The Anti-Smartwatch Approach

September 6, 2014

The big electronic trend now seems to be “Smart Watches”, which are usually running the Android operating system. These smart watches appear to be an extension of their smartphone counterparts, in fact, in most cases you NEED a smartphone to make full use of these smart watches. A whole slew of these new smart watches were revealed earlier this week by Motorola, Samsung, LG, and ASUS at a tech conference; all of them had one thing in common: they are really BIG!

From the photos I’ve seen, all of these watches are ridiculously large for even the largest man’s wrist. They look like miniature smartphones, which in fact they practically are. Being a geek I considered getting such a smart watch, but I came to the conclusion that such devices are too costly, unnecessary, and obtrusive. Also, they need to be charged at least once a day (in fact, the “Moto 360” watch has been noted by some early adopters needing to be charged twice a day!).

Because I was in the market for getting a new wrist watch, I decided to go in the opposite direction. Bucking the system, I opted to go with a watch that was not digital. In fact, the watch I chose didn’t even have a battery. I ended up purchasing the Seiko 5 Automatic Watch, which is a self winding watch. This means, the motion of my arm moves a small weighted pendulum in the watch which winds a coil spring. So long as I move the watch during the day, it will stay winded up and function.

Since there is no battery, there is no backlight for night-time viewing. The watch uses old-fashion luminous paint on the hour and minute hands which glow in the dark (just like the old days!). I think it’s really cool to have such a retro watch, when everyone is clamoring for the latest smart watch technology. Who knows, maybe I’ll dump my smartphone calendar app and go with an old DayTimer paper system!

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Filtering Chinese Spam Emails

September 1, 2014

Lately, I’ve been getting lots of spam emails with Chinese text and an attached Excel file (ALERT: Phishing). I’ve been searching for a solution for my Mac OSX Mail app to automatically filter out these emails and dump them into my Junk folder, but there’s not an obvious solution. I tried filtering the “Content-Type” and “Content-Class” of the email, but no luck. I finally came across this web blog page where the blogger had a brilliant solution: His email filter searches for a few common Chinese characters in the message body to identify an email written in Chinese. Bingo! I’ve implemented the method below, and it seems to work. In the Apple Mail app, select “Preferences” and then click the “Rules” tab, and make a new filter. Add the following rule checks:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 9.11.22 AM

 

Here are the Chinese characters that I search for:

的 OR 是 OR 否 OR 要 OR 不

Now, hopefully no more Chinese spam emails!

 


New Annoying Buzzword

June 20, 2014

Here’s a phrase that everyone I’ve come across is trying to work into any conversation: “Fair Enough”. Man, I hear that stupid phrase all the time– At work, on the radio, in podcasts, on the TV. It’s truly amazing how simple phrases catch on and people constantly use them while conversing.

At least the buzzword, “Redacted” is fading from people’s vocabulary…


My Dislikes for 2013

December 24, 2013

imgres-1Well, you probably knew this was coming after my Favorites of 2013 posting. With likes there are dislikes, of course. Here’s my dislikes and pet peeves of 2013:

Grocery Store Checkout – My biggest pet peeve for my local grocery store is the inefficiency of the checkout line. More often than not, I get in a line where the checker is super slow or too talkative. They will ask me about my day, and where I went on vacation, and what I’m doing this weekend. I want to reply, “None of your business! Focus on your job and keep scanning my items”. I guess it’s the latest customer-friendly psychology that some stores are using, but it has an opposite effect on me.

Hidden Charges – I recently cut-the-cord with Comcast to downgrade my service and eliminate Cable TV. I now only have internet access through Comcast, and when I check my current bill it shows $14 in taxes and service charges. What are all these taxes for? They seem to be hidden charges that are not quoted when you compare the different plans. So, you have to know you’ll be paying a substantial amount in taxes and fees when budgeting your Comcast service.

Entitlement Mentality – It seems a lot of people feel entitled to things which they are certainly not entitled to. For example, I was at a store waiting in line to return an item once it opened up, and as the doors opened a person decided to barge ahead of everyone and cut in to be the first in line. What the hell was this person thinking? Everyone in line was stunned and shocked, and even the store employee told the idiot customer that he needed to go back to the line. This moron replied, “I just have one item and it will be quick”. So what? I guess he felt he was more important then everyone else in line and should be serviced first. In the old days, that guy would have been stoned by the masses for what he did. This society seems to have failing respect for others and absolutely no manners.

Facebook – There’s no doubt that I hate Facebook, as it seems to have been designed to feed people’s egos. People like to brag on their Facebook page, often being fake and trying to make themselves sound important or better than they actually are. People are constantly posting their status and whereabouts on Facebook, taking photos of their current lunches and  reporting every little minute event. Ugh! I also get requests from apps and games to “connect to your Facebook account”, which I definitely don’t want to do. Facebook go away!

Selfies – This also falls under the Facebook ego category. People feel they are so important that they have to take self photos of themselves and post them online in some kind of social forum. Often, they do this while driving and putting themselves and others at risk for a traffic collision. Who cares what you look like or where you are? It’s just a trendy thing that human drones like to do, I guess.

Trendy Buzzwords and Phrases – Man, I’m sick of hearing the same buzzwords that popup every year. It seems that someone starts a phase and everybody else tries to fit that phrase in their daily conversations. For example, a few years ago the phrase, “No Worries” popped up and everybody was saying it. It was getting really annoying, when every conversation I had resulted in a reply of “no worries”. The buzzword for 2013 seems to be “redacted” and “really?, really?”. Man, I hear that all the time… seems like people are a bunch of parrots and like to repeat stuff they hear.

Miley Cryus – Man, I hate seeing that crazy attention getting girl everywhere. I wish the media would just stop posting pictures and articles about her crazy antics. I read somewhere that she was in the running with the Pope for person of the year in Time magazine. That’s nuts! Why is she even being considered? Absolute insanity.

Ok, after reading all of this you may think I’m just an old grouchy man who likes to complain about everything. Really?…. Really? I think you should redact that thought, as I’m taking a selfie of me now walking down my street as I check my postbox (which I’ll immediately post on Instagram because it’s the most interesting thing that happened to me so far today). Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to log into my Facebook account and post a picture of my left sock since I discovered I have a hole in it and need to let all my followers know. LOL! 😦


My Favorites for 2013

December 24, 2013

imgresBelow is a list of my favorite things. You’ll see that it’s an assortment of devices, places, apps, etc. that I really like and depend on for my everyday life. Of course, things can change but here’s what I like for 2013:

Hardware:

Android OS – Over the years I’ve used different devices and OSes and I just love the Android OS. It’s matured into a very usable and stable ecosystem, where I can share data between the cloud, my smartphone, and various tablets that I own. The OS runs great, and Google provides constant updates and improvements. In my opinion, the Android OS is the best (even when compared to the Apple iOS).

HTC One Smartphone – I usually upgrade my smartphone every 12-18 months but this time I think I’ll be keeping my HTC One for longer than that. It’s just a great phone, running the Android “Jelly Bean” OS (soon to be upgraded to the latest “Kitkat” version). The HTC One is one finely crafted phone, with a big screen yet still totable in my front pants pocket. The device is speedy, and I almost always can get an LTE connection in the Seattle area. Battery life is amazing, as I usually have a 80% charge remaining even after 8 hours of normal use. I certainly have no plans of switching phones now or in the immediate future.

Nexus 7 Tablet – I bought this Google Tablet last year (2012) and it’s been running great for me as a totable device. If I’m away from home and I need something to keep me busy or want to use a browser larger than my smartphone, I’ll bring the Nexus 7 along. I usually use my Nexus 7 tablet at home at night to watch streamed TV shows and Movies (via Netflix or Hulu Plus), so it does get daily usage. Another device I couldn’t live without!

Acer A500 Iconia Tablet – This was the first Android Tablet that I purchased, and I still use it like crazy. I’ve rooted it and installed the the “Ice Cream Sandwich” version of the Android OS, and it runs great. Although I have the newer Nexus 7 Tablet, I still like to use this Acer tablet because the screen size is double that of the 7″ Nexus 7. Because of the size, I rarely take it with me outside of home, and I mainly use it as a replacement for a laptop for easy web browsing.

Roku 3 – This is a recent addition to my assortment of high-tech devices, and I just love it. It’s the perfect device for replacing my old Cable TV service, as it allows me to watch lots of video media for a much lower price than what I was paying for Cable TV channels. Couple the Roku media streamer with Netflix and Hulu Plus and you have a winner. My favorite feature for Roku 3, is the headphone jack in the side of the wireless remote control. I can watch and listen to my shows in private while my son can sit nearby and play or watch Youtube videos on his iPad.

iMac Desktop Computer – I switch from a Windows 7 PC over to an Apple iMac (27″ display) about three years ago, and I just love it. No more messing with constant Windows updates or having to reboot my computer to clear memory or glitches. My iMac runs all day long and I very rarely have to reboot it (maybe a total of 5 times a year). I’ve got all the software I need on my iMac, and I don’t miss anything from Windows 7. Being an old UNIX hack, my favorite thing to do is open up a Terminal Shell window and run some Python or cshell scripts to do some automated processing of files. Sweet!

Vehicles:

2013 Ford Explorer – Last year I bought a new 2013 Ford Explorer SUV and I love it. Ford now builds the Explorer on a car frame instead of a truck frame, so the ride is much smoother. The car is very well styled, and I just love the interior layout. What I really like, is the Ford Sync System (by Microsoft) that very easily and automatically connect my HTC One smartphone to my car’s system for phone calls and streaming music and podcasts. It connects automatically when I startup my car, and will even pick up playing whatever podcast or music I was listening to previously.

Apps:

Pocket Casts – This is my favorite podcast app for my HTC One Smartphone which I use twice a day when driving to and from work. The interface is slick, and I’ve got it setup to download all my daily podcasts every morning. I get to listen to 90 Seconds on the Verge and NBC Nightly News every morning on my drive to work.

Yahoo Weather – I run this app every morning after I wake up to check the local weather to decide how to dress for the day. It has a beautiful interface and has all the weather I need on one screen. And best of all, it’s free!

Tasker – This is a wonderful Android app that allows me to automate my different tasks for my HTC One smartphone. For example, I have it setup to turn on and off my smarphone’s WiFi when I get close to or leave my home area. It also downloads all my podcasts each morning for the Pocket Casts app, adjusts the volumes, etc. This great app makes my HTC One smartphone even more useful!

USA Today – I love using this app for reading the current news on my smartphone over my lunch break. Just the right amount of content to keep me distracted while eating my lunch.

Google Keep – This is a great note taking app for quick short memos and checklists. I love the fact that any updates and changes will automatically be sycned to the cloud and all my other Android devices.

Handbrake – My favorite desktop app for ripping video from DVDs or converting videos from one format to another. Every easy to use, and available on Macs and Windows PCs.

Web Sites:

Trip Advisor – I use this site all the time to read customer reviews of hotels, places, attractions, etc. It’s a great way to get good feedback before making travel plans. The forums are also especially useful for posting or reading questions from other users.

Yahoo Home Page – I was using iGoogle.com as my web browser home page for news, but since Google discontinued iGoogle I switched to Yahoo. The Yahoo site is clean and fresh, with all the news content that I need.

Engadget – One of my favorite tech web sites which is updated frequently with the latest tech news. I hit this site several times a day.

TV Shows:

The Americans – A new series from FOX that follows two Russian KGB agents in the US posing as a married couple with children. Great stories with great acting.

The Walking Dead & Hells on Wheels – Two great shows from AMC. Both in hiatus now, and will start up again in early 2014.

Almost Human – A new FOX show that is also in short hiatus due to start up again in Jan 2014.

Grey’s Anatomy – I just started to watch this series on Hulu Plus (starting with season 1) and I’m hooked. Very similar to ER (one of my all time favorites), but with a new fresh cast.

Places:

Disneyland – This is my all time favorite place in the world. I guess I’m a big kid, since I just love the Disney atmosphere. Although the rides are great, what I really love is the Disney magic that is at the park and in Downtown Disney. This is truly a wonderful place. My wife is tired of visiting Disneyland and wants to hold off going back again for a few years, but I could go there every year.

San Diego – I’ve been to San Diego, CA several times in the past, and I love the area. Mild and sunny weather, nice beaches, and relatively clean air (for Southern California!). I love the surf environment and beach shops. If I were to retire today, it would be in San Diego close to the water.


The wonderful world of eBay bidding

February 17, 2011

Since branching off into Microsoft Windows Phone 7 app development, I needed to purchase a handset device for testing purposes. The supplied software emulator works fine, but you always need to test on a handset before app deployment (especially if you’re using hardware-specific features such as GPS).

Buying a WP7 handset off-contract is pretty pricey, costing around $600 or more. Normally I’d buy a handset to be used as my personal cell phone, but since Sprint doesn’t carry any WP7 phones that isn’t an option for me. So my only really option at the moment is to buy a used WP7 handset off eBay at a reduced rate. So I began searching the eBay listings for WP7 phones and was surprised to find most of them going for over $320 US (which I guess isn’t too bad if new ones cost $600 US). Because I plan to use the handset only for testing purposes (no cell activation) I wanted to keep the cost as low as possible.

So as I watched what was available and began bidding on items, I’ve learned a few basic lessons:

  1. When bidding on an item, make sure you read the entire description of the product. You can’t assume that it will come with accessories unless it is written in the description. For example, I noticed that one phone did not come with a battery charger so that would have been an added expense.
  2. Don’t bid too early on an item. If you do so, you could drive the price up with a “bidding frenzy”.
  3. Wait until the very last few seconds to make your bid. I lost a bid on an item by someone who waited until the last 10 seconds before the auction ended to make his final bid. I learned from this lesson on my next bid attempt, waiting until the last few seconds before pressing the “bid” button.
  4. After you “win” an auction, you’ll need to pay using a PayPal account. So make sure you have one already established with a valid credit card already verified by PayPal. Otherwise, your purchase can be delayed which will results in you getting your “prize” later than you expected.
  5. Also, some buyers expect payment immediately after the auction is over, so be prepared ahead of time.

I was able to “win” a HTC 7 Pro WP7 handset for a price of around $200 US so that should suffice for my testing needs. Now I just have to wait for the seller to ship off my won product and hope that it works as advertised.


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!