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Saturday
Aug092014

Let's All Go to the Movies

Call me crazy but I've been thinking a lot lately about how much I'm looking forward to sharing some of my favorite movies with my son. The fact that he's only 7 months-old just means I have plenty of time to plan. My wife and I have discussed the appropriate age for some movies... and she has weighed in with her opinions after getting past the fact that I'm crazy.

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Gremlins - PG

A Christmas favorite! But, how old should my little guy be before I let him watch it? There's the super cute Gizmo... but there's also 'the microwave scene'. I'm thinking I was 11-12 the first time I saw Gremlins so I think somewhere in the 10-12 range for my boy. I said 10... she said 12.

Blade Runner - R

My all-time-favorite movie. This one is definitely not for youngsters. Even if you look past the darkness and violence, the underlying theme of what makes us human would be lost on kids. I really don't know what the appropriate age is here... Should I make him read the book first? 14? 16?

Blazing Saddles - R

This is probably the movie I'm most looking forward to sharing. A Mel Brooks classic that wouldn't even be possible to make today. I'm sure we'll have to talk about the appropriateness of some of the language, but I think it's important to be exposed to potentially uncomfortable situations that make us question and discuss. And then there's the campfire scene... did I mention I'm looking forward to this? 14?

The Entire James Bond Filmology - PG - PG-13

Once a year I watch all the James Bond films in order (by release). Yes, that means I've seen Moonraker more times than is safe but it's the price I pay. I found an excellent article over on Fandango titled "When Can I Watch James Bond With My Kids". I agree with their assessment of the level of violence and sexual innuendo and that for the most part it's far less explicit than a lot of other offerings. I believe the suggested age range mentioned near the end of the article (9-11) seems like a good fit.

Apocalypse Now - R

This one is going to need some more thought...

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Of course, all of this may be negated by the fact that my kid may not even want to watch these movies. Or he may suffer through them out of pity for his old man and it may not turn out to be quite the bonding (no pun intended) moment that I'd hoped.

 

Saturday
Jul192014

Three Months with Windows Phone

A few notes on Windows Phone. I’ve had my Samsung ATIV S Neo for about 3 months now so I guess it’s fair to make some observations. First, this hasn’t been my primary phone. I still use my iPhone 5 for day-to-day communication like calling and texting. I have, however, made an effort to use the Samsung when I can.

It’s running Windows Phone 8.1 and for the short time I had it with 8.0, I can say that this is a great upgrade.

Below are a few observations and comparisons between these two phones and their operating systems.

Advantage : Samsung

Screen

The 4.7” screen on the Neo is big and bright. It looks great and feels like an improvement compared to the iPhone 5’s 4-inch screen.

Advantage : Windows Phone

Keyboard

Word Flow. The “Swipe” style of text input is outstanding. Besides having physically more real-estate for the keyboard, this input method works surprisingly well. It’s impressively accurate and when there are mistakes, suggestions are displayed for quick changes. This is the Number 1 complaint I have with my iPhone’s on-screen keyboard. The AutoCorrect suggestions are OK, but this is a clear win for Windows Phone.

Home Screen

Live Tiles. It seems that people love them or hate them. I’m in the former camp. I like the style of app placeholders that can update their content and change dynamically. I’m happy to see the improvements Microsoft has made in this area. I don’t hate my iPhone’s home screen (Springboard), but it does feel a bit long in the tooth even with the iOS 7 update.

Advantage : iPhone / iOS

Apps

This is a huge differentiator. The Apple App Store is full of great applications. Sure it’s got it’s share of tip calculators and fart apps, but for the most part whatever you can think of there really is an app for that. My biggest complaint with Windows Phone is the Store. If you’re looking for an app, it’s probably not there. This isn’t really the fault of Microsoft it’s just the nature of the market. Developers follow the money. They go after the larger market shares for iOS and Android and WP is an afterthought at best. The curation of the Store, however, is entirely Microsoft’s fault. Search for Gmail… you’ll find about 200 results that range in price from FREE to $29.99. And though most of them use the official Gmail icon, NONE of them are from Google. I don’t care that Google hasn’t gotten around to writing a native WP app for Gmail. What I do care about is the terrible user experience this gives the user.

Camera

The Neo’s 8MP camera takes great pictures and burst mode is nice… but it’s frustratingly slow to focus… sometimes refusing to focus at all until you close and re-open it. With a 6-month-old I’ve missed more shots than I care to admit. The iPhone 5’s slightly lower resolution (5MP) camera takes photos that are just as good or better and I’ve never had an issue with focus or delay.

Printing

Bonjour/AirPrint is built into iOS. It really does just work. Wi-Fi printing is not even an option in WP8.1. In order to print a PDF that I’d downloaded on the Neo I had to save it to OneDrive and then open it again with OneDrive for the iPhone to send it to the printer. It’s the simple things that make the experience. This makes the WP platform feel like it’s not quite ready for primetime.

VPN

Admittedly not something that every user cares about but I do. For all my devices (laptops, iPhones, iPads, Surface Pro, Surface RT) I use OpenVPN to secure traffic when I’m on shared wi-fi. After some research and trying to figure out if it was even possible in WP8.1 I finally just gave up.

Conclusion

I like the Samsung hardware and I like WP8.1. I’m hopeful that the mobile OS continues to improve and gain market share as I think that’s a win for everyone. However, 2 of the 3 advantages listed above are likely to disappear this fall when Apple announces the iPhone 6 w/ iOS8. They’ve already announced 3rd-party keyboard support in iOS8 so there goes my top frustration. And if the rumors are true, a 4.7” (and possible a 5.5”) screen should alleviate my concerns with the smaller screen size.

At this point I think I’m on track to pick up the iPhone 6.

Sunday
Jul062014

Happy Birthday, UnFriend!

You may recall that I have a Facebook Rule concerning how I add friends. I'm weighing adopting another practice that I've been hearing about for a while : birthday unfriending. Instead of a devoted undertaking of re-evaluating all FB connections in a single sitting it's a simpler prospect; When Facebook reminds you of your "friend's" birthday you either wish him/her a happy birthday or unfriend them. The thought goes that if you can't be bothered to type a simple one-liner and hit Post, you're probably not really friends anyway.

It's an interesting idea. I've been meaning to clean up my friends list for some time anyway. Maybe this is the way to go.

What do you think?

Tuesday
Jun172014

Giving Up the Grandfather?

The new "Family Plan" offer from AT&T may just be enough to finally get me to give up my unlimited plan. Maybe.

Since my iPhone 3G I've been on the unlimited data plan. I've never been able to change plans before because I didn't want to have a 5GB cap. Even on the "Unlimited" data plan, I still get a warning at 5GB that the data for the remainder of my biling cycle "may be throttled". I've gotten the warning a few times and haven't really noticed any speed reductions.

My average usage is around 3GB/month, but it spikes during baseball season... Love my MLB.TV app. The new "Family Plan" they're offering is 10GB/month that's shared between 4 lines. And, it's about $30/mo less than I'm paying for 3 lines now. Since the other lines on my plan are low data users, this may be a deal I can finally live with...

... but it's hard to give up a plan that I can't get back if I change my mind.

 

Saturday
Jun142014

Not a Phone Review

Today was another "Boys' Saturday" so I headed downtown with my little man for a cup of coffee and a walk. I took a few snaps with my new Samsung ATIV S Neo.

It's not my primary phone, but I'm starting to kind of like it. Maybe it's just that it's different from what I've been using for the past few years, but I'm pretty impressed with how Windows for mobile has evolved.

The gallery is here. They're un-retouched straight out of the phone. It's an 8MP camera. I'm not sure the quality of the photos are any better than my iPhone 5, but I think they're pretty good.