Monday, August 8, 2011

Over a Year with the Same Phone

I'm slipping.

One area in which I'm not the worst kind of geek is that of the cellular, or mobile phone. In this area, I typically do what most other true geeks do: I get a new phone every year (or sometimes sooner). Fortunately, we have enough phones on our account to facilitate this early changing, and I've taken advantage of that over the past seven or eight years annually. This has changed with my last phone purchase.

Now, when it comes to cell phones, I'm once again the worst kind of geek.

On June 6th last year, I waited at the counter of Best Buy for nearly four hours while they struggled with their failing system to activate my Sprint Evo 4G. Fortunately I had an appointment and a nice, padded seat to sit on through the process. However, it didn't negate the fact that I waited and waited and waited.

Once the process was complete, however, it became apparent to me very quickly that the Evo 4G was a different smartphone than the others I had before it. This phone was actually SMART. It worked the way I expected it to. It was fast. It had a big app market. It made great phone calls. It had a beautiful screen. In short, it was everything I ever wanted in a phone.

And it still is all those things and more.

With Cyanogen Mod, the Evo 4G is even faster, smoother, and more responsive than ever. A year later, the phone still feels fresh and new, something no other phone I've had has been able to do. It still satisfies.

So, while there are new phones coming out all the time to include the Evo Shift and Evo 3D, none of them have been able to draw me away from the Evo 4G. It really is the perfect phone. For me, at least.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spotify = Love

I love music. A lot. Seriously, it's my drug, religion, and the fuel that energizes me daily. Anyone who knows me knows that music is a big deal to me.

I've used everything from Winamp to Zune desktop software, all with varying degrees of love and hate. Since I love my ZuneHD and use it frequently, I have been using the Zune desktop software for the past three or four years. That was, I did until a few weeks ago when Spotify arrived in the US.

I immediately purchased a premium subscription because I wanted to try out all that Spotify had to offer. I wanted to freeze it, ice skate on it, then thaw it out, swim in it, and then drink it in all it's yummy goodness. I'm glad I did.

Spotify has a ginormous library. 15 million songs is what they boast. That's a heck of a lot of songs! I have almost 130GB of music on my home NAS, the vast majority of it either ripped from CD's I own or purchased through Zune, Amazon, or even iTunes (back in the day; I quit using iTunes a LONG time ago!). It used to be that I had to either purchase a CD or music online to be able to listen to it or get a subscription to Zunepass (which was a great deal, btw!). Of course, Zune didn't always have everything I wanted, so I ended up having to purchase from many different sources. That was, until Spotify.

With few exceptions, I've been able to augment my own ample collection with lots and lots of music. I've been able to revisit music from my youth, and from various stages in my life. I'm in the process of putting together a late 80's playlist as well as some 90's playlists, and with Spotify, it's super-easy! Better yet, I can share those playlists with friends who have Spotify, and they can even subscribe to my playlists or I can subscribe to theirs!

The one major downside to Spotify is its ability to play genres or music based on a certain band. Let's say I'm a huge fan of Metric (and I am!) and I would like to hear music that sounds like them. In a service like Pandora or Grooveshark, you can do that. Spotify? Not so much. But for me, that's really the only downside.

Sound quality on Spotify is amazing, and for me, the Android app works quite well. I never was a big fan of listening to music with my smartphone, but Spotify has made me throw that old notion of bringing an mp3 player along with my smartphone since I can literally look up just about any song I can think of and play it on my phone now.

So, if you're looking for an amazing music service and you know what you want to listen to, give Spotify a try. Seriously; it's a great deal.

Note: There are three flavors of Spotify. Free (limits the user to 20 hours of ad-supported music), $5 a month, and $10 a month premium service which allows you to listen on an Android, Logitech, Sonos, or iDevice.

It's the little things

I have an old Linksys WPS11 v3.1 parallel port print server. It's been sitting in a box in my closet for years. And when I say years, I mean close to 10 years. I bought it back when we lived in my dad's house and I wanted to have a printer that was centrally located in the house for everyone to print to. Back then, it was more a novelty than a real need, and I even got it to work for a while, but it was a bit buggy with the craptastic (sorry Linksys) software that you had to install on your desktops to get it to work. Eventually, we moved to our first new home on Spring Lilac and the parallel port print server was once again put to work, but again, the craptastic (apologies again, Linksys) software limited its true effectiveness. It was so buggy that I eventually replaced it with a Kodak printer that had built-in wireless. I then retired the WPS11 and stuck it in a box. I figured, you never know when you might be able to put something to work again.

Fast forward to last night. I became the owner of a Laserjet 2100TN printer. It's pretty nice, and even came with a spare toner cartridge for the awesome price of FREE. I decided to go ahead and put it to work for me in my home office, but I didn't want to run a hella-long parallel cable across the room. Since the 2100TN is a networkable printer equipped with a JetDirect card, I could have just wired it with some CAT-5, but again, I didn't want to run a cable across the room. Enter the WPN11.

I sent my son up into the attic to retrieve the WPN11. Coincidentally, I literally just had him move a box from my office's closet into the attic the day before, and having inventoried the box, I knew the WPN11 was in it.

My son brought the WPN11 down and I connected the printer to it. The good news: it immediately recognized the printer. The bad news: there was no software that would run on my 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium desktop computer. Try as I might, there was no way to get the program to install.

Trying to discover the server on the network was fruitless. I searched the Internet for instructions on how to make the WPN11 work with Windows 7, but all I found was statements like, "Won't work without the client software" and "Can't use it with an OS past WinXP." I was about to give up when I figured there'd be no harm in trying to make it work somehow by just trying some custom settings.

I went about trying some different things, and by luck, on my third attempt, I got the printer to work. Wanting to make sure it wasn't a fluke, I set it up on a second, then third, and eventually even a fourth machine here in the house. All of them printed perfectly to the WPN11.

I decided to make a little video for others who may have the WPN11 and Windows 7 and I posted it onto Youtube. I don't expect it to be a smash hit or very highly viewed video, but I'm sure there are just a few folks out there who could use the instructions.

Hopefully, it saves some WPN11's from being sent to landfills.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

News Aggregators, et al

Again, more evidence toward proving my guilt as the worst kind of geek: I don't use a news reader, aggregator, or anything that takes posts from blogs I read and puts them all in one place.

Why? I feel that the people who write and design the blogs do so with the visitor or reader in mind. The colors they choose, the layout they designed are all part of the experience of visiting their site. There are some really beautiful sites out there, and there are some really crappy ones too, but I tend to not visit the crappy ones. Why? Crappy design. Duh.

Some argue that it's all about the content. If it's news about the debt ceiling, Egyptian revolution, or protesters being shot in Syria, then I agree. But when it's about cell phones, operating systems, gadgets, radio controlled airplanes, or cars, then I think that the visuals are just as important. "But Edge, there are readers that bring in the post photos as well." Yes, that's true, but somehow, they never quite do it as well as the presentation on the websites themselves.

I have an Android tablet (the Viewsonic gTablet for those of you who are interested) that I use quite a bit (more often than I would have ever expected, btw). I have Pulse installed, and while I used it quite a bit when I first got the tablet, I find myself just reading the usual sites in the web browser more often than not. That's not to say I don't use Pulse; if there were a single site aggregator that I would use if I were forced to only use an aggregator, then it would be Pulse. However, such is not the case, and I continue to use my browser.

Would I consider an aggregator on the PC in the future? Perhaps, but the one I would use daily and even before I would consider going to the site itself for the content hasn't been developed yet.

Some would say this makes me some kind of late-adopter or someone who is against change, because surely reading sites via an aggregator is superior. To those, I would reply that I vehemently disagree, and that we all have choices in how we consume our literary content. We also have our personal preferences, and mine is to visit the site for the content and experience it the way the writer/developer intended for me to do so in the first place.