Change Is Good


apple-iphone6-silverWhile I despised my time at Ralphs, I must admit that some of their perks were slightly worth the trouble. Slightly.

The major one, of course, was health benefits for myself and Anthony that set me back maybe $7 every week. If I had hung around there long enough to add Ann then they would have gone up to $15 per week. Definitely not a bad cost.

Another equated to cash back for every dollar we spent at the store. At the end of every quarter, I would get a certificate for whatever that amount was. In some cases, it was as high as $80 which could be used on anything in the store.

Then there were the other perks like getting a discount on cell phone plans which, after thinking about it, wasn’t all that spectacular even with the discount. We made the move to AT&T a few months after my start date and were with them ever since but now that I’ve parted ways with Ralphs (or vice-versa it seems), it won’t be long before American Telephone and Telegraph gets word of it and I lose my discount. I don’t even want to know what my bill would be then.

So we had to make a move and that move was going with Sprint’s “Cut Your Bill In Half” plan. It’s definitely a deceptive title all things considered since it only cuts the data portion of your bill in half so don’t expect your $150 bill to be $75 because it won’t. Granted, we are now paying less than we were with AT&T and with insurance on all three lines but as for cutting our bill in half? Oh no. It’s far, far, far from it.

As a stipulation of the plan, we had to get all new phones which was no big deal for Ann and Anthony. They chose the iPhone 6 without hesitation. They knew what they wanted.

Me? That’s another story.

It needs a lot of storage and expandable memory. Must be small enough for an armband when I go running. A good camera would be nice. Stylish would be okay, too. I’d like a nice display as well.

So as the paperwork was being filled out, I made my way around the store looking at a variety of Android phones because that’s all I’ve owned since first getting a smartphone – and I wasn’t about to change that. There was too much I enjoyed about Android, namely complete customization: launchers, the ability to make (free) ringtones from any .mp3 on the phone, widgets, and the fact that it could be treated like a hard drive which made transferring data a breeze.

Then there was the iPhone. I never liked them because everybody had one and their stigma of “sheeple” customers always bothered me. I didn’t like Apple’s proprietary nonsense with cables. I didn’t like that memory could not be expanded. I didn’t like the way Apple controls just about everything on the phone via iTunes. I didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t add widgets to the screen (I’m a big widget fan). I didn’t like much about iPhones even if I had owned and still own a few iPods. Plus, the absence of a Back and Menu button was also a big turn-off. How can I get anything done with one button? There was no way I could get used to this kind of thing even if I had an iPod touch in the past.

Besides, they were always too expensive for me.

But as I made my way around the store looking at different Android models, I discovered that no matter which one I chose, it was just the same experience I’ve had on my previous models only in a different skin. Same turkey, different bread only now the turkey was starting to get a little ripe. And I didn’t want to eat bad turkey for the next two years.

The LG G4, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and even the HTC one M9 (I was using an M7 at the time) weren’t offering anything special. Most had limitations in terms of storage or some other thing I just didn’t like, so I continued my browsing. This was the worse case of beslutfattande* I’d ever had.

And the family had grown weary with all of this, especially Anthony who had to give up his phone and lose all of his Minecraft progress. He was not happy about that. But I still couldn’t decide and continued to make the rounds in the store.

Then it happened. I threw my hands up. I gave in and pointed to the 64GB iPhone 6.

“Oh, just give me that one,” I said to Ann. Both she and Anthony were pretty shocked at my decision with Anthony asking if I was okay. He knows I loved my Android phones and was always talking smack about iPhones and their limitations.

But I didn’t have anything to lose in choosing the iPhone because I could bring it back in 14 days if I didn’t like it. I was so certain that I’d despise the thing that I told the girl at Sprint that I’d see her in a few days.

Well, it’s been a few days and I still have my iPhone. Do I like it? Let’s go over all the things I thought I’d miss.

Widgets: A widget is a live, quick-reference app that can be installed on any of your screens. It’s great for things like weather conditions, sports scores, etc. and they are one of the things that separated Android from Apple. But do I miss them on my Home screen? Nope. Not at all. They were a convenience but definitely not a necessity.

Free Ringtones: Android phones allow you to assign any .mp3 file as a Default or Contact ringtone. All you have to do is point to it and it will play that song as you assigned it. Apple charges for their ringtones through iTunes which kind of annoyed me considering I’ve already paid for my music. However, I found an app that allows you to create your own ringtones from songs in your iPhone’s music library. It’s a little tricky and still involves using iTunes to get them on your phone but it works. Solved that problem.

One Button vs. Several: Having one button isn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I’m getting used to navigating my way around the phone with only one physical button. Naturally there’s a learning curve but being I had an iPod touch, there wasn’t much to learn. I guess just the thought of having only a Home button on a device I’d use more frequently than my iPod bothered me but no, it really doesn’t now that I’m doing it.

Expandable Storage:  As of this post, I have over 2,600 songs, 9 videos, 49 apps, and a whole bunch of pictures on my 64GB iPhone. I’d say that what I have on it is pretty substantial and it gets me by. All of this and I still have over 33GB left. I don’t think I’ll have a problem with storage even if I add more music to it.

So that covers everything that made me so hesitant about the iPhone. What about the rest of it?

Size: I wouldn’t say it’s perfect because nothing really is but I will say that it’s amazing how much technology got crammed into something so thin. Even with a case on it, the iPhone still sports a very thin profile and I like that. It fits right in my pocket and armband for running, but sometimes almost seems a little too thin.

Display: It’s crisp and clear, and the camera seems to produce decent quality pictures but I have yet to shoot videos with it.

Performance: This pretty much seals the deal. With any of my Android phones, it wasn’t uncommon to get the “Unfortunately, [app name] has stopped running” warning telling you that something went funky. But I suppose this is what happens when the phone is basically a computer and treated as such: things break. With Apple having a little more control over their iOS, it seems they’ve gotten a better grip on things like this. No, I can’t say that this will never happen with an iOS device because there are some apps that crash on my iPad but not as often as they have with any Android device. The iPhone’s performance is nowhere near anything I’ve had in the past: it’s fast and fluid, and blows all of my other phones out of the water.

At this point, everything else on the phone is just a bonus. The Touch ID works as expected and I have scanned both thumbs and index fingers to allow access which makes it easier when sitting at my work desk. I also love the Ringer/Vibrate switch on the side of the phone. One flip and the sound is on/off. It’s also nice to adjust the playback speed of podcasts, something I could never do with an Android device. (I listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed so I can cram in more while at the office.)

And oh, I can find cases for it anywhere — even at the dollar store.

And as an added bonus, my Pebble watch works perfectly with the phone. It was kind of glitchy with my HTC one M7 and would sometimes reset but I have yet to experience that with the iPhone. The only thing about the Pebble that’s disappointing is the lack of apps for customization, i.e. ones that allow you to make watchfaces or reply to messages. There are none for the iPhone so that’s definitely a setback.

My earbuds also fall the under It Just Works category. Botton was response very with my unpredictable Android but not so with the iPhone.

The Verdict: I have to admit that despite my initial trepidation, I am beyond satisfied with the iPhone 6. Not only is it a great device but it’s also an entirely new experience for me and change is most definitely a good thing.

The people at Sprint won’t have to worry about seeing me within the next 12 days with phone in hand, ready to return it to them in exchange for a Samsung or LG. But with Apple reportedly announcing new models in a few weeks and our contract being a part of the iPhone Forever plan, I will most definitely be paying them a visit to upgrade to the newest model once it is available.

But I’m not camping outside the store for it. That’s just goofy.

people-are-already-in-line-for-the-iphone-6

*Beslutfattande: Swedish for “decision making.” This is what I got from proofreading several languages in the past.

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Dead., Part Deux


(Note: I started this post last night, February 25, 2014. You will see references to “today” throughout the post and at a certain point, I will explain why. Trust me, you will enjoy it.)

In a post on February 3, I mentioned that my iPod touch had suddenly and unexpectedly died and there was nothing I could do to revive it outside of visiting an Apple Store and speaking to a…Genius.

Fortunately for me, that won’t be happening. I have something to show you.

Photo Feb 25, 10 05 18 PM

See the date? That’s today. Okay, maybe that’s not enough proof. Here’s a shot with the year.

Photo Feb 25, 10 14 31 PM

As you can see, it does indeed show February 25, 2014 or today’s date.

Ladies and gentlemen, my iPod has risen from the dead like a messiah. It’s back to 100% functionality and I’ve been slowly filling it up with the music it once held, a task I really, really despise since I have so many songs in my library.

So what did I do to get this thing working again?

Dunno. I suppose if I knew exactly what I did, I would gladly tell you so that you could perform this same operation on your iPod/iPhone should it ever be terminally stuck on the “Connect to iTunes” screen no matter what you do to it:

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I tried so many different ways of resetting it that I ran out of ideas. I mean , honestly, how many can you think of with only a volume rocker, power button, and Home button? Which ones do you hold down and for how long? It’s things like this that drive me nuts about Apple and their not-so-forthcoming instructions on resetting your iPod. Makes me mad.

At any rate, I’m not entirely sure of which buttons I pressed in order to get it working but if I had to guess, I’d say it was the Power button and the Volume Down bottom.

I had read somewhere that doing so and holding them down simultaneously for around 40 second, gdio


(Flash-forward to February 26, 2014 – the REAL today)

Alright folks, here’s the story.

I worked my first eight-hour shift last night at my new job. It was from 12pm – 9pm. It was fun but tiring and the first time I worked such a shift, or eight hours in general, in a long time. I walked to and from work, a brisk 10-minutes from home, and being the job requires me to be on my feet all the time, I was pretty tired by the time I got home.

Then I thought it would be a good idea to try and write a blog post and you can see by the sentence that ends in “gdio” I didn’t quite finish. In fact, here’s a screencap of what happened while I was writing the draft:

Capture

I fell asleep a few times and managed to wake up in time to grab this, a screencap in which my hand apparently came to rest on the V key.

So there’s my explanation. Back to the post.


Anyway, yes. Holding down the Volume Down key and Power button apparently did the trick because after holding it down for so long then connecting it to the PC, iTunes happily told me that my iPod was now in Recovery Mode and had to be reset. Victory, finally! Being it was useless at this point I figured I might as well blast the drive clean and start over.

So it was done. The iPod was restored back to like-new condition (internally, at least) and complete with the “most advanced iOS ever,” aka iOS 5.1.1!

Photo Feb 23, 8 52 57 PM

Hey, it’s old. It can’t be upgraded past this version.

I’ve since started to slowly fill it back up with music which as I stated before, is a pain with my collection. Obviously, I also lost all of my apps and am slowly going through my account to see which ones I had on there when it decided to implode. I’m looking at it this way: if I can’t remember them then chances are I don’t need to download them. I’m using more apps on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and my phone anyhow so it looks like my newly revived iPod will now be dedicated 100% to music.

That’s fine with me, because looking at my downloaded app history, I have no idea why I had a Poo Tracker app on it anyhow.

Dead.


IMG_20140131_150131-picsay

Joe Mama and Motodork. Those are the respective names of the iPods you see here.

Joe Mama was purchased in 2006 after much debate over features and dimensions. My other choice was the Zen Vision: M, a player that like the iPod has seen various changes over the years. Joe Mama has served me well despite being “only” a media player and its 30GB capacity has always seemed to be just right, even if I have a 32GB card in my phone and rarely use it for music. Joe Mama has only seen one battery change since its purchase, a battery bought on eBay and replaced by yours truly. I still use Joe in the car and whenever I want to take my music with me. It’s held up flawlessly.

On the right we have Motodork, the name inspired by a perpetually jobless individual who had nothing better to do but ride his minibike up and down the streets over and over.  Motodork, originally dubbed Meatwad, was purchased in 2010 after I realized that an 8GB iPod was pretty much useless to me. Sporting a whopping 64GB in storage space, Motodork was all the iPod I would ever need and more: apps, WiFi, email, etc.

But Motodork pretty much lost any value it had left with me once I got an Android phone and started using apps and streaming music, checking email, etc. on that device. Eventually it ended up becoming my alarm clock because I didn’t need it for much else and it was even more useless when I got my tablet.

And that may be what made it angry.

You see, about a week ago, I woke up and saw the screen you see in the picture above: the “Connect to iTunes” message. I had had that message show up before and it disappeared when I either did what it said or plugged it in. The culprit is usually a battery that is so dead that it doesn’t have enough juice to even start up.

This time after trying both, nothing happened. I then tried the old reset and still nothing.

I hit the Internet and searched for relevant terms and found solutions, provided my computers would recognize the device when I connected it. At this point, iTunes can’t find it and Windows lists it as an “Unknown Device” without drivers.

I have been trying without success to revive Motodork even though Joe Mama is the true music workhorse. Apple Forums, tech blogs, advice from friends – none of it has helped.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that Motodork, which is not jailbroken I might add, is officially a paperweight after less than four years of service. And whenever I turn it on, it’s telling me to connect it to iTunes. It’s pretty much dead. The good thing is that I was in the process of selling it to a friend but I held out for whatever reason. I would have been embarrassed if it stopped working after the transaction,

But Joe Mama just keeps on plugging along, playing music just as it was intended to do, after eight years of use. It’s a testament to less being more, and more not always being the best in the long run. In fact I’m still considering a 160GB iPod Classic somewhere down the road to replace Joe Mama.

As for now, I’ll still use Joe until it decides to take a dump which is fine. I’ve already got a replacement battery ready to install.

RIP, Motodork. I hardly knew ye.

Thank You, Steve Jobs


Sad-Mac-logoIt doesn’t matter which side of the PC vs. Mac or Android vs. iPhone fence you are on because today you lost an ally. And whether you consider yourself geeky or a total n00b, you should pause for a moment to reflect and give thanks.

Steve Jobs, the magnificent mind behind the plethora of Apple products consumers know and love as well as the man that saved Pixar, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer today at the age of 56. His innovation and creative spirit will definitely be missed.

That said, we have to remember that Jobs wasn’t the first to create a lot of the products we use today but instead, he made them better by rethinking them. The Apple II wasn’t the first computer on the market but it was the first with color graphics and floppy drives (as opposed to cassette drives).

The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player either, but Jobs took the idea and brought forth his vision in the first iPod back in 2001 along with a place to buy and manage your music.

Until the iPhone came along, smartphones were limited in memory and capability but Jobs ripped that idea to shreds with his vision of a phone which pretty much changed everything. And without the iPhone and iOS, you can bet that the Android platform wouldn’t exist. Indeed, a little competition never hurt anybody.

And for years, Bill Gates labored with the idea of a tablet PC which, until Apple’s iPad came along, would still be swirling in the toilet. But with the innumerable amount of iPad clones on the market, it’s safe to say that Steve Jobs once again saw an idea and thought he could improve upon it.

With all this, though, also comes criticism and controversy.

Remember Antennagate? An unhappy iPhone 4 user emailed Jobs directly to ask him why he got poor reception when he held it a certain way.

Jobs’ reply to him was to “Just don’t hold it that way.”

Another big “duh” moment came when he introduced the new line of iPod shuffles – the ones without buttons and that relied on voice commands, with voice dictation being what every athletic person wants to do while jogging. This was remedied with the 6th generation, which appeared to be just like the 4th generation: complete with buttons and volume control. Never quite understood that.

One of the things I’ve been most critical about with iPods is that with every new generation, accessories like alarm clocks with iPod docks are made obsolete. I have two alarm clocks that won’t charge 2 of the 3 iPod touch models I own so I’ve since given one of them to Anthony to charge his 8GB iPod touch which happens to be my 1st-gen model. (Read more about all of my iPods in this post.) It’s a bit frustrating.

Regardless of the bad, I’m happy to be the owner of a myriad of iPods even if I have sold a few over the years. Whether my 30GB iPod Video I bought back in 2006 or the 64GB iPod touch I bought just last year, they have brought me hours of entertainment that I would have otherwise never experienced so conveniently. In fact, I always blog while listening to my White Noise Storm app on my iPod to clear my mind as I write.

Jobs will be missed. This was evident by the number of Wall posts and tweets by individuals and companies alike on Facebook and Twitter, all of whom either posted links or images in memory of the Apple co-founder. I’ve never seen my entire Facebook News Feed dedicated to one person’s passing which gives you an indication of how much we all admired the man’s unique way of making our lives better. Without a doubt, we’ve been enriched by what Jobs brought to the world and we probably can’t thank him enough for the way he changed the way we work, play, and communicate.

But I’ll start in the way I would have done it in high school, using an Apple IIe and Pascal:

program ThanksSteve(output);
begin
  Writeln('Thank you, Mr. Jobs. RIP.')
end.