Stargate Universe – CANCELLED

December 31, 2010

Looks like the SyFy channel decided to pull the plug on the latest Stargate Universe series. The producers of this incarnation tried to change the format a bit by making it edgier and darker than the previous Stargate Series, but it was a really slow moving show and I think that coupled with franchise-fatigue really killed it. I watched it weekly because I’m a big SciFi fan and it had some interesting moments, however, with these types of franchise series you see repeating themes with the shows that does get old and tiresome.

Now, if MGM came out with some good Stargate DVD movies (either SG-1, Atlantis, or Universe) I would certainly purchase it. But for now, I think Stargate has suffered the same fate as Star Trek and needs some rest before MGM tries to conjure up a new Stargate series.

Final Capria episodes airing Tuesday

December 31, 2010

In all their great wisdom, the SyFy (formerly Sci-Fi) Channel decided to cancel the Battlestar Galactica Series, Caprica mid-way through the 2nd season. If you want to watch the final 5 unaired episodes, get ready for the Caprica Marathon on Tuesday, January 4th. All 5 episodes will be shown back-to-back starting at 7 pm PST. So if you want to find out what happens to the Graystones, Adamas, and the birth of the Cylon destroyers, dial in on Tuesday for your last chance!

UPDATE: I’ve recorded and watched the first 4 new episodes of Caprica, and I understand why SyFy cancelled the show. All of the episodes were really, really slow with very little real action. Since I recorded them, I could easily fast-forward through the boring and slow parts, but even then the story was a bit long in the tooth. I pretty much fast-forwarded through all the scenes with Amanda Graystone, and most of the Zoey scenes (even though Zoey is a key component in the Cylon mythos). In my opinion, the real interest is with the birth of the Cylons and what caused them to war with their creators, and if the writers focused on that instead of all the character background stories it would have had a better chance of continuing on….

Apple Trackpad vs. Magic Mouse

December 28, 2010

For Christmas I received an Apple Magic Trackpad for use with my iMac desktop system. I decided to get one after playing around with one at the Apple Store when I made my original iMac purchase several months ago. The Magic Trackpad basically operates like a trackpad on the Macbook Pro laptop, but is physically bigger in size. I’m normally not a big fan of laptop trackpads (as I usually use a mouse), but I did like the responsiveness of the Magic Trackpad for the iMac.

So, I’ve been using it for the last 3 days with my iMac, and it seems to be working well. It does take some getting use to after using my Magic Mouse for so long.

Like with any trackpad device, you move the mouse cursor by sliding your finger on the trackpad surface. To do a left-click, you press down on the trackpad surface with your finger to physically active a pressure switch in the base of the device. The same goes for double-clicking, and you can assign a region on the trackpad (bottom left or right corner) to act as a right-button click. It does take some effort to do this kind of clicking action, so I’ve adjusted the preference settings for my Trackpad to use a single tap as a “click” and a double-tap as a “double-click” (just like with most laptop trackpads).

For a right-click you can do a two-finger tap. For scrolling, you can use two-fingers to swipe up, down, left, or right. There are several other options to fine tune the trackpad operations, but these were the basic ones that got me going.

For general clicking, moving around on the screen, and scrolling through documents and web pages, the trackpad works well. Zooming in and out of images also works nice, as well as zooming in/out of the main display. What’s tricky, is doing a click-n-hold with the left mouse (as when you drag a window around on the screen or highlighting text in a document) when using the one-finger tap method. So to move a window I need to do a quick double-tap on the window header, then drag the window on the screen to the desired location, then do a single tap to get out of drag mode. Also, to highlight text in a document I need to move the cursor to the beginning of the text, do a double-tap with my one finger, drag the cursor across the text to be highlighted, then do a single tap. Kinda cumbersome, but required if I use the one-finger-tap method for “mouse” clicking. Of course, this would be easier if I used the physical switch option but again that just seems too awkward for me.

It is obvious that using a traditional mouse is much easier for document editing than the trackpad (as you probably know by using any laptop trackpad). What would have been nice, is if this trackpad was angled completely flat on my desk instead of at an angle as that would relieve some hand strain that I’m noticing after several minutes of use. Normally you rest your hand on the mouse as you’re using it, and with the trackpad I’m noticing that my hand is hovering above the trackpad which can introduce some fatigue.

I haven’t fully decided whether the Magic Trackpad will permanently replace my Magic Mouse, so I’m going to give the trackpad another week of experimentation. I might also use both the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad together as both can work simultaneously.


Angry Birds is everywhere!

December 28, 2010

Angry Birds is a game that seems to be everywhere these days. I originally heard about it for the Palm WebOS device, but learned later that it was available on nearly all mobile and smartphone devices. So, I decided last week to download the “lite” version on my Apple iPod Touch and give it a whirl.

The game involves a set of bird characters who are “angry” because some green pigs have stolen their eggs. To get back at these pigs, the birds are launched in a sling-shot by the player at the pigs to eliminate them. In each round of the game, the pigs are usually protected by wood or stone structure and you are limited to the number of birds you can use per round.

What’s interesting is that the game is physics-based, so the flying birds, wood beams, stone blocks, etc. all move in a very realistic fashion. The sound effects are good too, as well as the high-graphics. All-in-all I’ve found the game to be pretty good, and I’ve got it loaded on my Palm Pixi WebOS phone as well. Now, I usually don’t play games on my iPod Touch or Pixi phone other than the simple Sudoku or Solitaire card games. I’ve learned that playing a high-graphics game like Angry Birds really zaps my battery big time. It seems that after playing Angry Birds for about 1-hour my iPod Touch’s battery goes from a full charge down to 20%, so it is apparent that the physics-based game must really tax the CPU. What’s amazing, is that I can watch 3 or 4 hours worth of videos on my Touch and still have 50% or more battery life, but 1 hour of Angry Bird game playing just drains my battery.

So if you want a challenging (and addictive) game to play on your mobile device, check out Angry Birds. I went ahead and purchased the full version (for 99 cents) for my iPod Touch which provides many more levels and rounds, which is a bargain considering what you’re getting. My wife has Angry Birds loaded on her Android phone, and I’m sure it’s available on the Blackberry as well. Just be aware, that you shouldn’t play Angry Birds on a plane trip without an AC charger nearby afterwards!

The constantly obsolete computer

December 22, 2010

In cleaning our house for an upcoming Christmas Eve dinner with the relatives, my wife came across an old 3.5″ Floppy Disk with some jpg pictures. She asked if I could transfer the picture files from the floppy disk to a USB flash drive, and I had to think a minute… do I even have a floppy drive anymore? My iMac certainly doesn’t have one, nor does my previous Quad-Core Windows 7 machine. My Dell 11z Netbook doesn’t have one, and my older Dell D620 laptop neither. In fact, none of the computers in my house have an ancient “Floppy” drive at all!

Fortunately, I did have an old PC carcass in my garage that did have a 3.5″ floppy drive but it wasn’t connected to the motherboard. I then began the search through my closet and attic for a Floppy Drive ribbon cable so that I could connect the floppy drive to the motherboard of the old PC, fire it up, and then copy the data from the floppy over to the USB drive. Luckily after searching through tons of cables, connectors, hard drives, etc. I found a floppy ribbon cable and completed my mission.

After all of this, I decided to do a little housecleaning and get rid of all the obsolete computer parts and cables I had collected over the years. With how fast computers progress in hardware and capability, most of my spare parts were just junk. I had a dual DVI output video card which worked great when I was using it, but now it is obsolete since the AGP board connector has been replaced in newer motherboards with PCI-Express 2 slots. I also found an old PC-Card slot WiFi Adapter (no doubt, WiFi-b protocol), a few USB 1.0 speed WiFi adapters, several sticks of old RAM memory, an old Parallel Port printer cable, a 300-Baud COM2 portable Modem (remember those?), lots, and lots of USB-A to B, to etc. cables. I also had a few very old NEC laptops that wouldn’t boot up, “Free” Inkjet printers that came with various computer systems, an old VGA Cathode-Ray tube monitor, and a few wired mouses and wired 101 keyboards. Instead of keeping this ancient junk, I through most of it in the trash and took the old computer electronic devices to my local recycle shop.

It’s amazing how quickly hardware goes obsolete in the computer world. Since switching to an iMac (which is a fully integrated system where all the components are inside the monitor display), I don’t think I’ll be collecting so many spare parts in the future. I sort of miss tinkering with the hardware on my past desktop systems, but then again I’m giving up on all the headaches of dealing with bad drivers, wrong components, etc.

Some hidden Apple keyboard shortcuts

December 13, 2010

When I switched from a Windows 7 desktop PC over to an Apple iMac, I missed certain keyboard features from my old system. For example, my new bluetooth Apple keyboard has no DEL, HOME, END, PAGE DOWN/UP keys. It’s the HOME, END, and DEL keys that I really miss the most! Here’s a few keyboard combinations that can make up for those missing dedicated keys:

Command + delete is equal to the Windows DEL key

Command + (left arrow key) is equal to the Windows HOME key

Command + (right arrow key) is equal to the Windows END key

Command + delete is equal to the Windows DEL key

Here are also a few more keys that are useful:

Command + I (gives file info when a file is selected in Finder or on the Desktop)

Control + Command + D (shows a popup dictionary definition when a work is hightlighted)

Command + Q (Completely quits the currently active program)

Now armed with these cool keyboard shortcuts I can continue using my iMac without skipping a beat.

Is Google Chrome the fastest web browser available?

December 11, 2010

As I walked downstairs this morning, my wife casually asked me if I used the Google Chrome web browser. After I told her, “no”, she mentioned that she was going to try it out since Safari and Firefox just seemed slow to her. I’ve been a long time Firefox user, but after she made her comment that got me thinking that I should also check out Google Chrome. Being the big tech nerd that I am, I of course want to use the fastest web browser available. But I’m also an “old dog”, so I don’t want to switch from Firefox to something that is too different and doesn’t have all the plugins and extensions that I’ve grown accustomed to.

I currently use Firefox for several reasons:

  • A cross-platform browser (for my Microsoft Windows 7 Netbook and Apple iMac)
  • Has several useful plugins
  • Reasonable fast and reliable

So I installed the latest version of Google Chrome on my iMac and proceeded to hunt down “extensions” (or plugins) which duplicate what I currently use with Firefox. Luckily, Chrome has lots and lots of extensions and I was able to find what I needed. Here are the plugins that I found:

AdBlock (same as for Firefox)

Clip to Evernote (same as for Firefox)

Daily Links (equivalent to Morning Coffee for Firefox)

ezLinkPreview (equivalent to Cool Previews for Firefox)

Foxish live RSS (adds live RSS capability which Firefox already has)

I’m sure over time I’ll find more useful Chrome extensions to add, but for the time being these will suffice. Now, Google Chrome in general has a really sleek interface which I like. One thing that I needed to get used to is that the page tabs are at the top of the main window instead of below the toolbar, but otherwise the appearance is very similar to how I configured Firefox. So after using Chrome for 2 days it seems to work well.

Now, is Chrome faster than Firefox? I’m not sure. It seems faster, but that might just be my imagination. It’s certainly not slower than Firefox, so I’m going to continue using it until I find a reason not to.

Update (19 December 2010) : I’ve been using Google Chrome exclusively for about a week now and I do like it. The interface is very neat and clean, and it does seem quicker than Firefox. I’ve got all my desired plugins, so I have no plans to switch back to Firefox soon (although I still have the Firefox app icon on my Mac dock).

Why are hotel internet connections so slow?

December 9, 2010

In traveling around the Western US region for the last few years, I’ve noticed that every hotel I stay at has slow Internet connections. Some in fact have such slow connections it’s just not work using. I’d rather use my Verizon USB Wireless Adapter over the hotel’s connections at times. Why is this? Hotels must know that business travelers (as well as vacationeers) use the Internet routinely for looking at web pages, checking emails, and doing work. I’m really not sure why a hotel can’t tie in a fast line (or, maybe multiple lines) to accommodate their guests.

If I was traveling more frequently, I would probably look into getting a dedicated MiFi device (cellular, portable WiFi) to use with my Netbook, Laptop, and iPod Touch. It probably would be faster than the hotel’s WiFi connection and I could use it practically anywhere. In the meantime, I’ll just have to do my heavy Internet action in coffeeshops and at the airport gates.

Alaska Airlines inflight WiFi Service

December 9, 2010

I was on a business trip recently from Phoenix to Seattle and the Alaska Airlines flight that I was on offered inflight WiFi service through a company called GoGo. It was free from November to December 9th, so I decided to give it a try and see how well it worked with my Netbook and iPod Touch.

Surprisingly, it was a very fast connection (compared to the slow internet connection at the hotel I stayed at the night before) and I could easily view web pages and check email. I even used to access my iMac which was pretty cool. My iPod Touch found the WiFi service and I was able to use my Internet-based apps very easily. I was eager to test out the Netflix video streaming on my iPod but didn’t have time as my flight was getting close to final approach and landing.

So, having the service was great but using the WiFi on my netbook really drained the battery much faster than I had wanted. I ended up not getting as much work done as I had planned since my battery went dead so soon. I guess the next logical step would be to have 12V or AC outlets for the passengers to hook up their laptops for charging (or extra battery packs).

According to Alaska’s web site, they will be charging for this service between $5 – $13 US depending on the length of the flight. At that rate I probably won’t be using their WiFi service, and it’s a shame that they just don’t offer it for free for their passengers (considering all the other fees they like to tack on for travelers).

Amazon Fresh – Convenient Grocery Shopping!

December 9, 2010

My wife got a notice in her email from Amazon promoting their Amazon Fresh service, where they deliver groceries to your doorstep. With this particular promotion they offered $100 off your order, so she decided to give it a try. You basically go to the Amazon Fresh web site and select which items you want (just like going down the grocery aisle at the store) and then checkout. So my wife did her online shopping with a total of $140 in groceries (which came to $40 after the $100 promotion offer). They have different delivery options, and my wife chose the “pre-dawn delivery” where Amazon will delivery your groceries before 6 am (and they promise to be quiet). So the next morning low-and-behold there were several plastic bins at our front doorstep with all of goodies that she ordered the previous night. Apparently, you can order up to midnight and get your food delivered by 6 am the next day.

All the plastic bins were sealed with a plastic zip tie (so you know if someone broke into your stuff), and the refrigerated products were packed in insulated bags with frozen ice packs and dry ice. It turned out to be a very, very convenient service in my opinion, and the products were of high quality.

I decided to compare prices between Amazon Fresh and Safeway’s online shopping store and there were basically the same. Some products were a few cents higher, while others were lower. So based on this experience, I would certainly order from the Amazon Fresh service again!