Election 2012: We’re all in this together. Or, calm the frack down.

I rarely write about political matters on this blog, but I do feel the need to speak on this topic.

I’m sure we are all glad the nation’s crazy season is over, but the emotional responses to the outcome have sadden me. It is time to put our emotions and fear in check, dig deep and get things done. Silly signs, racial Twitter slurs, threatening people’s jobs, and talk about armed rebellions and seceding from the union are not going to solve our nation’s problems.

We need to discuss big issues and solve them with intelligence and compassion, not ideology and hatred. America can be sane and civil. Opposing viewpoints are needed moving forward, but they should be based on logic not fear.

I’m sure you are thinking “this is easy for me to write because my candidate won.” Honestly, I would feel the same way if the other candidate won. I would want either person to be successful as POTUS. In reality, both men would govern from the middle.

Bottom line, do something more than just express an emotional opinion and attempt to punish those that don’t think they way you do.

Start by seeing the Lincoln movie.

 

Quick impressions of the iPhone 5

I’ve used the device for about three weeks and I am pretty happy. It’s the best iPhone I’ve had yet. On the Verizon network, it rocks.

Pros

  • Faster processing and better reception. Recent trips to Mammoth Cave and the Mojave Desert yielded good signal strength. No dropped calls yet.
  • LTE speeds. Zoom. Indy, Yorktown, and I-69 have it. I’m finding many areas with LTE coverage. Web pages and traffic apps load information faster.
  • iOS 6 is very polished. I’m glad Apple unburied the Bluetooth setting.
  • The camera is awesome. It did a better job of taking pictures than my Canon Elph 500 HS on recent trips.

Cons

  • New dock connector. Apple is slow on shipping out adapters and cables.
  • Form factor and size. Originally, I found it too light and I kept misplacing it. The old trick of lifting up the jacket to see if the phone was in it didn’t work. Incipio’s DualPro Hard Shell Case with Silicone Core solved that problem.

Gadget guy versus the Google

I recently bought a movie on YouTube from the GoDigital channel. It was the HD version of Atomic Filmmakers. The film was is a part of Peter Kuran’s impressive nuclear testing documentaries that began with Trinity and Beyond.

I settled down to watch the movie with my AppleTV and was irritated to find that one cannot view purchased YouTube videos through the device. Undaunted, I decided to use Airplay to stream the content from one of my Macs. Unfortunately, only my Macbook Air would work and that was charging. I wasn’t able to stream from my iPhone or iPad. I found a solution for my older iMac called AirParrot. This software enabled me to stream audio and video. I was impressed with the simple setup. Streaming quality was superb. The HD picture lost little detail when streaming. There was occasional minor pixelation. Buffering was fast and there were no stalls. AirParrot falls into the recommend category for me.

 

It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage

Raiders of The Lost ArkI took the family to see Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark: The IMAX experience. The film has been digitally remastered for IMAX and is being shown this week only.

The Saturday 4:20 p.m. showtime at the nearest IMAX was not very crowded. That’s probably to be expected for a film from the 1980s. Still, the family was excited to see Raiders on a big, big screen. The movie is one of my favorites. I was curious how IMAX’s Digital Media Remastering process would treat the source material. I generally find the digital IMAX conversions can be hit or miss, especially with digital projection creating muddy blacks and dim colors.

I shouldn’t have worried. According to the New York Times article, the conversion process was supervised by director Steven Spielberg and sound designer Ben Burtt. The film was quite enjoyable in both picture quality and especially sound mixing. Fight scenes had an extra dimension, especially in the Nepal bar and flying wing sequences. Indy’s gun sounded like a canon and bullets whizzed past the audience’s ears. I felt the punches.

Some shots were not as clear, especially in the opening temple sequences. I suspect the original source material was out of focus, and the DMR process attempted to correct for that. For every small flaw, though, the majority of the famous sequences — such as the climatic ending when the Ark is opened — were quite impressive. During the Well of Souls sequence,  I was fascinated by special effects wizard Richard Edlund’s clouds. All of the effects work still holds up. Spielberg made a wise choice not to introduce new effects or alter elements. If only his pal Lucas would pay attention.

The film opened on 9/6 at number 14 at the box office. According to Wikipedia, it has grossed $1,673,731 from 267 theaters ($6,269 theater average) as of 9/11.

All of the Indiana Jones movies will be released on Blu-ray on Sept. 18th. I am looking forward to viewing The Last Crusade in HD.

No more free ride: Local newspaper starts charging for online access

Screenshot from The Star Press
The Star Press has started charging for online access.

I’ve been following the outcry regarding the local newspaper’s efforts to charge for online access. The Star Press —  like all of the other Gannett-owned newspapers — started charging website visitors $10 a month to read articles.

Disclosure: I worked at The Star Press for about a decade as a graphics editor, copy editor, page designer and online editor before leaving in 2008. Although I have been critical in the past for the newspaper’s management and policies, this time I wish to applaud their courageousness.

Of course, people are displeased and venting on Facebook. The comments and entertaining and sad at the same time. Here’s the bottom line:

The cost for a digital subscription is about roughly 33 cents a day. That’s less than the newsstand issue (last time I checked, $1 daily and $1.75 on Sundays).

A visitor can view seven articles in a month before a subscription is required. That’s a little low for my tastes, actually, but access to the obituaries, home page, index page and wire stories are still free. If you subscribe to a print edition, you get online access for free. The other thing I noticed is that the digital subscribers get access to more online features (view them here). One can also create sub accounts to share access with fellow relatives or friends.

Here are some of the “best” comments on this situation from thestarpress.com Facebook page:

they already make money from the advertisements. Now the people that pay for those advertisements will not reach any where near the audience they did before. So the SP and their parent company will probably end up loosing money because if the Business are smart, they will realize that their adds are not reaching many people now.

Many are pretending to have insight on newspaper budgets. The individual above seems to forget the difference between receiving money and making a profit. The Star Press receives money for online advertisements, but it is not enough to cover web expenses and make a profit.

Other people are pretending to be experts in on what it takes to get a daily newspaper online and Facebook Terms of Service:

Perhaps you should read the terms of service for Facebook and make sure what you’re doing with your links is in compliance with the rules. I’d bet my pay check it isn’t. I have to pay for advertise my products through them, you should too

Someone should take that bet. Facebook’s Terms of Service has no such prohibition, nor is there any such stipulation in the advertising guidelines. Many businesses post links on their pages to products and services.

Facebook profile picture
Hint: Combining the international symbol for “no” with the word “free” means one is against free.

A few people are so annoyed that have created Facebook groups and pages in hopes of getting The Star Press to change the policy.  I’m amused by a profile picture from one of the groups. To quote a line from The Princess Bride, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I could go on with quoting more silly comments, but I chose not to spread ignorance.

Some commentators have expressed concerns about how advertisers are going to pull their online ads because traffic will now diminish. In reality, advertisers look for targeted, niche audiences. It’s not exposure they are seeking, it is an audience. If a person cannot spend $10 a month to read an online newspaper, I suspect that individual is not an ideal audience for any online advertiser. Those that subscribe have demonstrated — to some effect — that they have disposable income, are relatively interested in their local community and live in the area. That should get advertiser’s attention.

Sure, The Star Press could have done a better job of handling this change. A FAQ page and answering some common questions/clarifying the misinformation on the Facebook page would help. The business model could be tweaked. Some ideas:

  • Advertisers (including classifieds) should get free for specified amount of time.
  • The price should include unlimited access to the archives.
  • The price and login should work with all Indiana Gannett newspapers (Indy Star, Richmond Palladium-Item, Journal and Courier).
  • An option should be offered for daily and per article access. People could set up an account and use micropayments to view an article, say like 5 cents an article.
  • Charge people to comment on the articles. The Star Press could make a mint from some of the most prolific posters. And if they stop posting, it’s a win/win.
  • Add anniversaries, engagements and classifieds to the free areas. Obituaries, the home page, index pages and the wire pages are all free.
  • Increase the free view limit to 15 a month.

In the end, the free ride is over, folks, and this should be no shock. We have known that newspapers have struggled for years. Advertising and subscriptions have dwindled. There are more competing news sources. Expenses (people, ink, paper, fuel) have increased. The industry has done a ton of cost cutting, but now it is looking to raise revenue with its core product. Some may not find value for the trivial cost being charged, citing quality concerns. Keep in mind, thought, that giving a product away for free on a daily basis often results in lower quality and the company going out of business. Want better quality? Put your money where your Facebook post is.

Funny Internet saying.

NASA motivates life changes for the better

My wife and I have been fortunate enough to be involved with NASATweetups.

Our first foray was with the last shuttle launch, STS 135, at Kennedy Space Center on July 7-8, 2011. You can read about our experiences on my wife’s blog. I wasn’t officially part of the Tweetup. Instead,  I and her boys watched the launch from a boat.

The event was life changing for all (Julie’s blog entry). Julie and I had been dating for roughly about 8 years. The end of the shuttle era gave us a kick in the pants to contemplate our next step.

By the time I attended the Juno Mission NASA Tweetup on August 4-5, we had decided to combine our two households and get married.

We moved into our dream home in October. During one of the first days in our new house, I proposed by using a space shuttle Lego kit (the Shuttle Expedition kit 10231) The robot arm held the ring. We were married on 11/11/11.

Our passion for space — specifically the Farscape television series — originally brought us together many moons ago. Now it continues to strengthen our relationship.

This year, Julie attended the Tweetup even (read her blog entry) on the unveiling of the proposed budget for NASA. She had a good time at the conference and touring NASA HQ in Washington, D.C.

Our honeymoon — a very brief one — came in the form of attending the Glenn Research Center’s first Tweetup. Yes, we spent our honeymoon in Cleveland in March.

I’ll create separate pages about my NASA Tweetup experiences (Juno and Glenn) in the future. I have plenty of content and thoughts to share. Both experiences were deeply moving and helped me feel young and optimistic again. This was something much needed after the tragic death of my mother in a car accident in July 2009. In a way, NASA saved my soul.

In the meantime, Julie and I continue to look for ways to share the wonders of space with each other and our children.

The winds of change are blowing

It’s been a busy several months filled with life changes since I last posted. My soulmate and I bought a new house. Next, we got married in a ceremony in the backyard. I’ve been lax on the blogging, but will have much more to say, especially regarding the new house. Stay tuned.

By the way, say hello to my new weather widget on the left. I finally mounted my Davis Vantage Vue weather station on a tripod in the new backyard. It is sending weather data to Weather Underground via Davis Weatherlink. I’m very impressed with the Vantage Vue. The Weatherlink software was an add-on, but it allows me to publish detail weather observations to the web.

Fun on craigslist

Whenever I post something for sale on Craigslist, I always get the usual scammer. A person — that  can barely write — wants to send me a certified check and then have someone pick the item up. Sometimes, they even ask me to ship it. Of course, they are always out of the country.

Riiiiiiiight.

Well, here’s my latest ad:

2008 iMac, 20 inch. Apple Product number FA876LL/A  Great condition.
Hard drive: 250 GB
Memory: 4 GB
Processor: Intel Core Duo 2 2 GHz
8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
$750 cash only. No shipping. Local deals only. You bring cash, we meet in person in Muncie, you get computer. 

Note the italics. Well I’ll be darned if an asshat (aka Jackson Booker at jackbooker09@gmail.com but I doubt that is a real name) still didn’t try to scam me:

Thanks for your response, am happy that the listing is still available
and am okay with the price, but I will be unable to come with cash
because I’m presently out of state on a business trip, but I can
easily have a certified bank check on your name here and have it mail
out to you, so If you’re okay with the mode of payment, please get
back to me with your home address, payee name that will be on the
check and a valid phone number( not voice mail )… Once you received
your payment, I will then let my shipper come for the pick up , so you
don’t have to worry about the shipping . Thanks

No, I don’t think I am going to give you my home address and a valid phone number. I wasn’t born yesterday. If I had time, I would probably mess with the scammer, but I’m busy and have enough idiots in my life.

The Mac is still for sale, BTW.

Ooma VOIP goes down and people get stupid

I woke up to an Ooma outage today. Ooma is a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service which I have had for years. It’s mostly been reliable, except a few glitches.

However, today’s outrage was major — across the country. Ooma suffered a similar outage in 2009, but apparently didn’t learn any lessons.

The company’s communication was poor. Even though it has a Twitter account (ooma_status), it did not communicate to customers that there was a problem. Worse, the entire system seemed to go wacky. One could not log into the website and forward numbers to cell phones. Voicemail was also not working.

Luckily, I was able to find out from others what was going on via the Ooma Facebook page. Ooma subscribers were reporting the failures. Ooma did not respond for four hours. Guess they weren’t awake on the left coast, eh? The outage last about four hours and Ooma finally communicated what was going on. However, their comments were even less than reassuring:

Network connectivity has been restored and affected boxes should be coming back online (Tweeted at 1 p.m. EDT)

Outages occur. I understand, but it seems Ooma doesn’t have a good backup plan and did not learn lessons from the 2009 outage. That is of concern. Further, the company was uncommunicative during the incident. That’s bad business. A company should communicate the status of its service because it is basic customer service. It is also good PR and brand protection.

I suggest Ooma look at separating data centers and implementing a better protocol for communicating outages.

Enough pounding on Ooma, though. What has really irked me are some of the stupid comments left on the Ooma Facebook page. The comments make me wonder if there should be a test before someones gets a computer. Here are the lowlights:

The problem was quite evident. Ooma was down. The cause, solution, and timeline are a completely different story. What did you want them to do? Post that the service was down? I think even the non-techies figured that out by themselves.

Huh? Yes, I do think they should post their service was down, especially if they have a Twitter account being used for that purpose.

Your all complaining about not having service or no response from the company on here and wanting something free. Just think of this, had it been a landline company they WOULDN’T have given you squat!

I’m not wanting something for free. I pay for Ooma.  I disagree that a landline company wouldn’t have given me squat. AT&T would have answered the phone, tested the line, informed me of the problem, and, if needed, sent a repair crew out.

 To the rest of you bitching about it, remember one thing, your paying less than $5/mo and you are using someone elses internet to deliver your phone service. If its “absolutely mission critical” then don’t blame ooma, blame yourself for being a cheap asshat. Otherwise shutup and be grateful for the money your saving.

Actually, I’m paying more than that. And since I am a paying customer, I believe I have a right to complain. Ooma is not mission critical for me, but the arrogance and ignorance of the above commenters just astounds me. So, Sean AndradeJames Huff, and Ray Dzek, y’all get the insightful comment awards today, my friends.

And  let’s add a new one:

REALITY CHECK!!! Everyone who is complaining about a brief interruption of service needs to relax! Do you get this worked up when your high speed internet (that you pay for) is out, or when your online banking is unavailable, or when your expensive cable/satellite programming is messed up? Or how about when the electric service to your home goes out? Or when the water company has a main break? Or how about when your cell phone drops a call???

Yes. Also, I get worked up when people tell me not to get worked up, so don’t do it, Tom Stimson

And the hits just keep oncoming:


 You get what you pay for Scott. If you want a service with 100% guaranteed no down time, you would pay a lot for it and probably wouldn’t even be able to find a company that could support that.

The problem yesterday is that paying customers were not getting what they paid for. Valerie Gary is also mistaken that I and others expect  100% guaranteed no down time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice try, spammers

Received today:

You have one new alert message!

Account: AT&T Home Phone & DSL Internet

Subject: Security Alert!

Received: 28/07/2011 – 13:11 PM Thursday (PDT)

We recently reviewed your account, and we need more information about your business to allow us to provide uninterrupted service. Until we can collect this information, your access to sensitive account features will be limited. We would like to restore your access as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Please verify your information! To do this, please click on the link below and follow the instructions on your screen.

[link redacted]