Category Archives: Personal

Amazon Brick-and-Mortar Book Store

Went to the Amazon brick-and-mortar store at a local mall yesterday. It was very polished. Not a lot of “depth” to their stock, but not bad. And I like that prices match the online store for Amazon Prime members.
Very conflicted. On one hand I love seeing a bookstore back in the mall! That’s something I’ve missed and hated see closing at so many malls. Anything that promotes and supports people reading actual books is great!
On the other hand… it’s Amazon. I feel like they devastated the small local bookstores (as well as even some of the chains). And now that that phase is complete, they replace them. Cue evil laughter.

Apple iPad Pro Review

I was really looking forward to Apple announcing an iPad update this Fall. My iPad 3 was due for replacement, being heavy and slow due to the GPU being underpowered for the Retina display. Since the iPad Air 2 had been out for a year, I was waiting for its refresh/replacement model.

When Apple did not announce any new full-sized iPads, I was greatly disappointed.Sure, they announced a new iPad Mini, but I’d had a mini at one point, and missed the larger screen.

As time passed I started to give more and more thought to the iPad Pro that had been announced. Awesome screen. Great sound. Fast CPU and GPU. Huh.

The more I though about it and the way I tend to use my iPad, the more I thought maybe the Pro would work. So when ordering became available, I ordered one, and picked it up the next day at a local Apple store!

Here are my early impressions.

Size

Yeah, it’s not small. But the large screen is terrific. In the same way the mini screen felt to cramped to me, the Pro screen feels better than the “normal” iPad screen. The device is a little heavy, but coming from an iPad 3, which is pretty heavy itself, it’s not bad at all. Admittedly not something you want to spend a lot of time holding up in mid-air, but resting own a lap or a table is more common in my experience anyway. If you are coming from an iPad Air or a mini, your opinion about the added weight may differ from mine!

Performance

Great. Very fast and fluid. Haven’t done much that really taxes it (e.g. gaming) yet, but for my normal everyday tasks performance is great.

Features

Having an iPad with a Touch ID sensor is wonderful. I know this isn’t the first iPad to offer that, but it’s a new iPad feature for me!

The audio is impressive. Amazing sound from an iPad.

Split-screen multitasking. So so good. It took me less than a day to begin being annoyed by the apps that don’t support this feature yet. Being able to have two apps on the screen and active at the same time is a fundamental improvement in usability. Even though the pre-existing app switching functionality is pretty fast, not having to do it at all is a vast improvement in usability. Evernote in one pane for reference or not-taking with a browser or some other app in another pane is very cool. And by cool I mean “incredibly useful”.

Travel

I expect it to be transformative for travel. When we fly somewhere, the iPad becomes our major device for entertainment. TV shows and movies one the airplane, as well as in the hotel room.

Really looking forward to the larger screen for this purpose. And no more need for a Bluetooth speaker in the hotel. The audio from the iPad itself is plenty for watching video. And, I expect, for background music in the room.

Since the iPad Pro is treated like an iPad for purposes of airplane restrictions, it means that even though the screen is in the laptop size range we can use it during takeoffs and landings. And it can stay in my backpack through security.
I also expect the game of protecting a laptop screen from the suddenly reclined seat on the airplane to be eliminated by the iPad Pro as well. (I’ll admit I need to obtain the new keyboard cover and test this to be sure, but it seems like a reasonable conjecture.)

Combined with a hardware keyboard it should be able to eliminate the need for a laptop when traveling. I never got as much time to program when traveling as I thought I would anyway, and that’s about the only thing the iPad can’t do that the laptop can. And if the rumors of Xcode for the iPad Pro are true…

Accessories

The Apple Pencil. The Smart Keyboard. Two things I don’t have. When I pre-ordered my iPad Pro, I foolishly thought it would be the hard-to-get item and the accessories would be readily available and I could grab them once I decided how the device itself was going to work for me. Oops. I have both on order, but by the time I decided to place those orders, the deliver time was 4-5 weeks out. Sigh.

I’ve heard nothing but good about the Pencil. So even though I’m in no way an artist, I want to take a look. I do like to sketch diagrams and such, so I’m hopeful it will be useful even for me.

I’m a little more uncertain about the keyboard/cover combo. If Xcode for the iPad ever does actually appear, then OMG yes yes yes. But since I’m not a writer, or even a rabid blogger, I don’t find myself typing that much on an iPad. I suspect that multitasking (and the larger screen) might change that equation a bit for me, but up until now I was much more of a “consumer” on my iPad than a creator.
But the laptop-replacement aspect of the device seems to be related to having a well integrated keyboard, so in for a penny, in for a pound.

Bottom line is I’m looking forward to trying them both!
And if the keyboard isn’t useful for me, it would be for my wife. Who does not have an iPad Pro. But if it is as useful for me as I think it’s going to be, it would be even more useful for her. So I’m expecting/fearing we might have to become a two iPad Pro family at some point. 🙂

Summary

Wonderful screen real estate, fast, enough space for multitasking to be comfortable. I love it so far.

Unification Day!

Today I merged my blogs. Yes, I’m at that advanced level where I can ignore and fail to update not one but two blogs!

One was more technology related, and hosted on my company site (Stormgate Software), and one was this one, a more personal blog.

The theory was that I’d post things related to the company, or software and hardware technology in general on the “business” blog, and post personal stuff here. That way I could point potential employers etc. at my tech blog, and not at my more personal stuff.

The reality is that even my personal blog contained a fair amount of technology posts, and really nothing that I’d feel uncomfortable about having as part of my online digital extended “resume”.

If there is anything truly personal, it tends to go on my Facebook page. And even there I try and avoid anything too polarizing or private. I’m linked on FB with both current and former co-workers, so even there I keep in mind the potential variety of my audience. And if someone want to not hire me because I support, say, women in technology, would I want to work for them anyway?

I’m hoping that by careful categorization and tagging the mix of tech and “other” will co-exist nicely.

My goal is to post more blog articles as well. We’ll see how that goes!

E-Books Update for Early 2014

Just wanted to give an update on my slow but steady transition to E-Books – a process that took on new urgency when we went from suburban life to apartment renters in downtown San Diego.

As someone who has spent a lifetime collecting, reading, and cherishing physical books, this has been a challenging journey. As the technology gets better, it has become easier though.

With my latest acquisition of the new Nook Glowlight (the one released at the end of 2013, not to be confused with the Nook SimpleTouch Glowlight which was its predecessor) this transition has become even easier to accept.

In the beginning, E-Books were read either on a Mac or PC, and the mobile hardware was pretty clunky. Today we have Retina iPads and very nice E-Ink readers. My latest Nook is E-Ink, and although my original Nook was also, this one is miles ahead.

It’s actually getting to the point where in many ways I’m preferring reading on my Nook versus a physical hardcover. Sure, this was always the case when portability was the main factor. “Hey, I can take ten novels with me on the plane, and it takes up less space and weight than one hardcover!”

But now I’m finding that the technology has improved to the point where even when the weight and size isn’t an issue, the experience is as good or better.

What factors are bringing about this change? Here they are, in no particular order.

  • Incredible reductions in size and weight. My new Nook weighs about the same as a moderate paperback, and about half of what a really think paperback weighs.
  • Higher resolution screen. It’s getting pretty close (~210dpi) to printed resolution. Close enough that it’s not obvious that it’s an electronic page rather than a paper one.
  • Frontlight for reading in the dark. The new Glowlight is pretty good, with only some mild darkening at the very top of the page. Fantastic for low-light situations. And since it’s front-light versus back-light like an iPad etc. it should have less of the sleep-impacting effects that have been reported for LCD displays.
  • No page-flip “flash” that previous generations of E-Ink typical had.

And then there’s the other factors that have been present for a while: The ability to carry hundreds of books, weeks of battery life, and (if reading a book purchased from Barnes & Noble) the ability to read those books on my iPhone or iPad with my place in the book being synced between the devices. Oh, and not having to try and hold a book open when eating lunch etc. is pretty nice as well.

I’m not ready to abandon my physical books just yet – nothing is going to replace that experience. But for my general reading, I think I’m about at the point where I no longer see switching to E-Books as a necessary compromise to accommodate our new less-burdened lifestyle, but as a pretty nice way to enjoy reading.

Roadster Mods

I will say this about the handsfree phone – MINI did an amazing job with the noise canceling. My wife was on the highway, top down, windows up, windscreen in place, and I could hear her just fine. Sounded like a little running water in the background, but that was it. Super impressed by that capability.

Here’s my list of mods for the new Roadster, in general priority order:

  • Invisishield on the nose (done)
  • MINI license plate frames (done)
  • CravenSpeed Platypus front plate mount (done)
  • Short antenna (done) (MINI version but might have done CravenSpeed if I’d though about it more)
  • ScanGuage (done)
  • CravenSpeed mounts for GPS and ScanGuage (enroute)
  • Suspension, discussed ad nauseum in other threads. Summary: JCW Suspension if I can wait, Koni FSD, 19mm rear sway, and perhaps camber plates and control arm bushings if I cannot.
  • JCW Tune (not something you need of course!)

Items above have 95% probability, below are pure wishlist

  • JCW Aero kit side skirts
  • JCW Brakes

I had the strut brace on my JCW and did like the look for sure, although I didn’t drive the car such that I really noticed it. That might happen too in a moment of weakness.

The Roadster Arrives!

Our new Roadster is finally tucked away in our garage!

Here it is at the MINI of St. Louis dealership waiting for us to drive it home.

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We took delivery a few hours ago. Everything at MINI of St. Louis went very smoothly. Our MA Karen and the rest of the team there really made it a great experience.

We basically just drove it home, so not a lot of first impressions.

I enjoyed driving it, but need some daylight, and a chance to get everything adjusted to take it out and really see how it feels. Also trying to stay within the break-in period limits makes it hard to really get a good feel for the acceleration and braking.

Even with windows up and windscreen in place, my ears were getting a bit cold on the highway (~49 degrees F). Conversation was quite practical under those conditions though. And the heated seats work great as they have in our previous MINIs – another area where the MINI is a great contrast to our utilitarian (work) Prius.

The car looks great and I’m really anxious to get it out in the sun and really take a good look at it, and get some serious pictures. They’re predicting rain for us tomorrow, so it might be Wednesday before that happens. It will give me time to play with MINI Connected, get the phones paired up and so on.

My 370Z was a great car, but it felt so right to be back in the MINI fold again!

My first challenge is figuring out the correct tire pressure. Dealer delivered it at ~32psi. Door sticker and manual say 41psi. Mentioned it to my MA and the response she relayed from ? said that 41 is maximum and they recommend 32-35.

Roughly 25% lower than door sticker seems awfully low to me… I set it to 39psi and will see how it feels.

…time passes…

Just took a quick spin with 39psi. Rode a bit rougher of course. Not excessive but rougher. Need more time to really tell though.

FYI, the tires are: Continental ContiProContact SSR 205/45R17 84V

MINI Roadster – Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts about our MINI Roadster, which is due to arrive in a few days!

Our local dealer just got their “demo” Roadster in, and I had to swing by and take a look.

A few random thoughts came to mind. Maybe because that’s all I’m thinking about until ours arrives next week!

  • The seats fold forward. I understand why – they can’t make custom non-folding seats for the Roadster’s volume, but it does seem funny.
  • I’m disproportionately excited at the thought of having an actual useful trunk on a car again! (sorry – “boot”) See attached pic. Our recent fleet has been a Prius (hatch), 370Z (hatch), and a MINI Convertible (trunk, but not super useful…).
    The ability to open the pass-through door between the seats and reach into the boot (got it right that time!) is going to be really really handy, especially on road trips. And then to be able to stow valuables (iPad etc.) back there and lock it without making that obvious to potential miscreants when stopping for fuel and food – terrific.
  • I’m surprised by how much I liked the look of the front and rear compared to the JCW aero kit. As in, in some ways I like the normal look better than the JCW. Not by much, and in other ways I like the JCW better, but my net conclusion is that I’m ok not having it. (and not just saying that because I didn’t order it)
  • The JCW aero kit side skirts are another matter – man, I like those. If it’s possible to just buy those and have them installed, I see some (more) money flowing from my pocket into MINIs in the near future.

A Nice Story

Every now and then I see something in the news that restores my faith in humanity.
This nice story about adoption, and what makes a family is one of those.

Why Family Adopted a Grown Man

Southwest Airlines

We’re flying to Denver to visit some friends, and on a nice direct Southwest flight.

I really do like flying Southwest. The entertaining way that their flight attendants have of giving the safety briefings is really clever. Like a good television commercial (think Jack-In-The-Box) you wind up paying attention because it’s funny.

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Flat Tire

Linda had a flat tire on her MINI today.

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Loading onto the flatbed for the trip to Tire Pro.

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