Archive for 2011

Manhattan Beach Mad Hatters!

December 27th, 2011, 10:54pm by Jake
Marvnet Championship score

Marvnet Championship Box Score

There it is! After more than a decade of futility, I finally won the coveted Marvnet Fantasy Football League Championship. Including the years where I acted as Kelvin’s co-GM, it’s probably been 15 years of futility. Sure, there were a couple Toilet Bowl victories, but never the big prize at the end of the rainbow. Until this year!

It was made possible primarily by 3 stars: Lesean McCoy, who exceeded already lofty expectations to finish the season as the #1 scoring RB in the league. Ron Gronkowski, who defied the expectations of his low draft position to lead all tight ends in scoring, and 2nd among all pass catchers. And the star of stars, Mr. Tom Brady. While only the 4th best QB over the course of the season, Tom Terrific always saved his best for when the stakes were highest, scoring a team high 32 points in the tightly contested finale.

Rounding out the squad were steady receiver Jeremy Maclin, greatest TE in history, former Manhattan Beach resident and sand dune fan Tony Gonzalez, the daunting Ravens defense, the steady leg of Stephen Gostowksi, and late season addition Ahmad Bradshaw who was the difference between hoisting the championship banner and an early exit for the top team of the regular season.

So it’s time to pop the champagne corks and parade around the city! Not sure exactly what it will be, but pretty sure I’ll have to commemorate the momentous occasion sometime this New Year’s weekend.

The Pyslents Before Christmas

December 24th, 2011, 11:30pm by Jake

Twas the night before Christmas, and on our website

All had stopped posting, and comments were light

WordPress still running Pyslent with due care

If there’s a problem, Mike is right there

Five children were nestled, all snug in their beds

While visions of gadgets danced in dads’ heads

The Pats comeback worked, while the Chiefs they fell short

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul would soon rule the court

Out on the internet arose such a clatter

I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter

Grabbed my humble tablet, who said it’s a fad?

Checked Twitter & email, this Touchpad’s not bad

The internet was crazy, I’d never seen such a flurry

But I must be quick, I must be in a hurry

Then I just saw him, almost did not catch it.

It’s Rotiveo– the patron saint of gadgets!

Rotiveo wore Mobile Pants, size extra tall

And his clothes were vibrating, must be a phone call

Brought a load of gadgets, and even a game

And he whistled, and shouted and called sites by name

“Now Groupon! Now Apple! Now Target and Best Buy!

To Starbucks! To Costco! To Amazon and Fry’s”

All over the web, he searched high and searched low

To find all the stuff, now it’s ready to go!

All across the internet, Rotiveo he flew

A storm of traffic he did see in his rear view

He found the best deals, on the very best gear

It’s so cutting edge, it will still be good next year.

The net’s overflowing with really good stuff

Getting it to work might be kind of tough

With all sorts of cords and fifty kinds of plugs

(For us early adopters, we’re used to the bugs)

Rotiveo’s got just the right thing for us all

No Veer, Symbian, nor ‘lectronic pinball

Instead it’s Windows Phone 7 and iPads galore,

Prime lenses, Kindle Fires, Nexuses and more!

Giant TVs, they are perfect for games

Phones from Samsung, Motorola, and a bunch of no-names

With the right kind of gear and a well-trained eye,

You’ll soon take great photos, and that ain’t no lie

Six Dimiccos! All spending Christmas together

There’ll be much joy on a run, just look at the weather

To Kelvin, Serena, Montana & Lucas

Happily running all around, don’t fall on your tucus.

Jake prepares another half marathon run,

This one he organized, will be the most fun

Derrick, Emily, Brandon & Tiffany

Have moved west again, growing their family

Lucas’ fifth & Brandon’s seventh Christmas Eve

Montana always dreaming, of food I believe

Tiffany, Adam & Emma learning Christmas is grand

Too many toys to hold in six little hands.

Rotiveo sprang to Roomba (hacked years before)

And away they went, after cleaning the floor

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Operation Jack Marathon– join the fun(draising)!

December 11th, 2011, 11:02pm by Jake

So you all remember the 2010 Operation Jack Marathon, right? You can check my recap on the CORE blog. And watch the great video reviewing the race and Sam’s epic achievement of running (and running HARD) 61 marathons in 2010.

So we’re back in 2011. The race itself, held right in Manhattan Beach, is set to be a sell-out. Which is awesome. At the same time, we are trying to raise more than $30,000 for autism charities and we need help across the country & the world. And here’s how you can help:

 

 

1) Enter one of the satellite races. We have an awesome medal for 2011, 4″ die cast metal. And an excellent t-shirt and stellar bibs. Want to get all 3? Sign up for the 2011 satellite runs, 6.2 miles. Just register by December 16 for $35 to get all the gear by race day. You can read more about the satellite runs on Sam’s blog and then register to run as part of Team CORE. Choose the Satellite Run option.

 

2) You can also donate through my fundraising efforts. I’m matching the first $5 of every donation and another $5 for each runner on Team CORE. If you donate $25 or more through me, you’ll get a t-shirt too (just remind me).

For LA locals, there’s still time to register to run or sign up as a volunteer.

T-shirt

Beach House!

December 6th, 2011, 10:36pm by Jake

Pretty excited, my brother and his whole clan are headed to Manhattan Beach for a week over President’s Day Weekend. First visit since Max was three! I think it will be Quincy’s first plane ride– although he does have a plan to become a pilot so he can fly to California to visit Uncle Jakey. The place is about 10 houses from the beach, and has gotten great reviews. Looking forward to a fun fun visit.

Finding My “Friends”

December 1st, 2011, 12:29pm by Mike

By now I’m sure you’re all familiar with “Find My Friends,” Apple’s app that allows you to see where your friends (with iDevices) are. They do a pretty good job with privacy and such, but it can still be a little strange to know that people know where you are. I think it would be great for impromptu finding of your friends (like if you’re all trying to meet somewhere, temporarily allowing access to everyone). And for families, it’s fine — Joanie and I have it set up so we can find each other.

So last night, Joanie lost her phone, my old 3GS. The phone was out of juice, so even though we sent texts and called, nothing went through. Called the restaurant where she’d been, and no sign of it. And Find My Friends doesn’t work on a dead phone, obviously. However, this morning at 5am, it showed up in East Boston, not a great part of town, and not near where she lost the phone. So the person plugged it in to charge.

At 7:45am the phone had moved to a new location — about 3-4 miles away, in a warehouse-looking building near the interstate and a bunch of train tracks.

We looked up the street address in Google Maps, and strangely, it was the location of a place called “Modern Mac Repair.” It looked so sketchy on Google Maps I assumed it must be some guy named Mac who strips cars, but no, it was actually a Mac repair place that has Yelp reviews (most recent was a year old).

Needless to say, we tried calling the phone (went to voicemail), texting (delivered for a while, then stopped). We tried calling the Mac repair store, but there was no answer (their hours are listed as starting at 10am, so no surprise there).

Since then, we’ve looked at the call log on the AT&T website — the phone was being used for calls to Boston and Indiana (1 minute each — probably calling people who were asleep and leaving messages). After 8:01, there were no more calls — coinciding with when the messages stopped, and the location was no longer being updated. So our best guess is that they’ve now erased the phone and taken out the SIM.

In the meantime, I got in touch with the Mac store — they guy seemed super-nice, and told us that there are 30 units in their building, but that he’d try to find out what he could (including posting my name and number and a description of the phone on their “internal Facebook.” I’m not optimistic, but I also don’t think this guy is behind it.

So, bottom line: it’s fun to be a detective, but this app doesn’t do anything to actually help you get your phone back, unless you (a) call the police and hope they care, or (b) get in touch with a person via the phone and confront them. The Find my Phone app is much more functional (allows remote lock, wipe, and messaging to the phone), but doesn’t actually help in recovering the phone or the data on it.

Lesson: Set up wireless sync or iCloud sync, and keep your hands on your phones! At the end of the day, I think Joanie will end up with a new phone, which we were planning on doing soon anyway.

Kindle Touch Review

November 27th, 2011, 5:32pm by Mike

KW slate 03 lgIt’s been a while since I’ve done a gadget review — since it’s been a while that I’ve gotten a gadget worthy of putting up here! But last week I got a Kindle Touch, and so far, it’s great.

While I love my iPad, it’s not the best for all situations — the big, bright screen and long battery life come at a price, namely, size and weight. While I’ll definitely continue to travel with it, and use it as my main leisure computer, it’s a little big to whip out on the train every day to read news or a book. On the other hand, the iPhone, while completely portable, is not optimal for reading, but isn’t bad for a train ride. Looking around, I noticed that most people had solved this “problem” with a Kindle — it’s super-light, there’s always light to read by, and the screen is great for reading.

So I got the Kindle Touch, wifi only, with special offers. It was $99, and I also got a $10 power adapter (which I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d realized it was just an outlet to USB adapter — I already have a ton of those.

A few first impressions:

  • It’s super-light. And since it’s relatively cheap ($100), I feel like I don’t have to be as careful with it as the iPad. I have a pocket on my computer bag that’s perfect for it, so probably won’t even buy a case, keeping it that much smaller.
  • The e-ink screen probably is easier on the eyes than the LCD screen of the iPad or phone. I’m guessing that it’ll be nicer to read in the evening, rather than staring at a bright screen in bed (though, of course, you have to have a light on). There have been studies saying that looking at LCDs late at night makes it harder to go to sleep, but I’m not sure I believe those studies, having fallen asleep in front of the computer, or with phone in hand, plenty of times.
  • The battery life is phenomenal. It shipped about half charged. After 4 and a half days of playing with it quite a bit (and wifi on the whole time), I’ve depleted it to about 25%, and haven’t had to charge it yet.
  • I actually don’t mind the special offers — in fact, I kinda like them. They appear as the screensaver, and at the bottom of the home screen — never while reading. I think it’s the equivalent of throwing a magazine in your bag with it folded back to a page with an ad — you never really get bothered by them, and occasionally you see something interesting. The first ad I saw (genius by Amazon) was for 50% off a Kindle case, but you had to click on the offer the day you registered your Kindle. It’s a great way to persuade people to click on a link and see what happens, and that it’s really not intrusive. It mailed me a coupon code that’s good for a month.

My plan is to use it mainly for library books, brief news, and pharma industry RSS feeds to read on the train. Library books work great (I’d already been borrowing Kindle library books on the iPad/iPhone). For news, I got a free trial subscription to The Guardian ($10/month after trial) — it was nice, but it’s a little much to read (while I love the Guardian on the iPad, where they have a phenomenal app (with a 3-month free trial), it’s tough to read a whole paper on the Kindle, I think). I also got a free trial to Reuters ($10/month after trial), and actually like it better — there’s more relevant news.

For work RSS feeds, I’m running Calibre on my server, and getting sending news to my Kindle every day, for free (as long as you’re on wifi, delivery to Kindle is free, and I only have wifi). As such, I’ll probably also use this to replace Reuters’ paid service and just use RSS. Like everything else when you’re running your own server, it probably causes as many problems as it solves, but it’s fun, and so far, it’s working pretty well.

So far, the only problem is that you can’t view mailed items in the Kindle’s “periodical view,” which makes it easy to navigate things with a sections/articles format (including RSS). This is a quirk of the Kindle Touch and Fire — the basic Kindle 4 works fine on this. I’m guessing there will be a tweak for this down the road, or that Amazon will add this back in with a software update. But even if not, it’s fairly minor I think.

What do you guys think of the Kindle? I think I’m about the last one to get one (I know Jake and Serena both have them, right?).

Holiday Spirits

November 25th, 2011, 4:13pm by Kelvin

The in-laws took delivery of more wine than we could ever drink (500 bottle). Let’s have a party!

A month with the iPhone

November 20th, 2011, 1:29am by Jake

Like Kelvin, I too recently adopted a new smartphone platform in the shape of an iPhone 4S.I was happy enough with the Sprint FrankenPre 2 but then I got hit by two errors at about the worst time. First, it stopped retrieving my Yahoo! Mail which is a major PITA. No idea if the problem was on Palm’s end or Yahoo’s end, but no matter. Apparently the two troubled companies couldn’t make their way across Sunnyvale to sit down & solve it. Second, the phantom headphone problem returned. The phone was usable in speakerphone mode as long as I didn’t mind holding it backwards, but really. The Pre 2 was giving problems after 2.5 months, what hope did I have that it would last 8 or 11 months? To top it all off, this all hit the day after I discovered I broke my hand, and the morning I locked myself out, and had to call a co-worker for a lift. And since my phone was acting up, I rebooted so I couldn’t even kill time surfing the web! I walked home that day & stopped by the Sprint & Apple stores to no avail, but easily reserved a black 64GB Sprint phone for the next day. After a false start, I picked it up after work and BOOM! iPhone.

There are some really great things about the iPhone, some which are overstated, and some things I just miss from the Pre. Let’s take this in list form. First the great.

  • It’s so responsive compared to the Pre. I slide my finger on the screen, and everything just moves. Every. Single. Time. No delays. Really easy to overlook and likely unappreciated by folks coming over from the dumb phone world. But for smartphone users– especially webOS fans– it’s almost unreal.
  • The screen is great, no question. The Pre screen was fine, if a little small. Having some more pixels and acreage makes a difference.
  • The camera is loads better. For lots of reasons. #1 is simply the responsiveness… it just works. #2 is the 1001 user interfaces. And editing functions. I’ve been on camera hiatus lately, but I’ll get back there. Finally, the sensor itself is clearly better. That’s not a knock on the Pre, which took good photos. But the iPhone is a cut above nearly everyone.

Then lets get to the overstated.

  • Apps. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great. And yeah, with 200,000+ there’s going to be a new one like Word With Friends that I enjoy that simply didn’t exist on the Pre. But 95% of my use is Safari, Email, Messaging, Twitter, Podcaster, Facebook, Maps and other standard fare. None of those, apart from the maps, is dramatically better than the equivalent app on the Pre.
  • Let’s talk recent iOS upgrades. Notifications are fine and surely a huge improvement from the old paradigm. If they don’t match webOS notifications, they’re close enough. Another is OTA upgrades. Can’t believe it took 3 years. Copy & paste and quasi multitasking (we’ll get back to that) are a few other upgrades that I had for 2+ years on the Pre.
  • Battery life is good. And it mostly gets through the day, but I do have to sneak charges regularly. Certainly better than the Pre. But, at least on the Pre there was the option to swap batteries. Sure there are battery cases & other recharging options, but I’ll call this one a push.
  • Siri. It’s fun. If I drove a lot, I could see it being handy. Fun gimmick right now.
  • Ditto Facetime, except for the driving part.

And the things I miss

  • Touchstone charging was great.
  • Multitasking just doesn’t work as well, and I regularly find my downloads in Podcaster stop when the app is in the background too long. No idea if this is remediable.
  • Synergy & the address book integration was definitely better on webOS. Facebook integration is a bit of a hack, and I find that most times there are multiple entries for each person– sometimes 3 or 4.
  • The keyboard. The best thing I can say about the iPhone keyboard is it works. It doesn’t “just work.” Tons of typos, the screen is just too little and no tactile feedback. Maybe you can type as fast on the software keyboard, but it takes more concentration, too. On the Pre I could just hammer and ignore the screen for paragraphs. On the iPhone, if I go 3 sentences the corrected version might be so unrecognizable that I can’t be sure what I meant to write.

Another new phone, another new platform

November 15th, 2011, 9:48pm by Kelvin

Been spending the week getting acquainted with an HTC Arrive, my 3rd phone in the past year running my 3rd mobile OS. Such is life for the webOS diaspora. For all of webOS’s shortcomings, and there were many, it was really fun to use, in a way that Android was not. Android was very powerful, very functional, but not really fun or elegant. WebOS was thoughtful, and while I didn’t always agree with their choices, I could usually see the thinking behind them. Android is just haphazard and inconsistent; too often, a commonly used feature was hidden in a menu, which just drove me crazy.

Enter Windows Phone 7. Now of course, the obvious question is why not just get a Sprint iPhone and be done with it, but there were 2 things in WP7’s favor– physical keyboard, and it’s cheap. I was able to get my QWERTY- toting Arrive for $160 used off contract. Basically a no cost side-grade after I offload my old Shift.

So far, I’m loving WP7. It’s cohesive, fun and buttery smooth. yes, the app landscape is only slightly better than that on webOS, and the lack of recognition by websites is reopening a lot of old wounds. Both the Board and Flickr, for instance, serve up the full website rather than the mobile one. But overall, I’ll take my lumps, hoping that Microsoft goes forth and evangelizes.

BTW, this Word Press app on WP7 is awesome.

How are the tricks & treats?

October 31st, 2011, 8:42pm by Jake

Pics or it didn’t happen!


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