Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Goodbye, SiriusXM!

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Sirius XM TrashSiriusXM music sucks. There, I said it. It SUCKS. Listening to music on SiriusXM is like expecting to savor a crisp, sweet apple, only to find that it’s a week-old Carl’s Jr. western bacon cheeseburger. That your dog tried first. And said, “no, fuck this shit.”

So, after 13 years, I’m finally ditching SiriusXM.

The tipping point happened today¬†while driving to Rotary. Styx’ “Come Sail Away” came on the Classic Vinyl station (named appropriately, “Classic Vinyl”), and I was prepared to enjoy it from the first piano stroke.

Like a slap in the face (ok, more like a poke in the eardrum), I was assaulted by the most obvious¬†compression artifacts¬†I’ve heard since 1995. The true nerd I am, I deftly switched my car’s audio to Bluetooth, and told Siri to play “Come Sail Away”. Like a loyal servant (my Siri is a saucy Australian woman self-labeled “Seeeereeee”), the same version¬†with which SiriusXM had beaten¬†me came on, this time, artifact-free, full, and rich,¬†Courtesy of Apple Music.

I finished the song, and told Siri to play some Classic Rock for me. She complied. Silently, disappointingly.

While SiriusXM USED¬†to be an amazing service, they¬†can’t compete against the glut of newer, cheaper, and more agile services. More importantly,¬†music that was once CD quality is now reminiscent of early Internet music: MP3 quality over a 28.8Kbps modem: rusty, tinny, and grating.

And if that wasn’t enough, SirusXM gouges the FUCK out of its subscribers. For¬†$20/month, you get the privilege of having MOSTLY commercial free music, and a bunch of other channels happy to sell you erections, lube, and other channels. With mobile data prices decreasing, it makes more sense to be gouged by my mobile carrier and stream music over LTE than be insulted¬†by poor quality music.¬†Decision made. Goodbye, SiriusXM. It was a nice run.

Windows 8 Is Horrifically Awful

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Dell Venue 8 ProWhile cruising around my local Costco, I spied an amazing deal: a small-but-relatively-powerful tablet that ran a FULL version of Windows 8.1 for only $329.99. What? That’s it? I HAD to have it. So I bought it, and opened it. The build quality was pretty decent–it wasn’t an iPad, but heck, it was like a complete laptop, right?

Wrong.

After setting it up (which was a painful process to start with), I tried browsing the web. The on-screen keyboard had neat clicky sounds, and web sites loaded just as I’d have expected them to on IE. Until I tried watching a video, which asked me to press Escape to get out of the full screen mode. No problem…but wait…where’s the keyboard? I can’t access it in full screen! Oh, wait, that doesn’t matter *anyway* because there’s no escape key anyway! And no way to quit programs without opening the task manager. Huh, what? No! This IS NOT a full computer. Well, maybe I can check my email. Oh, no, wait, the keyboard pushes where I’m trying to type out of the way, so I can’t see what I’m typing…and as it turns out, that means that I’m not actually typing anything. What? Ugh. How about switching between apps? Oh, no, that’s not too easy, either; it has to be one-at-a-time by swiping from left to right. Swipe swipe swipe, none of the swiping is consistent, and forget the camera–it had NO idea how I was holding the tablet.

I couldn’t put it back in the box and return it fast enough. The Costco guy asked if it wasn’t working. “That depends on your definition of working.”

Someone ought to take Microsoft out behind the shed and beat the crap out of them.

Congressman Schiff’s SOPA Response

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

In my previous post, I mentioned SOPA and how deleterious it would be. I sent emails to my Congressmen and Senators. Congressman Schiff replied, in a well thought-out mass email:

Dear Adam:Thank you for contacting me regarding your opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome your input.

As you know, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) are bills introduced in the House and Senate respectively to provide new legal mechanisms to crack down on foreign websites that illegally offer copyrighted content. Questions were raised about the unintended consequences of both bills and whether legitimate websites, as well as potentially user security, could be damaged. I take those questions very seriously and it’s apparent that thousands of Internet users in our region do as well.

The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has announced that SOPA will not be considered by the committee until there is broader agreement on how to address the problem of online piracy. Similarly, a scheduled vote that would have opened the door to debate of PIPA on the Senate floor has been canceled. While I believe the problem of foreign websites pirating the work of US creators is a serious one that needs Congressional attention, I agree that it is appropriate to take a step back and listen to input from all parties to try and reach broader consensus.

Your support for an open Internet is well-taken and I share it. The open architecture of the Internet has long been its strongest feature and what has allowed it to thrive as a force for free speech in the United States and around the world. I am a longtime supporter of Net Neutrality in the United States, and I want to keep the Internet free from censorship.

At the same time, I don’t believe that we can turn a blind eye to illegal acts,¬†including piracy,¬†if only¬†because they occur on the Internet rather than on a street corner. The creators most damaged by rampant piracy are small to midsized entities that can’t afford to hire teams of lawyers or spend millions on marketing. A small filmmaker or software developer or artist just doesn’t have those resources. They hope that their work will generate positive attention through word of mouth and that they can realize a profit for their investment of time and money. The system breaks down when their work is made immediately available for free on rogue websites. In Los¬†Angeles, Intellectual Property industries are the lifeblood of our economy,¬†and employ many of our friends and neighbors. When the intellectual property of our citizens is stolen and made available for a profit by overseas websites, it has a real impact on families in our region.

Theft of intellectual property has become¬†particularly problematic in light of the proliferation of websites hosted overseas that derive large profits from offering pirated content. If these sites were based in the United States, there would be no question ‚Äď they could be sued for infringement, their assets seized, and their owners sent to prison. Yet they attempt to structure their operations to be beyond the reach of U.S.¬†law while simultaneously engaging in commerce in the United States.

There is significant agreement that something must be done. In fact some of the most outspoken critics¬†of¬†SOPA¬†in Congress¬†have supported legislation called the OPEN Act that would create mechanisms for rights holders to “follow the money”¬†to¬†payment processors and advertising networks when rogue websites are identified. That is a model that deserves further debate and study.

These issues of protecting economic growth and ensuring a thriving Internet are vitally important to the future of our nation. We need to take the time to get them right. That’s why I so appreciate your engagement in this issue. I’m interested to know more about your thoughts. What should be done about foreign based websites that infringe on U.S. intellectual property? I hope you will stay in touch as we¬†continue to debate these issues and let me know your thoughts.

An on-going job of a Representative in Congress is to help constituents solve problems with federal agencies, access services, and get their questions answered promptly.  On my website, I offer a detailed guide to the services my office can provide to you as a constituent.  I also encourage you to subscribe to the Washington Update, my email newsletter which contains information on local events, my work in Washington, and even lets you weigh in on important issues through online polls.  Visit me online at http://schiff.house.gov to subscribe.  Please know that you can always reach me at (626) 304-2727 or via my website if I can ever be of additional assistance.

Thank you again for your thoughts.  I hope you will continue to share your views and ideas with me.

Sincerely,
Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress

I like how he engaged me: “What should be done about foreign based websites that infringe on U.S. intellectual property? I hope you will stay in touch as we¬†continue to debate these issues and let me know your thoughts.” You know, I don’t know the answer. Personally, I think that piracy is a great metric of popularity, and in some cases, a driving force of innovation. Sure, it’s horrible when someone steals software, movies, or music, but perhaps the issue shouldn’t be preventing piracy, but instead pushing content creators to find a new revenue stream. Enhance technology so that copying the content doesn’t actually reproduce the experience (eg, 3D movies vs 2D movies). Software could require a subscription for use. Encourage open sourcing content at some point. I would like to read more about who is losing money from pirating, and what, aside from changing laws, can be done to prevent it, or redirect it. Music producers make more money from concerts than albums. Perhaps movie studios should host special “movie concerts” with the same idea–non-reproducible events that cannot be pirated. And let’s be honest here–laws that restrict communication are bad news. Let’s change how we address these issues.

SOPA/PIPA

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

After reading the full text of the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), I wrote to my Congressmen and Senators to request that they vote NO on these two bills.

While the apparent intent of these two bills is to protect the rights of copyright holders, the execution is severely flawed. Here’s how: let’s say a web site is hosting copyrighted (pirated) data. The SOPA and PIPA bills mandate that Internet Service Providers (ISPs), remove that company’s DNS (Domain Name Server) record. (These are the records that convert “greatmatter.com” into its IP address of 184.106.187.90.) Also, amongst other things, it makes it illegal to link to those sites. That may not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually censorship. Please draw your own conclusions.

Link to SOPA | Link to PIPA

TV Serials on Netflix

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

I just finished watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix. I didn’t just watch it, I watched it almost back-to-back. When the last episode finished, I noticed something missing that I have felt on other shows: I didn’t feel a sense of want or loss. It got me thinking: I don’t feel invested in shows that I watch back-to-back, either on DVD or Netflix. Take “Psyche”, for example; I watched a few seasons of the show, but after I caught up, and it wasn’t as easily available, I stopped watching it. This is, of course, in contrast with shows like Law & Order, which I watched weekly for years, or ER. Sure, those shows ran their course, but watching them over a period of time had a very different impression than ones that I watch back-to-back.

End of the Fiscal Year

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

This has been a helluva week! I’m in Pasadena Rotary, and we just finished our demotion party–yes, you read that right. It’s our tradition to “demote” our president in grand form: cocktails, dinner, and a show. This year, we went WAY overboard. One of our Rotarians is a professional writer, her husband is a producer, and her nephew is an editor; we went nuts making the most spectacular demotion ever. I didn’t keep track of my hours working on it, but I’d estimate I spent around 100-200 hours doing everything. Holy smokes. So that all came to fruition last night–and what’s funny is that, despite all my work, everyone else who participated in the demotion did just as much–so it was an awesome team effort that resulted in the best demotion Pasadena Rotary has ever seen–and possibly ever will!!
It’s also the end of the fiscal year, and for me, a lot has happened… In July (albeit at the end of it), I left my job, and went full-time into my own company, Great Matter. I’ve learned so much in the last year that it’s made my head spin–and wish that I got an MBA and not an MPL. Whoops. So as I come upon my first year working for myself, it’s great to reflect on how much can change in a year, and how fast it goes.
So here comes the Academy speech: I want to thank all my friends & family for being extremely supportive in my endeavor, and not teasing me [too much] about how my Urban Planning degrees have played a role in my running a web programming firm. You’ve also been wonderful with sending me business, which of course is absolutely great–please keep it coming. And to my clients, thank you so much for being a great experience; I’m glad that you are helping me build a successful, sustainable business, and look forward to continuing to help you. My employee and independent contractors: thank you for making Great Matter look so awesome!
So the rest of the calendar year looks bright and shiny, and I look forward to it.

Turbine Engine

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Over the last nine or ten months, about once ever couple weeks, one of our neighbors has been starting up some kind of turbine for about five minutes at a time. ¬†It’s extremely loud (it sounds like, well, a jet engine), but since it happened so infrequently, it wasn’t that big of a deal. ¬†Today, however, the neighbor decided to spin up the jet turbine for about 30 minutes. ¬†I walked over to see what the deal was.They didn’t answer. ¬†After quickly polling some of the other neighbors, we all called the police. ¬†Sure enough, the guy owns some kind of model airplane jet engine company based in Taiwan–and he’s been testing the jets at his house. Hopefully, he’ll stop.

Here’s a clip of it from last August:

The Next iPhone Speculation

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

There are a ton of people speculating about the next iPhone. ¬†iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, etc. ¬†I don’t have any personal knowledge of the matter–but I can say that there are some features that I would really like to see on the next iPhone. ¬†Before I list them, though, I should point out that the iPhone has become “just another phone”. ¬†There’s nothing the iPhone can do that other Android phones cannot, and that Blackberries or Windows can’t do without significant developer help. ¬†I personally like the iPhone interface better, but frankly, Google is doing a good job of catching up (and in some places, passing) the iPhone in its core functionality.

So the list. ¬†I’m going to divide it into a few parts:

Expectations

If Apple releases an iPhone 5, it will come alongside an iOS 5 update. ¬†As a result, many of these feature desires are software based–you could see them in the current models with a software update.

  • LTE – this is the *real* 4G. ¬†Super fast internet.
  • Longer batter life.
  • Profiles (software based–this means that you’ll be able to customize notification sounds, etc, from your own library rather than the built-in one. ¬†Think of the Nokias; Outside, Indoors, Silent, etc.)
  • Thinner (why not)
  • Better cameras (they’re good now, but, well, yeah)
  • Near Field Communication (NFC) for payment, etc.
  • Better notification system (modal popups are horrid)

Hopes

Not as realistic, but I hope:

  • More durable/rugged.
  • Louder speakerphone.
  • Louder earpiece.
  • 1080p Video with stabilization

Wishes

These won’t happen, but I’ll throw ’em out there:

  • Biometric unlocking. ¬†I hate passcodes.
  • Tactile feedback that isn’t some stupid vibration.
  • Speech-to-text/voice command – one that actually WORKS.

I’ll probably think of more, but this works for now.

Migraines?

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

In 1996 or so, a doctor diagnosed me with atypical migraines. ¬†Why atypical? ¬†They only occurred on the right side and there were no triggers (like red wine or chocolate). ¬†My awesome acupuncturist once tried to treat them; his normal treatment didn’t help. ¬†What did help, however, was sticking a needle straight into my temple, about an inch away from where it feels like the pain is most intense. ¬†Within seconds, the pounding, throbbing, searing pain stops immediately. ¬†It’s the craziest thing ever. ¬†He thinks it’s some kind of tension issue… ¬†I don’t know.

Anyway. ¬†Because my acupuncturist has been so awesome & helped me with my not-migraines (as well as neck and back pain in the past), I’m going to give you his info. ¬†Just call him, regardless of your ailment–he seems to have a solution for almost anything. ¬†Martin Haines,¬†626-796-9987. ¬†He’s located in Pasadena.

Movie Review: Hanna

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

It’s been movie-dud month for me. ¬†I Just got back from watching Hanna, staring some really pale blond chick and the guy from Terminator who I call Scott Baio. ¬†(Ok, it’s¬†Saoirse Ronan and Eric Bana, but I’m sure you can understand my confusion.) ¬†Spoiler alert!!!

The movie sucked. ¬†It wasn’t as bad as Sucker Punch, but damn it, it wasn’t THAT far off. ¬†The plot of the movie was this: Bana plays a guy (Erik, yes, same name, lamo) who’s taking care of Hanna, played by Ronan. ¬†He’s also training her to kill people. ¬†Hanna gets all pissy that she’s in the woods–oh yeah, Erik is hiding from…something. ¬†The CIA or something, we don’t really ever find out, or if we did, I wasn’t paying attention. ¬†So back to Hanna–she decides she’s ready to leave their little cabin. ¬†So Erik lets her activate some kind of homing device. ¬†He runs away, and the CIA/whatever swoops in and takes Hanna into custody. ¬†Hanna then wreaks havoc in the holding facility, escapes, and makes it her mission to…well…I *think* it was to kill Marissa, played by Cate Blanchett, but honestly, I don’t know if that was really spelled out.

I suppose there was a plot, but there was no POINT. ¬†I’d write more, but honestly, I don’t even want to intentionally remember more about the movie.

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