I’ll Never Part With You


IMG_20130902_155345Me and my old iPod Video have been through a lot. Heck, I remember the day I bought it and how, up to the minute I walked to the register to pay for it, I was still contemplating buying the Zen Vision:M (but they were out of stock).

But in the end I felt I had made the right choice, especially after seeing a coworker’s face beam with jealousy after showing it to her – she was still using one of those old music-only models with the LCD display in 2006.

I’ve had my share of accessories for it including a Timex watch that, with the dongle inserted into the charging/data dock, allowed me to control the music as well as volume from the watch (the music controls being limited to skipping and rewinding). This would have been great if I was into running at the time, but did come in handy on those road trips we took with it.

Flash-forward to when I bought my first iPod Touch. Once I was taken in by everything this nifty little gadget could do, my old iPod Video started collecting dust in the drawer, rarely to see the light of day. Why should it? All it did was play music. It had no WiFi, no apps (although I did have Tetris on it when Apple actually sold games for it via iTunes), a small screen, and was bulky. From that point on, it pretty much because useless.

But I refuse to get rid of it, even if Apple has made deleting songs from it such a monumental task. In fact I had to download different software to do it since Apple virtually bricked this thing with the latest iTunes “upgrade”.

This iPod is ugly, it’s clunky, but it’s in near-pristine condition due to the great care its owner gave it. From Day 1, it’s been wrapped in a thin plastic protective sheet and then encased in a hard plastic case for further protection. The silver backing is practically scratch-free save for the few marks I left on it when changing the battery, something that is darn near impossible with the new iPods.

And I still love the thing.

So much so that selling it is the furthest thing from my mind. It’s not worth the time or trouble to do it anyway. Here’s what Best Buy is offering for it as part of their trade-in program:

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It doesn’t matter if this thing was touched by the hand of God and signed by him/her in gold ink, they wouldn’t give me a dime for it. I checked Amazon and the going rate is around $16 provided it meets their criteria. And eBay? Pfft. $30, tops. That’s exactly $1 per gigabyte of storage.

To me, it’s just not worth my time to go out of my way to sell the thing when the sentimental value I have in it far outweighs anything anyone is willing to give me for it. Not only that, it’s still cool to bring out and use now and then for nostalgic purposes even if the nostalgia is only 7 years old.

Yes, my current iPod does more than this one and my phone does even more than both. But even so, I’m holding on to this classic piece of technology for as long as I can and continue to use it as I see fit.

Well, that’s until Apple decides it doesn’t want to support it anymore…

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Wii U Experience in Los Angeles


Saturday was a busy day for us.

In addition to attending an L.A. Galaxy soccer game, the family went to the invitation-only Wii U Experience in Los Angeles (or more precisely, Hollywood) to experience firsthand what Nintendo’s latest system has to offer.

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The event was held at Siren Studios on Sunset Boulevard and was scheduled to last two hours. There was a pretty big crowd waiting to get in when we got there at around 11 am, our scheduled time. Once we were checked in, we were issued our snazzy IDs with lanyard.

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Anthony was more than happy to put his on and get to gaming.

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After we were issued our IDs, we made our way into the studio to a small holding area where we waited until the previous group was cleared out and the studio cleaned. I’ll explain why in a bit.

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Now this was cool. These kiosks were located at various locations in the studio, each with an event attendant. What they would do was tap your ID on the plus symbol, have you strike a pose, then look at the camera (see the small black dot below the Nintendo logo) for a photo and you were done. If you previously linked your Facebook account to your ID, the images were immediately posted to your page. Here are our pictures taken in the holding area and then with Mario.

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I couldn’t get Mario to throw a peace sign. Oh well.

Once inside we were allowed to wander as we pleased.

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Music was pumping and all of the event workers were very enthusiastic; it made for a great vibe. (Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” was first on the playlist and seemed to fit perfectly.) Here’s Anthony giving Scribblenauts Unlimited a try with a little assistance.

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Many of the games were still in the development phase and had working titles like The Wonderful 101 and Game & Wario.

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One of the more fun games we tried was Wii Fit U, the third entry in the Wii Fit series. Like the other games, it was a demo version and could vary greatly by the system’s  launch. I tried the trampoline minigame and racked a score that the attendant told me was one of the highest she’d seen to date. That or she was just being nice.

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I was happy to learn that my current Wii Fit Balance Board is compatible with Wii U but disappointed that like the last generation Wii, it will not support Gamecube games. I guess I’ll just have to hold onto my old Wii system if that’s the case. Aside from that, Wii Fit U looks to be a must-have for anybody who enjoyed the previous incarnations.

Of course with all of this gaming going on, you need some refreshments. There were plenty.

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This is what I meant about cleaning the place up since there were plastic bottles everywhere when we left.

One of the other games we tried was Nintendo Land which consists of a bunch of minigames like Mario Party.

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The image above shows a hide-and-seek type of game in which the person holding the main controller is Mario and is given a 10-second head start to run and hide. Mario’s exact location is only visible on the control’s display to the player controlling Mario while the other players (up to four) must rely on a hot-cold bar at the bottom of their screen. Overall, I was a bit disappointed at how slow Mario moved and as a result, I was found in no time flat.

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New Super Mario Bros. U looks to be everything Mario fans might be expecting: multiplayer, new moves, new powers. It was the most popular game there and while we only tried it once, it was definitely fun.

And if you wanted to try a 3DS system, there were a few of those around as well. Both Ann and Anthony loved it.

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The place was riddled with white leather couches and these cubes that changed color. I wanted to take one home.

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There were also contests on some of the games with the winners getting small prizes. I almost won the Wii Fit U competition but was edged out. Anthony was near the host as he awarded the winner her prize then looked at Anthony, reached into his goodie bag, and game him a small tin of mushroom candies. Very cool!

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Not to be outdone, I also won a prize at the end of the event when the host was asking trivia questions. The question I answered was simple enough if you know Nintendo’s history:

“Which was the first game Nintendo ever made?”

The answer: playing (or hanafuda) cards. Nobody else was even close! I won a little Koopa figurine that I immediately handed over to Anthony.

After the trivia questions, we escorted out and got yet another treat: mushroom cake pops! Could this day get any better?

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Here’s a close-up. I ate it and didn’t grow as I had hoped but it was delicious.

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And I saw these on the way out which I thought were great. You know, in case you had to go Wii before you went home.

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We entered this event knowing very little about the Wii U and left it wanting to put my name on the waiting list. While the chances of that happening are pretty slim at the moment because of the Wii U’s price point of $349.99 for the 32GB system with one game, it’s definitely on my list down the road. It’s taken the Wii concept to a new level that won’t appeal to all gamers but it still a whole lot of fun. Keep in mind that we only played games at this event and did not see all that the Wii U is capable of doing: video chat (controller has a front-facing camera), TV remote control, DVR capabilities, etc.

The Wii U Experience was indeed memorable. Thanks to all involved for being great hosts and for answering all questions we had regarding the system. I’d better start saving my spare change for this one.

Welcome Home, Endeavour


It’s been quite an amazing year in terms of astronomy and things related to the subject.

So far this year, we’ve witnessed a handful of events including the Super Moon, a solar eclipse, and the Venus transit. We also witnessed the Perseid Meteor Shower which was indeed amazing but because I couldn’t provide photographic evidence due to the illumination in my part of the city (and honestly, my lack of skills in shooting meteors), I didn’t blog about it. The only thing I can say about it is this: wow. If you’ve never taken the time to see it, do yourself a favor and make it a point next year.

And today, we here in southern California witnessed the final ferried flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour before it takes up permanent residence at the California Science Center. The media coverage on this event was absolutely insane but the one thing missing was the actual flight pattern of the shuttle; we only knew that it was supposed to make the rounds across local landmarks as seen below:

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And up until this map was released, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t be able to see it because of where I work. But once I took a good look at the map I soon realized that my office – I’m down near the last downward-pointing arrow on the right below Boeing – was in the projected flight path.

Just in case, I charged my camera battery the night before and took the camera with me. According to all reports, it was expected to arrive over southern California at about 11:30 am so I headed up to the top of our parking structure at that time. From that point on, I was depending on Twitter updates and newsradio reports to let me know where the shuttle was.

It wasn’t until about 12 pm when more people began to show up. It was lunchtime, you know. So I continued to get reports on the location of the shuttle.

Santa Monica. Malibu. Approaching downtown L.A. Hollywood sign. Griffith Park. JPL.

Then, finally, heading south toward Disneyland – and my office.

I had turned off the radio and Twitter and put my trust in my own eyes as well as the reactions of the people who had gathered. Once they started pointing and running, I knew it had arrived.

One problem: it didn’t fly over us as scheduled. From what I had seen, a plane departed John Wayne Airport very close to the time the shuttle was supposed to fly over us. (This is only my speculation; there may be another reason for it.) Unfortunately, this meant that the shuttle missed flying over us entirely, but I was still able to see it.

Here are a few of the shots from today, cropped to the subject since they had to be diverted.

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Since it flew by so quickly, most of the shots I took look like this. The one below is about the only different composition.

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It happened so fast I didn’t really have time to think about what I was witnessing: the final ferried flight of any Space Shuttle orbiter. It truly is the end of an era in both NASA and American history.

I stood on top of the structure taking pictures until Endeavour was no longer visible. I was just glad I had the opportunity to see it in flight for my first and final time.

Endeavour now sits at Los Angeles International Airport where it will be removed from the back of the modified 747 and in October, moved via trailer to the California Science Center.

And depending on when that move happens, I will try my best to be a part of that as well. Either way, you can bet we will make many, many trips to see it once on display.

Welcome home, Endeavour. We’re happy to have you here.

Review: LG Optimus Elite for Virgin Mobile


eliteYou might recall a post I wrote in April in which I was debating whether to stick with Virgin Mobile or move on to T-Mobile since Virgin was going to make it practically impossible for users to avoid rate increases by implementing said increases upon the activation of any smartphone released after May 2012.

I thought long and hard about it and decided to stick with them by buying the Optimus Elite, and here is my review of the device which I’ve had for a couple of weeks.

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Virgin Mobile to Sell iPhone on June 29


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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all day, you’ve no doubt heard about Virgin Mobile’s earth-shattering yet not entirely unexpected plan to finally bring the iPhone to the U.S. (it’s been in other markets for quite some time now). It will be sold at Virgin Mobile’s site, Radio Shack, Best Buy and “select local retailers” as stated in the official press release.

This comes on the heels of Cricket’s announcement just about a week ago:

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Looks familiar, no?

Let me give you the good news first. Virgin Mobile’s pricing structure remains intact but if you enroll in Auto-Pay, you get a $5 discount on your monthly bill:

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So what could possibly be the bad news? Virgin Mobile will start selling the phones on June 29 at the following unsubsidized prices:

  • iPhone 4 8GB: $549
  • iPhone 4S 16GB: $649

Those prices are $150 more than Cricket’s but Virgin Mobile’s pricing structure has them beat by a little bit in that Cricket only offers a $55 unlimited everything for their iPhone. Of course, “unlimited” data comes that proviso that you will be throttled at 2.5GB of 3G data usage for Virgin Mobile and 2.3GB for Cricket. Still, an iPhone for a little as $30/mo. with 300 minutes and unlimited messaging and web sounds like a good deal. Customers under contract might be paying $30 for data alone.

In the end, is it all worth it? There’s been a lot of buzz about this since Cricket announced their iPhone. Thankfully, the math – never my strong suit – has been done for me via Cult of Mac. They were kind enough to crunch the numbers and come up with this chart of pricing across all iPhone carriers (click to see full article):

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It’s pretty clear that Virgin Mobile has them all beat if you are willing to go with less minutes – does anybody still call anyone anymore? – than Sprint and Cricket per month.

And while it really is a phenomenal deal on the surface, coming up with that initial $549 or $649 that might just be a problem for some customers, myself included. It’s one of those things that, if I decided to go that route, I would have to wait for until next tax time when I usually have some extra jingle in my pocket.

Besides, I’m eyeing the Optimus Elite. It’ll bump my monthly plan to $35 (currently $25) but it seems to be all the phone I need at the moment and not only that, I want to upgrade from my Optimus V. It’s still a good phone but I think it’s time to move up to something better and I don’t feel like switching over to T-Mobile nor do I have $600 lying around the house.

Only time will tell if Cricket and Virgin Mobile take a bite out of the other carriers who offer the iPhone under contract and subsidized but after taking all of this in, what do you think? Will you go for it or take a pass on it?