kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Sheesh, here it is more than halfway through January, and I see my last post was just after Christmas. I will hope this is not a sign of things to come, but.. I dunno. The week after Christmas is normally the most quiet and tranquil workweek of the year, but this time around it blew up. Some VP somewhere blew a gasket about something, and it's been pretty much nonstop work ever since. Today is quiet for a change, and my calendar is unusually clear, so I thought I'd better take advantage to say I'm not dead. Yet.

Anyway, there's too much to try to actually catch up on, so let's just recap a few things, shall we?

As you can see in the photo up top, Hallie's started horse-riding lessons. Heather found a little farm less than 10 minutes from home, a lady who's really just getting started up, so her prices for lessons were quite reasonable. Only 2 lessons in so far, but I think Hallie's enjoying it! I was able to go yesterday, since I had the day off for the MLK holiday.

Past couple weekends, I've put in a lot of work replacing stretches of our privacy fence around the house. It's all pretty old, and stretches have been threatening to disintegrate totally, so we decided to finally do something about it. I'd planned to get a fencing company to do the job, but I got a quote and it was a lot more than we expected, so I went back to the idea of DIY. So far so good, really, and a lot cheaper. Now my main concern is how to get rid of the old fence! I need to see if the county can come and haul it off, or if I need to make alternate arrangements somehow.

This past weekend I took a break from fencing so we could go visit my Dad, though. We didn't get to see him around Xmas, and then he took a cruise for New Year's and his birthday. Plus 3-day weekends are always preferable if we have a day trip in mind (and he lives about 2 hours away, so that counts). Anyway, it was a nice visit, mostly I did tech support like a good son. :) Perhaps the main thing of note was that he'd gotten an Amazon Echo for Christmas, which we all found pretty impressive. The voice recognition is cool, and we all had fun asking it random questions and asking for it to play songs. I thought it was just very cool! So of course we had to order one. :)

I went with the Tap, though--it's a little smaller then the Echo, and it's not always listening for its name, like the Echo does. But it has a battery which makes it portable, and it also works as a Bluetooth speaker. And we weren't necessarily keen on the idea of a device that's listening to us all.the.time. anyway. :) So far we really dig it. It's fun to mess with, though music is its main function. The girls will put it on the table where they play LEGOs, and take it in their room when they have playtime before bed. And it makes for nice background music for dinner, too. The main drawback is that the default music service is Amazon Prime, which is rather limited. It can do Spotify Premium, or Amazon's new Music Unlimited service, but of course those are both subscription services. I've been paying for the ad-free level of Spotify for some time, since I use it here at work a lot, and at home too when I'm working on the PC. So I'm considering whether to upgrade to Spotify Premium, or stop paying for that and go to Amazon Unlimited. Or neither, I suppose! Maybe I can get it to stream from my home media server instead, and I can add music to that as we find things we want. I'm doing the free 30-day trial of Amazon's Unlimited, so we can mess with that while I try other options.

Speaking of options, it seems like a very hackable device. Out of the box it can do home automation with things like Nest thermostats and Hue lights, and it can control media devices with the right hubs and whatnot. I'm going to try to get it to work with Kodi and/or Plex on my HTPC, and if that works it might be worth it to add a Dot in the TV room for the always-listening functionality (and Bluetooth audio streaming to my nifty new A/V receiver). I found the functionality for general-knowledge questions was a bit lacking since it defaults to Bing, so I found a step-by-step guide on the interwebs to add an Ask Google command instead, which works well. I look forward to playing with it more!

Okay, that can be enough for now. Hopefully the rest of this week will be as calm as today and I can post a bit more regularly! I hope you're all doing well so far this year. :)

Win10.

Aug. 5th, 2015 04:39 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So far I've updated two of the PCs at home to Windows 10--the Home Theater PC and my own desktop PC. So far so good, really. The upgrades went smoothly in both cases, and I was pleased to see that the desktop reports Windows is activated even though it was upgrading from an, er, unauthorized copy of Windows 8. Maybe that's part of M$'s plan, get even illicit users onto a licensed platform, so they can buy apps and whatnot (and might even pay to upgrade when the next version comes along). I normally don't jump on upgrades, but both of these PCs have had some annoying USB issues under Win8 that I am hoping the upgrade fixes. The movies the HTPC plays are on an external HDD, and it has an annoying habit of dropping out in the middle of playback--just enough to make the movie stop, but if I click to play again, it picks up just fine. And the desktop, occasionally it would just stop recognizing all the attached USB devices, which kills the Internet, mouse and keyboard. Makes it a bit difficult to do anything when that happens, as you might imagine!

So initial thoughts, I like the OS. It's not all that different from Windows 8 for me, since I always had my computers go to a normal Desktop instead of the hated Start screen, and I had Start8 installed to provide a Start menu. It's nice that Win10 defaults to the Desktop and restores the Start menu natively. Performance seems fine so far. The HTPC had one ugly crash immediately after the install, but it's seemed fine since. Haven't really tested enough to make sure the USB dropouts are resolved, we'll see. The desktop has been fine, it seems to have carried over all my settings and whatnot, which is nice, and so far all the software I've tried has worked normally. The one issue I had was with the USB WiFi adapter--it's dual-band but the PC was only seeing the 2.4GHz side of things, and for some reason after a day or so it started being reaalllllly slow with the WiFi. But I found a new driver for the WiFi adapter which seems to have fixed both issues.

So anyway, I figure I'll upgrade the girls' PCs soon as well, and Heather's. She hates Windows 8 so I think she'll like the idea. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
It's a very gloomy and rainy day here, but I don't mind it at all. I'm at work so it's not ruining any plans, plus we need the rain since it's been sparse for the past month or so. It did necessitate the rescheduling of a photoshoot from this morning to Thanksgiving morning, but that's okay too since that way I don't need to miss any work. Not that it's even work this week--my boss and half the company are on vacation, so it's a very low-stress week to be in the office. The only downsides to today is that I had to go out for lunch in the rain, and I've watched all the Breaking Bad episodes on my tablet. :)

Speaking of Thanksgiving, it's shaping up nicely. We were thinking it would just be us for a quiet family day at home, but the other day my Dad called and said their plans fell through so they'd like to come for a visit. That's great, as we haven't seen him for a while and with our upcoming Virginia trip I wasn't sure if or when we'd be able to get together before Christmas. Then my niece Amanda messaged me on FB to say she was in town this week and wanted to see us and Dad too, so I wrote back to suggest she drop by on Thanksgiving as well since Dad will be over. Haven't seen her in too many years, so I'm really hoping that works out too. Would make for a very nice day.

But we need to at least attempt to clean the house, and that's a daunting prospect. Not that we're complete slobs, but housekeeping tends to fall down a few notches when we're busy, and with the kids we're always busy. :) Hopefully a quick sweep to put away toys and clear counters and tabletops and whatnot will do it. And some vacuuming of pet fur, eww.

We decided to update our video camera this weekend. Heather's family used to make audio and then video variety shows for Christmas when she was a kid, and she wanted to try that with the girls. But our old camera isn't HD, is not great in low light, and uses mini-DV cassettes, which makes transferring the videos to the computer a pain. Plus the microphone always picks up the noise of the tape drive motor, which bugs me. So I went out and got us a Canon VIXIA HF R500, which is all-digital and uses SD cards, so it's nice and quiet with solid battery life. Not sure if the low-light performance is any better yet, but outdoor and even well-lit indoor scenes look great, and the image stabilizer is a nice add too. Looking forward to using it more, especially on our trip!

Speaking of travel, this last trip put me over the top for my Southwest Companion Pass! Whoo-hoo! I named Hermione as my companion for now, and already called to have the Virginia trip re-booked as a companion so I could get back the points I'd booked her with. We figured I'd name her instead of Heather, because whatever trips I take will either be all of us, or me and the older two girls like I did for DC this past spring. In fact, I am sorta thinking I might try to take the girls up to New York City to visit their aunt Stef next month. She's only going to be there for another couple months, and I think Christmastime for our first NYC trip would be amazing. It would probably be a fairly short trip, I'm thinking just a 3- or 4-day weekend, but still--I am thinking yes please even though the very idea of NYC sorta terrifies me. :) I'm hoping to take good advantage of this Companion Pass, though, whether it's for our whole-family vacations or just short trips with the girls. Fun stuff!

Hermione's birthday was this past Saturday--10 years old already. She's a really good kid, I'm quite proud of her. I wish she was a little less timid and sensitive sometimes, but I really can't complain. It was rainy on her birthday so we didn't do much, but the next day we went to Fun Spot, which is sort of like a permanent carnival (without the carnies), and we had a good time. Plus lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, yummy.

I'm still working on my photos from Birmingham last week. It was a good time and a bit of an adventure, so I'm looking forward to finishing those and posting about the trip. In the meantime, I think I'll do a photo post with some other stuff from the past couple weeks. So stay tuned for that!

Okay, back to "work." Heh.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I'd promised to post about my thoughts on iOS 8 after having upgraded my iPhone 5C to it a week or two back. Basically: I like it, and if you've been hesitating to upgrade for any reason, I say go ahead. It's not all that different from iOS 7 cosmetically, so there's no system shock. And it seems perfectly stable, with the same overall level of performance that I had before. In fact, it may be MORE stable, since the Waze app I like to use for navigation would almost always crash when I launched it, requiring a second launch--no such issues since upgrading to 8. I can't say I've used all of the new features 8 adds, but the recent contacts on the app switcher screen is nifty. And while I've not tried installing any 3rd-party keyboards, the addition of predictive text to the built-in keyboard has impressed me. It makes good suggestions, and apparently gets better as you use it as well (though I'm far from a heavy texter). Overall, two thumbs up.

I booked my flights for Indianapolis this morning, nice to have that done. And the timing is awesome--just yesterday Southwest sent me an e-mail for a double-points promotion covering the timeframe I'll be taking all 4 of these trips! Alas, the bonus points aren't good towards the Companion Pass, which I'm hopeful I can score for next year. But still, the extra points will be good to use towards family trips next year. We're hopeful we can make a Maine/Canada trip happen next summer!

The next trip after Indy will be Bakersfield, and there I have a small dilemma. I like to fly out early so I have most of a day to explore, but I don't know what I want to see this time. I don't think Disneyland/DCA is in the budget this time around, but that's okay. I did really enjoy driving around the mountains of Sequoia Nat'l Forest, and I wouldn't mind doing that again, but I feel like I should do something new. Maybe something along the coast? Something touristy in LA? Catch the taping of a tv show? Find a good park to hike and photograph? Los Padres? Carrizo Plain? I'll do some research, but any suggestions from you fine folks? I expect I'll fly into one of the LA-area airports and drive up to B'field, as usual, and then fly home out of BFD.

I'm planning to take Friday off work, since I didn't have much of a weekend due to the wedding. So maybe Thursday night for another HHN visit, eh? Looks like we're expecting our first cool front this weekend--every time I look, the forecast for Sunday gets cooler. Presently showing a high of 76F and overnight low of 57F. Lovely! And finally an end to this string of rainy days--I think I saw that we had widespread rain on all but 3 days of September, which tied the record. I like rain more than most, but enough is enough!

Okay, better get some work done before I go meet the girls for lunch.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I've been digging this song lately:



And I had Amy grooving to it and singing along with the chorus too. Of course, she asked why he was saying "burn the bridge so there's no way back," and it's kinda difficult to explain figures of speech to toddlers. Anyway, I think there's a rock fan in that little girl, I must encourage this. :)

As for the band, I'm looking forward to the album, which comes out next month. For those not familiar, the vocalist/bassist is Doug Pinnick (who I think looks and sounds pretty good for 64 years old), whose best-known band is King's X, of whom I've long been a fan. He's had a few solo and side projects of varying quality, but this one sounds pretty good if you like groovy, bluesy, riff-based rock. The drummer and guitarist are brothers, though I'm not familiar with them otherwise. Anyway, good stuff.

It's a slow day at work so I decided to go ahead and try the iOS 8 upgrade on my phone. I had to uninstall a bunch of apps to make room, hopefully it's worth it. It popped up a Terms and Conditions page for me to either Agree or Disagree with, and the page was completely blank. So I hope I didn't agree to sacrifice my firstborn or something, and I also hope that's not an ill omen of glitchiness. We shall see.

Speaking of work, yesterday I was told that I could bill the company for the cost of me getting a new passport, so I can participate in the next round of Canada trips. Nice! The trips themselves don't sound at all fun, as I mentioned before, but surely I can make it so if I work in some free time. And passports aren't that cheap ($140 for the book and card), so getting mine knocked out for free sounds like a nice opportunity. Maybe we can go ahead get Heather's renewed at the same time, that way we can have that taken care of if we want to plan a Canada vacation next year. I think the kids don't need passports if we cross the border by car, which would most likely be the plan. Prince Edward Island is where the wife really wants to go, so we'd probably fly to Maine and drive across to explore New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Fun!

Okay, back to work. Or the iOS upgrade, which looks to be about 70% done. Fingers crossed!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Going to bed last night I remarked to the wife, "That sure didn't feel like much of a weekend." Just a busy one without much downtime!

Friday evening after work we all headed down to Disney's Boardwalk--I was meeting a family for a photoshoot, and Heather and the girls roamed around while I worked. I was warily watching the weather all afternoon, and seeing a huge mass of rain moving in from the Gulf. I almost got in touch with the client to reschedule, but figured what the heck, we'll just see how it goes. And it turned out great! It never rained aside from a few drops, but the rain in the area really dropped the temperature so it felt very nearly pleasant. And we had a great time roaming around shooting, so I was pleased overall.

Saturday morning I hit the road for Disney again for another family session, this time at the Grand Floridian. It was my annual shoot with a family I've been working with for years--I had to look back at my e-mail to verify, but this was year #6! Their kids have changed quite a bit since we first met, as you might well imagine. It was a hot weekend, so we mainly stayed indoors in the hotel, but we started outside (the hotel has a gorgeous 1929 Cadillac sedan that I like to use) and ended back outside as well. I was glad we spent the bulk of our time inside, though!

When I got home, I mainly waited for the parts to arrive to try fixing the TV. They both came, so first I tried putting in the new power board, since it's the cheaper one and regardless I didn't want to risk damaging the new mainboard if the power board was the problem. So I installed it and tested the TV, but it was no different, still flickering and not seeing good signals from the inputs. So I went to put in the new mainboard and.. no dice. It was the exact same board platform, almost all the same components, except for the two ribbon connectors to the screen itself. Bah. So I looked around online again, but the only board I saw that looked like the correct one was listed at $215, which was rather more than I wanted to spend to fix a TV set that wasn't that great in the first place. I broke the news to the wife, and she grudgingly agreed that we'd have to replace it. So I got to researching.

Oh, and somewhere in there I had more photography business: a couple who I used to work with are getting married next month, and asked me to be their photographer. So they dropped by to catch up since I hadn't seen them for a while, and talk about the wedding plans. It all sounds good, but the one thing we couldn't settle on was price. It's tough because I know they're on a budget, and really I wouldn't mind doing it for cheap since I consider them friends. But it's giving up a full day, basically, and my wife rightfully expects that I should be bringing home some money if I'm giving up the time and work. So I dunno, I guess I'll come up with a number to ask for, and let them know that it's open for negotiation. I just hate the business side of things, you know? I need a business partner to handle that stuff. :)

So Sunday became new TV day! I spent a good bit of time researching the models in my price range, and found myself rather limited by my needs. I have an A/V receiver, but it's only for audio, it doesn't switch video or have HDMI inputs or anything. So to support the cable box, Blu-ray player, and home theater PC I need 3 HDMI inputs, plus a component input for the Wii and a good old-fashioned composite input for my old game systems. That last was the real kicker, it seems like a lot of sets have now dispensed with the composite inputs, or only have it as a hybrid with the single set of component inputs, which means you can only use one or the other. Even in HDMI, 3 such inputs is pretty rare on the low-end sets. Also, the wife and kids don't like to mess with the HTPC, so I need a Smart TV that can stream from the computer with a reasonably simple interface (and hopefully offer some other good streaming services and whatnot as well). So looking around, the only model I found in the low-to-midrange that offered smart features with the input mix I needed was the Sony lineup. I liked Samsung's interface and faster processors better, but they lacked the inputs I needed (and cost more to boot). I used to be a big Sony fan, but somewhere along the line they let me down somehow, and I've not been too impressed with our Blu-ray player, which is Sony also. But my hands were a bit tied, so off to Best Buy we went.

I knew which model I wanted (there was no 42" set in the lineup like our old set was, and I didn't want to go smaller, so I opted for the 48" W600B set), so the purchase went quickly. The installation.. not so much. The girls helped me unbox the new set, and I attached the wall-mount brackets, and.. it wouldn't fit on the wall plate. On my old set, the screwholes for the mounting brackets were 200mm apart, but on the new set they were 300mm. So just as is my luck, with the wider spread the power outlet was getting in the way. Long story short, I added some strips of wood to bring the mounting plate out from the wall (and outlet) a little bit, and then I was able to get it mounted. But the whole process took a lot longer than expected, and that ate up much of the day. Once I was finally done, Heather wanted to go to a store to get some homeschooling stuff, so we did that. And then it was dinner time, and then we went on a bike ride around the block, and then we jumped in the pool. The girls had recently come across my box of old game system controllers and wanted to try them, so we fired up the Dreamcast for some Crazy Taxi. Fun! And it was nice to have an actual TV in place when TV time rolled around, too!

OH, we also got new foster kitties! Hermione had been begging to foster again--she remembered that we'd told her maybe after our vacation, of course--and Heather happened to talk about it with one of her flute-playing friends, who said they were fostering a houseful and had a mom and kitten who needed just a little more special attention than they could spare. Mainly, the mom tends to ignore the kitten, so they need to be watched more closely to make sure he's getting enough to eat. So I got the cage down from the attic, and we got that all set up before they brought the kitties over. The girls named the kitten Willy. He is pretty cute, and I doubt more than 3 weeks old.

20140817-IMG_5315

And that was the weekend. Whew! Now time to end my workday. I didn't think I had any travel on the agenda this week, but my boss just rescheduled our meetings tomorrow from here to St. Pete, so I guess I'll be on the road after all. Ah well, it usually makes for a fairly good day.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
In other news, our tv crapped out last night. Now, we don't watch a whole lot of television, really. The girls typically watch a cartoon or something while they have breakfast, and in the evening some tv time (usually movies) are part of our daily routine with the kids, and then once we put them to bed Heather and I watch something for a bit before we head upstairs to bed. But since we watch so little tv, we only have the one set--which means now we have none! It really sorta messed up our routine last night, and I reckon it will tonight as well.

Not exactly sure what's wrong--Heather and I sat down to watch a show at our usual time Tuesday night, and after 5 minutes or so the tv shut itself off and then turned back on. Weird. A couple minutes later, same thing. And again. It got a bit frustrating, so we essentially gave up, though after a bit we speculated maybe one of the remotes had weak batteries and was sending bogus keypresses or something. The next morning Amy watched a show in the morning as usual, with no issues, so it seemed like just a one-time thing. But last night the girls were playing Wii before tv time, and it did the shut off/turn back on thing again. And then, when it came back on, it started saying Invalid Format for the video signal. I tried switching it to the DVD player and cable box and PC, and it didn't seem to recognize any input from any of those sources. Uh-oh. Plus I noticed that even going through the setup menus, everything seemed more sluggish than usual, and there was also a prominent flicker to the display. None of that seemed like a good thing!

I hit the Net for a little research, and power supply issues seem fairly common with this family of models, so that's my first suspect. But since it stopped recognizing the inputs I was also suspicious of the main board, and I would hate to order one board and then find out the other is the culprit. Plus, it's possible the power supply board went bad first and damaged the main board in turn. So I found replacements for both on eBay for a total of $115 or so, which is a lot cheaper than springing for a whole new set (which the wife assured me we can't afford right now anyway, though she always says that). The power supply will hopefully arrive tomorrow or Saturday, so I can pop that in and see if it helps. If that does the trick all by itself, maybe I can just return the new main board without even opening it. But if not, at least it will be on the way. Hopefully one or the other will work, though. Not that I would mind updating to a new set--but talking the wife into it might be more trouble than it's worth!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So I've probably mentioned my cell phone situation before. I never had one at all until my job issued me one years ago. The first one was a Nextel flip-phone, dumb as they come even for its day. Little monochrome LCD screen with amber illumination. Yes, THAT bad. Eventually they replaced that with a BlackBerry--the old kind with physical keyboard and teensy trackball. The trackball died after a few years, and so I got a newer BlackBerry, same basic form factor, just a newer version (with the pressure pad thing instead of the trackball). A year or two ago I tried to angle for a different smartphone, since BlackBerry was long since surpassed by Apple and Android phones in terms of.. well, everything: speed, power, app selection and support, you name it. I got shot down pretty roundly that time, and told that my BlackBerry was JUST FINE. So I was hesitant to try again, but when my BlackBerry's battery life recently started going downhill, I thought I'd run the flag up again and see if I might have better luck.

So I sent off an e-mail, which got passed to someone else, who dropped my boss an e-mail for approval. My boss is notoriously bad about his e-mail. He's a busy man with lots of irons in the fire, so often an e-mail will linger in his mailbox and eventually get buried by newer e-mails, and that's that. But in a one-on-one call with him last week I asked if he'd seen an e-mail about my cell phone, and explained the situation. He dug through his Inbox and said "Oh yeah, here it is. Must have missed that one." Heh, really? Anyway, he said the only choice they gave him was to switch me to an iPhone 5c. I said I'd really prefer an Android phone if that's a possible option, so he said he'd reply and ask. And that was the last I heard about it--even though I spent the last 3 days sitting next to him in a training class.

Until yesterday, anyway, when I got an e-mail saying there was a package I needed to pick up in the mailroom. I had no idea what it might be, but thought maybe--just maybe--he'd come through for me on the phone thing after all. So I got the package today, and.. it's an iPhone 5c.

I was a little disappointed, to be honest. I consider myself a Google guy, I like the company and their products for the most part, and I like my Android tablet (for which I have lots of apps), so I was really hoping to stick with that ecosystem. More to the point, I am really not an Apple fan. I just never felt that attracted to their products, and basically regard them as overpriced badges of hipness. Without even getting into their business ethics and whatnot (not that Google are angels either, of course). No offense to any Apple fans in the audience, I hope. :) The first and only Apple product I've owned is my PC monitor, which is a fine monitor indeed--but it was given to me, and I know I never would have spent the money on it otherwise. The phone is pretty much the same--since it's from work, I don't pay for it, so really whatever they give me is groovy, right? If I REALLY want a specific device, I should pony up and pay for one personally. But I don't want to have two phones to keep track of, and why foot another bill for something I already get for free?

Anyway, I'm babbling because it's almost time to go home. So far, though, I must admit I like the iPhone. It seems pretty slick, good interface, good performance. The case they gave me to protect it leaves something to be desired, so I might go looking for a better one this weekend. I really don't mean to look this gift horse too squarely in the mouth, and I know a great many people would be thrilled to get a surprise iPhone. I just don't want to become one of those Apple cultists. ;)

And okay, iOS users--any must-have apps you recommend, or tips I might appreciate?

UPDATE: Rather than make a new entry on this somewhat silly topic, I thought I'd add to it here with some initial thoughts after my first weekend with the iPhone.

Positives:
-As expected, the iPhone's camera is very good, and while I'm sure I'll prefer to offload the pics at home and edit them with my usual workflow, the option of editing on the phone and uploading immediately will be handy.
-I do love the speediness of the device--it's quick and responsive, and so far I've noticed no lag whatsoever.
-Great app support. I think iOS still has the edge over Android in that respect--the vast majority of apps support both, of course, but it seems like most of the things that are one or the other are iOS and not Android, for whatever reason.
-The iPhone will be SO much more useful in the car--navigation is the first thing that comes to mind, of course, but there's also the thought of using it for music via Spotify, SiriusXM, and Pandora. I should inquire about whether there are data limits on the company's contract, though!

Cons:
-I was used to having the BlackBerry on a belt clip, at least when I'm at work. The size and weight of the iPhone sort of precludes that, I think. I don't mind carrying it in my pocket too much, but I worry about the wear and tear of doing so, and of course there's more of a chance of absentminded me leaving it lying around somewhere.
-Also as expected, there are things in the OS that Apple chose to restrict or not offer that I don't like. The ability to delete certain apps, or even hide them, for example. The Stocks app is one I have no use for, and yet all I can do is stick it in a folder and ignore it. With my BlackBerry I had the ability to create a number of sound and ringer profiles, so I could have a completely silent mode, a vibrate-only mode, and an audible mode. There doesn't seem to be any such functionality for the iPhone, and there don't even seem to be any apps to add anything like that. Seems silly.
-I've never been particularly good at typing on tiny mobile keyboards, but I seem to have a high miskey rate on the iPhone. I dunno if it's a combination of my big hands and the non-adhesive screen cover my case has or what. I'm learning to aim just a little to the left of the key I want, that seems to help.
-Speaking of the keyboard, I don't like that it always shows capital letters, whether Shift/Caps Lock is engaged or not. On the Android, the on-screen keyboard switches to lowercase when appropriate, and I like that since I know at a glance what I'm going to get when I type. Maybe there's a setting in iOS? Looks like not. Another bit of Apple silliness!
-Perhaps a minor quibble, but my Blackberry and Nexus tablet (not to mention my wife's Kindle and Hermione's Kindle Fire) all use a micro USB port for charging and data transfer, which made it simple to have a single charger and plug in whichever device needed a charge. The iPhone uses Apple's Lightning connector, so that's another cable required, or at least an adapter. Universal ports and cables=good!

Overall though, it's nice to finally have a true smartphone, even if it's an Apple product. :) I've ordered some cables and adapters this morning to scatter around so I can charge at home, in the car, here at work, etc. I think I'd like to look into a car mount as well, and whatever adapter makes sense to connect to the handsfree system I have. It does phone functions via Bluetooth, of course, but with a hardwired connection to an iOS device there are some other bells and whistles that become available, I think, like navigation instructions through the stereo. Worth checking out, anyway.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So I've mentioned the Great PC Relocation Project for the girls and all that lately. The PC that's now Hallie's used to be Heather's, and it's also long served as our media server--all our movies and music were on it, for streaming to the tv and elsewhere. We'd typically leave it on all day for that purpose, and since Heather tends to check her e-mail and whatnot as she gets a few free minutes here and there throughout each day. But now that she's switched over to the laptop, it doesn't make as much sense for that PC to stay on all day, since the girls only use their computers for maybe an hour each day, and as a full-on desktop PC it takes a good amount of juice to keep it up and running.

Sp phase 2 of the project was to find another media storage and streaming solution. My first thought was to buy or put together a NAS box, something I can just connect right to the router and voila. And that would work for streaming at home, but I also occasionally stream music to myself here at work, for which I use Tonido (which is one of the best free products ever, as far as I'm concerned). But Tonido is a server that needs to run on a PC, so a simple NAS wouldn't cut it.

Then I got to thinking about the little net-top PC I picked up a few years back, one of these. It's been our living-room computer for years, but rarely used because it's kinda slow, the little wireless mouse/keyboard I got to use with it isn't very handy, and it didn't stream too well over the network (though I only had an old 802.11g adapter to use with it). But I thought what the heck, I'm gonna wipe it, replace Windows xp with Win7, install XBMC and see how it does. (I also ordered 4GB of RAM to drop in, which should be way better than the stock 1GB, and an 802.11n WiFi adapter.) So I did that yesterday evening, and wow. Oh, I should also mention that at Costco a week or two ago, I was looking at the external hard drives and saw they had a Seagate 3TB desktop drive on sale for $99, which seemed like a pretty good deal, so I snagged one of those.

So anyway, yeah. XBMC is awesome, and it seems to work very well when playing from the external HDD instead of the network. We were watching an HD copy of Jurassic Park 3 last night and it looked really good--I noticed a hint of jitter and slowdown occasionally, but that may have just been because it was also scanning the rest of the movies for metadata at the same time. I'm also hoping the additional RAM will help stabilize it, since the system RAM is also the video RAM. Between the library functionality and the fact that it remembers where we stopped playback, Heather was like, "Why didn't we do this sooner?" Good question!

I'm looking forward to playing with it some more--I installed a few addons that looked fun, but I'm sure there are some must-have ones that I need. Any suggestions, if you have an HTPC and/or XBMC? I saw there's a Spotify plugin, that's pretty awesome. I like the default skin but I may try some others to see what I think--one blogger I saw swore by the Aeon Nox skin. Next I need to get Tonido working on it, and maybe Serviio so we can still stream directly to the tv, and to my tablet and other PCs. Then I can snag the hard drive from Hallie's PC that currently has movies on it and put it in my desktop for more photo storage instead. :)

Sorry to geek out--I was just excited that this seems to be such a sweet solution, and something we should have done before!

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