I see you in line I’ll be sure to shout fake spoilers. “OH MY GOD! I CAN’T BELIEVE SPOCK HAS UNICORN BLOOD!”

Erick:
Wait, the unicorn blood isn’t canon?

Heath:
No, no. They attacked the enemy ship WITH a unicorn blood cannon.

Erick:
Live long and may the force be with you.

Heath:
Did Gandalf say that?

Erick:
It was actually Ra’s Al Ghul. Common mistake.

Heath:
Ah, right. That was when he gave Harry Potter that z shaped scar.

Erick:
That was my favorite scene in The Lion, the With, and the Wardrobe.

Heath:
Yeah but I was pissed when the witch killed Wash.

Erick:
They had to write him off. It started getting weird when they found his Cylon clone.

Heath:
Yeah but can you blame him? I mean he had to protect himself from the Terminator.

Erick:
Yeah. After the Terminator took out uncle Ben, it was kinda the only option he had

Heath:
He should have known that Deckard would recognize his cylon clone. I mean that’s what Deckard does.

Erick:
Wait, was this before or after Frodo fought at the great battle of Westeros?

Heath:
Well sort of both since The Doctor took them in the TARDIS.

Kevin:
“Took them” in the Tardis?

Heath:
Saucy. But yeah, took them into the TARDIS where they both existed before and after the Chig attack on Earth.

Erick:
You’re confused. It wasn’t the Chig, it was the Chitauri.

Heath:
Well the Chigs had an alliance with the Chitauri and The Gentlemen.

Erick:
Oh shit! I forgot about that one! That was in Day 4 around 7pm and 8pm, right? When Jack Bauer had to join the battle?

Christopher:
WOO

Heath:
Yeah and him and John Crichton have a love triangle with Aeryn.

Erick:
Man, it broke my heart when Crichton finally made it to Earth only to realize he was destined to become Ultraman and never see Aeryn again

Heath:
Well he wouldn’t have wanted to stay on an Earth inhabited by intelligent apes any way.

Erick:
I thought it was a bit of a cop out though, when they got rid of the Cesar storyline by bringing Bill and Ted onto the story.

Heath:
Not as much of a cop out as no one being able to figure out that they were Batman and Robin.

Erick:
Well, that kinda made some sense considering that Alan roophied them after Vegas.

Heath:
Yeah they were totally screwed until Lara Croft saved their asses!

Erick:
And that, kids, is how i met your mother.

Erick:
-Scene- Great job, everyone. That was a fantastic post. Save it for posterity.

Heath:
This could literally go on all day, but that, my friend, is a perfect ending. applauds

Twitter @reply Etiquette (Mostly Relevant to Celebrities Who Circumvent It)

Twitter has a wonderful system in place for @replies. If you start a tweet with @username, that user will see it. Anyone who is friends with both you and the user will also see it. Anyone who is not friends with both parties will not see it. This is good. Here is why.

Let’s say that you’re friends with both Han and Chewie. Han posts “@chewie Ha! She called you a walking carpet!” You will see this reply and get to laugh along with your buds.

Now let’s say that you are not friends with Leia. Leia tweets “@Han I love you.” and Han tweets “@leia I know.” You will not see either of tweets because you are not friends with Leia and probably don’t care.

Now let’s say you are Boba Fett and actually want to see who Han has been replying to because it may help you track him down. You can go to Han’s profile page (click on their name and then click “Tweets” or go directly to their page, i.e. www.twitter.com/han) and you will see ALL their tweets, including replies to anyone. And, when used correctly, you can click on a reply and it will expand and show you the original tweet as well so you can see what the reply is referencing! Awesome!

Now here’s the problem. Some people (all celebrities, in my experience), for some reason think, “Hmm, if I just @reply, then not all my followers will see that reply. Only the recipient and anyone who is friends with us both will see. I want to force it on EVERYONE!” So they tweet something like “.@han I want my money, Solo!” or “via @han That @greedo had it coming!” or they start their reply with an open quote before the @.

Since the tweet doesn’t start with the “@” symbol, it’s not treated like a reply, but like a normal tweet and all of your followers will see it. This also means that people can’t click on the reply to see the original tweet and thus will probably have no idea what your reply is talking about. This is annoying and spammy. Let me give you an example.

I used to follow a certain celebrity on Twitter. This person interacts with his fans a lot, which is awesome. However, instead of tweeting “@superfan Thanks! I’m glad you liked it!” which would mean that I would not see his reply since I do not follow @superfan, he tweets “via @superfan Thanks! I’m glad you liked it!” and since that doesn’t start with “@” it now appears in my Twitter stream. So as he sits there replying to tons of people, my Twitter stream is flooded with all his replies which I may or may not care about. If I want to see everything he tweets, I can go to his page and see all his witty interactions (and then click on them if I want to see the tweet he is replying to), however I would rather not have my Twitter stream spammed by all these replies that were forced upon me by bypassing the “@reply” mechanic. I ended up unfollowing this person because he rendered my stream virtually useless (he also likes to write long messages simply broken down into 140 character chunks, which I also think is a misuse of Twitter, but that’s another story).

So please, stop thinking you know better. The system is designed that way for a reason. If you are replying to a tweet, just hit the reply button or start the tweet with @username of the person you are replying to. Those who want to see all your replies can, and those that don’t won’t. If you abuse the system, then the people who don’t want to see those replies have no recourse other than to unfollow you.

Keep in mind that I am just talking about replies. There are also “mentions” where you are basically just tagging someone else like, “Hey, everyone, @luke lost his hand so send him well wishes.”

Technology and the Human Connection

I often think about how my life today compares with my life in the past as it pertains to the technological differences. For example, if I could go back 10 years and show myself my iPhone, it would blow my 10 years ago mind. Lately I’ve been thinking about how social media has changed my life.

I’ve had many discussions and probably written about it here before as well. While I think there are 2 sides to every issues and I can certainly see the negatives that come with it, overall I am extremely pro social media. Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with people and foster friends and relationships that probably never would have happened otherwise. More than that, I realized that it just makes me feel “connected” to other people and the world at large so much more. We can all participate in conversations that as we have the time and will that we might not be able to otherwise. It is certainly not a substitute for real human contact, but I know most of us just don’t have the time to meet up with, or even call and catch up with all the people we would like to. I can’t sit down one Saturday afternoon and call my 20 closest friends, but we can all converse at will online and carry on conversations over the day or days as we have time.

I’ve particularly appreciated this during difficult times. It’s strange remembering that there was once a time that I didn’t have this luxury of constant connection. The only connection I had was if I called someone on a land line and then maybe arranged to see them. Apart from that, I was alone with whatever I might be going through at the time. That seems so incomprehensible to me now. Just the thought makes me feel so cut off and isolated. I fire up The internet, Facebook, whatever and I instantly feel at least a tiny bit better. At least a nano-increment more in touch with the world and people and energy of the universe.

Of course I also wonder if this constant connection also makes us not make real and in person connections as much. Do we sometimes allow it to be substitute? Would we maybe see people more or take a friendship to the next more real, in person level if we didn’t have the luxury of this constant virtual connection?

Like anything, I think it can be used for good or bad. It is a tool for you to use as you see fit and you must be vigilant to see how it’s affecting you and how you are using it.

It’s great that my life is full of so many amazing people. It’s a shame that the vast majority of those relationships are fairly shallow with only the most tenuous of connections.

Fallen (City of) Heroes

The online super hero MMO game “City of Heroes” is shutting down. Much like many of my friends, I find myself very saddened by this despite the fact that I haven’t played in many years. This game has a very special place in life.

CoH wasn’t the first MMO I played, but it was the most impactful due to many circumstances which all aligned to make this particular game a very magical moment in my life. I had played some Earth and Beyond, Everquest, and WoW but CoH fell right in the sweet spot before my personal MMO bubble kind of burst. It was the most fun I ever had in an MMO. We had an awesome guild full of amazing friends, old and new. I had characters of every class, complete with full origin stories. We had a guildmate who died who most of us never met in person and yet we all felt the loss. When Andy, one of my best friends since 4th grade, got married, we had a LAN party for his bachelor party with many of our guildmates. Several guildmates built a computer out of spare parts so my wife at the time could keep playing when hers quit working.

When we moved to Austin, and were looking for jobs I set my sights on the company that published CoH. When my friend Andy soon came to Austin as well, I told him I’d seen an artist position open there. He was the first of us to get a job there. Then through him I heard that one of his co-workers was casting a play so Jess and I both auditioned and got cast in the first show ever at Richard Garriotts’s Curtain Theatre. Through that we became friends with several people who worked there which eventually led to me getting hired there as a QA tester (though not on CoH). Later, I helped Jess get a job as receptionist.

Eventually everyone moved on to other games, most going to EQ2 or WoW. After CoH, it was never the same for me. Everyone was split across different games and even different servers within the same game. I didn’t play enough to justify a monthly cost and just never felt that same magic again.

I eventually got the axe in one of the big layoff waves and spent the next 5 years as a freelance actor and musician. The company moved most of its operations to Seattle but Andy still works there as senior artist and Jess is now a lead content writer.

When I read the news of CoH “sunsetting,” I felt almost that same feeling as when you hear about the death of someone you once knew. Even though you may not have spoken to them in 20 years, you still feel the loss, like there’s something gone from this world. Just the lack of that presence and energy. Most people probably won’t understand this feeling and think to themselves that this was only a video game. However, for those of us that were there, together in Paragon City, we will undertand each other’s heartfelt eulogies and know that just as a bunch of atoms make a person, a bunch of 0’s and 1’s on a distant server somewhere can create a world of magic that brings people together and forms real, lasting impressions and relationships.

An Epiphany About Google+

I was reading a discussion about Google+ compared to Facebook and how many people are not yet seeing its full potential because they don’t understand it or are just looking at it as a direct Facebook substitute. The main thing that hit me was how using Circles you can have friends, colleagues, celebrities, and any other grouping of people in the same place on one website but you can choose to read/post to any or all of them selectively. Where this struck me was in relation to my experience on Facebook.

I started out with just my personal page. Then I started pondering if I should start a “musician” page. At first, I saw no reason for that but then someone made the awesome point that at some point, hopefully, my “fans” won’t necessarily be just my “friends”. People may want to see where I’m playing or hear my music but I may not necessarily want them all added as “friends”. So I started my musician page. Now I’m also an actor but I don’t want to make an actor page as well. That’s just getting silly.

However, even with my musician page, I still get friend requests from strangers who find my band pages or have seen some film I’ve done. When I first joined Facebook, I was extremely selective about who I added. They had to actually be a real life “friend” or at the very least someone I had at least had a decent conversation with at some point. As time went on though I became less and less discriminating, especially as potential film industry contacts started adding me. This was a wise move as these connections have directly led to work but now I have tons of “friends” many who I don’t really know at all. Yes I know I can hide anyone I want from my news feed but that’s just an extra annoying step and maybe I don’t want them permanently hidden but just separated from my true “friends”.

With Google+, this problem is elegantly solved. Sure, at this point it doesn’t have all the features of Facebook (or many of the annoyances as well, so there’s two sides to that coin) but I can add friends, fans, film industry contacts, funny strangers, Lemur lovers, peanut butter and banana enthusiasts, deep seaa Yugoslavian folk dancers and all other manner of people into their own “Circles” making it very easy to selectively read or post to any individual circle, combination of circles or everyone including the public.

Yes, Google+ is still in its infancy. Yes there are bugs, annoyances, things missing that many people may want (however that’s another Pandora’s box as any given feature may be wanted by many while being considered clutter or annoyance by others). But all in all, I personally think it is an elegant and well done improvement over Facebook and have faith that it will only continue to get better.

Vote for you favorite design

So once again, I need a jersey for an upcoming gig. Vote for your favorite design:
1. Design 1

  1. Design 2
  2. Design 3

  3. Design 4

EDIT by popular demand I’ve added 5. http://www.logosoftwear.com/personalize/myDesign.php?c=23013bf0d7a6d75d4fa72febbdbe5518

  1. Submit your own suggestion. I had MANY more ideas but those were my top 4.