Posts made in September, 2012

Claritin-D, where the D stands for Devil

Posted on Sep 26, 2012 in General | 3 comments

I’ve been facing some rather uncomfortable allergies for the past few weeks. I’m normally against drug remedies, but this has been going on long enough that I caved. My treatment plan started with Benadryl, which did nothing. I then moved to Claritin, which also had no effect. Finding ourselves at Rite-Aid for other items, Heather spotted some Claritin-D and had heard great things. I went for it. The 24-hour box (they have a 12-hour).

I popped the pill around 8pm, proceeded with my normal nightly stuff, but noted I had a bit more staying power when it came to my somewhat regular nightly gaming session (I’ll usually do about 9:30 to 10:15, but this time made it to 11:30 without batting an eye). Knowing I’d regret staying up so late, I hit the hay. I was a bit restless getting to sleep, but I managed. After a handful of pretty vivid dreams, I found myself awake at 1:30am. Not just a little bit awake, but WIDE awake, and ready for the day. This sort of insomnia hits me 2-3 times a year so I’m used to it and know how to treat it/get back to bed so I did my normal thing, which entails hitting the bathroom, checking internet activity and e-mail, and getting back to bed. “NOT THIS TIME” says the Devil. So let’s take a look at my night:

1:30am – Check internet activity.
2am – Read on the couch (Game of Thrones #2).
2:30am – Start working on website. Messed with a lot of CSS to darken the font colors for Chris and Andy. Great success.
3:30am – Look outside, wonder when the sun will rise so I can go outside to workout. At this point I had resigned to an all-nighter.
4am – Play some Borderlands 2, reach level 18.
6am – Still no sun!? Ungh. Back to the internet.
7am – Go for a run.
8am – Go for a short ride.
9am – Work and regular day.

Except it wasn’t a regular day. I felt high as a kite the entire time and drank about 2x the normal amount of water. My symptoms were gone and I was otherwise functioning well, but my level of alertness was through the roof. It’s rare for a drug to really have an effect on me or even to help my symptoms, but Claritin-D works. Too well. I crashed hard around 9pm the night after taking it, cursed the box when I saw it in the bathroom this morning, and am back to drug-free, dealing with symptoms life.

It’s known that “D” causes insomnia. I almost need to question why the 24-hour version is on the market. If anyone actually needs it in order to complete their job, we’re probably better off having them not working. I realize that isn’t possible in all cases, but the thought of a guy driving an 18-wheeler through the night on this stuff is scary as hell.

Will I take it again? No chance. Is it illegal to sell an OTC drug on Craigslist (Edit: It’s legal on eBay so it’s probably acceptable on CL!)? Because I really wouldn’t mind getting my $20 back. I would, however, consider purchasing the 12-hour version. The stuff does work and there are times when I’d really like to be symptom free, but damn, Claritin-D 24-hour, you’re the devil.

Riding all 50 states

Posted on Sep 22, 2012 in Cycling | 2 comments

Yeah, I got some of you guys pretty good. This morning, I partook in the Washington Area Bicyclist Association‘s 50 States ride, which I happened to be the absolute last registrant for after seeing a random (hadn’t previously known it existed) post about it on Facebook. It’s a casual event that takes you on a winding route through our nation’s capital en route to riding on each of the 50 state-named streets. Yes, they all exist. It takes about 65 miles (my GPS crashed and I missed a mile) and 6 hours to “visit” all the states. The event is unsupported (no police or street closings) so it’s not really for the faint of heart or someone not used to riding city streets, but it was a great adventure. Met some new friends, got 65 miles in, and can now say I’ve been to each of the 50 states ūüėČ

In the beginning (my bike looking all lonely on the left)

I attempted to get a photo of each street sign, but some proved too difficult. Click here for the Facebook gallery of what I did get. With all my starting and stopping for photos, I surely finished in the fastest elapsed time, but with all the starting and stopping at traffic signals and such, managed only 14mph. Definitely not a ride for someone looking to go fast.

Will I do it again? Possibly. The beginning was actually pretty painful as we made our way through the heart of downtown. I did get to see a large amount of the city that I’d not before seen or even knew existed despite having lived in the area for 27 years. I can even be quoted as saying “This is a pretty nice area” in a part or two of Anacostia. However, six hours on a bike is a long time, and I have now seen all those unknown parts of the city… Do I need to see them again? Or should I do a century and not face replacing my brake pads next year? Great event, really well organized (as much as one can manage when sending 500 bikers off for 6-10 hours on the streets of DC) and I’m glad I did it, but I think you know which way I’m leaning unless I can lure some folks out with me.

Happy iPhone 5 Day to you too!

Posted on Sep 21, 2012 in Tech | 0 comments

It¬†is here, and I happen to have one in my hands. Apple freaks the world over have been “stuck” with the same basic phone since the iPhone 4 was released in June of 2010. There was the iPhone 4S released last year, but it was more of a minor revision than anything else.

Getting One

If you weren’t up at 3am EST on September 14th, which would have resulted in you getting one shipped to you today, you would be in one of a few camps:

  1. You preordered later and have a 1-2 week wait to get yours still.
  2. You showed up at a store today and got one.
  3. You could care less about the iPhone 5 (why are you still reading?)

Reservation Ticket

I was in Camp #1 as of this morning, but chose to try my hand at getting one in-store. Not one to sleep outside a store, I casually showed up at 9am, got a ticket which reserved my phone, went to work, did some work, went back to the store at 11am, waited in line for 30 minutes, and was done. There was a snag in that because I cancelled my preorder this morning, my upgrade “credit” hadn’t made it back to my account so I had to pay full price. The credit should hit in a day or two, at which point I go back to the store and they refund me $450. Just details… Sucks, sure, but I’ll live. I have a phone now as opposed to in two weeks.

As of around noon, the Clarendon store still had a fair selection of phones. As I recall, they had 16GB in both colors for AT&T, 32GB in white for AT&T, and everything available for Verizon. As far as other carriers go, I don’t know, but I do know unlocks are now handled directly by the carrier (you just pay them the fee after buying from them) rather than a special phone that you’d otherwise need to wait for.

As always, the store had free coffee and hot chocolate this morning. Around noon, however, Java Shack was out swapping the hot chocolate for lemonade, which was tasty and fresh, but reminded me far too much of Fruit Loops.

The Phone

Ok, ok, we’re there. The phone is… nice. A lot of the changes you’d notice if you hadn’t already upgraded to iOS 6 on a previous device are actually just functions of iOS 6, which I outlined yesterday. I’ll therefore be skipping the software and focusing entirely on the hardware. Bullets… in the order that I notice them while looking at this thing sit on my desk… Ready? Go:

  • It’s longer. As a lot of this review will easily make fodder for¬†TWSS, let’s just go ahead get it out of our system now… THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID. They’ve gone from a 3.5″ screen to a 4″ screen. In doing so, the phone’s length had to increase a bit, from 4.5″ to 4.87″. As I’ve got NBA-sized hands, it fills them much better than the previous model did, but it’ll likely prove a little more unwieldy for most users. One of the highlights of the screen other than simply being bigger is that it’s much closer to a 16:9 resolution, which is pretty much the standard for HD content. Without going into details, just know that this is better for both content producers and consumers. Be happy about it.
  • It’s lighter. The older phones had a nice weight. It felt high quality, and significant. The new phone, despite being a bit bigger is ~18% lighter. If I were to describe a piece of tech as a featherweight, I’d point at the iPhone 5. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. I can say that it seems to disappear in your pocket and actually feels a bit cheap. Now, I know it’s not shoddy construction or materials that are to thank for this weight (it’s technology) so I know it’s not “cheap,” but it feels that way.
  • It’s thinner. Did I mention it seems to disappear in your pocket?
  • LTE Speed Test

    It’s fast. Coming from an iPhone 4, Apple marketing claims this to be 4x faster. I wouldn’t argue with them. In addition to processor speed, the phone now sports LTE communications, which by my testing is well more than 3x the speed of my cabled (Comcast) connection at home.

  • The camera is improved. I was tired of having to apologize for the photos from my iPhone 4. I no longer think I’ll have to. I made this pretty terrible before/after (4 on left, 5 on right) comparison. Note the colors (my background is actually of a yellow object), the clarity of the logo on my speaker, and the reduced noise where the shadow begins on my wall. They said low-light is where they have significantly improved things so I’ll be sure to perform a full battery of tests next time I’m in the club.
  • New headphone design. The old design was terrible both ergonomically and aurally. The new design, called EarPods¬†fits better, sounds better, but are ultimately still throwaway. They would be abysmal for any physical activity and they still don’t come near audiophile quality. After fifteen minutes of listening, I’m getting a slight headache from the tinniness. For the unknowing masses or those special folk who want to be seen sporting white headphones, though, I’m sure they have their place. With any luck, I’ll be able to sell them for a few bucks to such a soul.
  • There is a new connector. I hate this. A lot. Apple’s 30-pin connector has become a standard. I’d wager you’d have trouble finding at least one 30-pin cable or device in every house in more affluent areas. Myself, I have two on each desk, home and work, have an alarm clock that uses it, my car interfaces with it, and my wife has her own set of cables on her desk and in her car. If I were to throw out a number, I’d say we easily have a dozen 30-pin connections between the two of us. Well, Apple, for no very good reason that I’ve come across other than they stand to make $100m from the switch¬†and ¬†that it’s now two-sided (I could care less), has changed the connector. Not only that, but they’re weeks off from actually selling any adapters or extra cables, which conveniently, only they are licensed to sell. In addition to likely shelling out ~$100 for new cables and adapters, I’m faced with having to tote my single new cable between home and work for at least a few weeks. If there’s one thing wrong with the iPhone 5, this is it, and I can only hope it’s not indicative of the future of Apple under new leadership.

So… It’s a really nice phone. I’m very happy. I can’t compare it against the Samsung Galaxy S3, which so many folks tend to do (including Samsung in this joke of an advertisement that even Samsung fans call an¬†embarrassment), because I don’t have one and have never used one. However, unlike with the tablet market, when it comes to phones I think the difference between Apple and the other guys is much slimmer. While this is surely a great phone, I’m sure I could be nearly as pleased with something from someone else, but I’m fully invested in their ecosystem so the choice is easy for me.

Now, about those maps… Here’s to hoping that extra $100m will allow them to spring for more mapping companies.

Welcome to iOS 6

Posted on Sep 20, 2012 in Tech | 0 comments

The day is upon us. No, not iPhone 5 day (that’s tomorrow). iOS 6 is here. If you have a compatible device, the upgrade steps are fairly simple; Settings ‚Üí General ‚Üí Software Update and do the obvious. The upgrade on each of my devices took 15-20 minutes.

Major changes that I care about (less useful, but “major changes can be found here¬†and some useful, but seemingly unannounced ones can be found here)?

  • Google Maps is out, instead replaced by Apple’s own implementation. We finally have proper turn-by-turn without third-party apps. As expected with such a huge undertaking, there are bugs. However, if you find yourself wanting or needing, navigating to http://maps.google.com in Safari will still do a pretty good job for you despite no longer being a native application.
  • Siri got better. As an iPhone 4 and iPad 3 user, I didn’t have access to Siri previously, but word on the street is that it was pretty bad and not too useful. It has been added to my iPad 3 via iOS 6 and at first glance seems pretty cool. Wake up, hold the home button, ask about the weather, and receive an answer. Don’t have to hunt around for an app. I dig it.
  • Facebook integration. You can now post straight from Camera, Maps, and Safari. Events now show up in Calendar, contacts are synchronized, and you can even ask Siri to post for you. I haven’t made that leap yet, but I’ll get there.
  • Passbook. Leave all your keychain “dongles” at home. Or at least that’s what they say. I’ve launched the app and have no idea what to do with it; it simply provides me a link to the app store. Apple rarely fails in the intuition department, but they did here. After some Googling, I’ve found I need to download Passbook-enabled apps. Poor.
  • FaceTime over cellular. Sounds great until you read the fine print; on most carriers it only works if you have a shared data plan. I’m really not a big fan of this push towards shared data.
  • Offline Reading List. This is the minor feature that’s a majorly big deal to me. It’s no secret that I love the subject (Post #1, Post #2). I’m really happy to have a fully functional solution built-in at last. I will migrate to it in the next few days and likely write up my thoughts after some use.

Update, enjoy, and let me know your thoughts.

On the Nexus 7 and Android

Posted on Sep 18, 2012 in Tech | 0 comments

Backstory

Ever since the Nexus 7¬†released, I’ve been bugging my boss to get me one. We’re working on an Android port of mobilEcho so I figured it was a pretty safe bet I’d get my hands on one as opposed to one of the absolutely abysmal older Android phones we have sitting around the office. After dropping several not-so-subtle hints, he finally relented and gave me his (acquired at the Google I/O Conference). I’ve now been using the device for a few hours each day of the past month and feel qualified to share my thoughts.

Pros

  • Price. Starting at $199, it’s $200 less than even the cheapest last-gen iPad¬†($399)¬†and $300 less than the cheapest¬†new iPad¬†($499).
  • Size. At 7″, this is a highly portable device. It can actually fit into the pocket of my jeans.
  • Looks. It looks good.
  • Google Play. The application store is completely open. No review process, no yearly fee to be paid by developers.
  • Not created by Apple. This is a major selling point to a lot of folks. Apple¬†is Big Brother. I can handle it, but many cannot.

Cons

  • Size. At 7″, it’s too small to be really useful as a tablet. The screen feels very cramped and therefore inefficient; I can’t type on it as with a regular keyboard, and I misclick¬†buttons like it’s my job. There must be a sweet spot between 7″ and 11″ for a mini-tablet market, but I have yet to experience it.
  • Not created by Apple. The build quality is poor, which I’ve come to expect from Asus products (I used to own an Eee PC. Remember netbooks? Yeah, I’d rather not). I haven’t had any issues, but the device also rarely leaves my desk. I personally know of two folks (of less than a handful who have this device) who have had fitment issues.
  • Not a “Retina” display. I see pixels. Even when looking at an iPad2 these days, I weep.
  • Runs Android. Going with bullets here…
    • Android still is, and always has been highly hackable and customizable, which inherently means it’s buggy. I was able to do things on the device within minutes that brought me to Google searching for answers/fixes.
    • Android is not intuitive. It’s not. End of story. Having basically lived on a computer for the past 20+ years, I’ve seen and messed with it all. I was unable to pick this device up and¬†understand¬†it completely. That does not bode well for less tech-savvy¬†users.
    • The application store¬†is “open.” That means anyone can submit any app and have it online and available to users around the world within seconds. It’s like the old days of the internet where you could find anything you needed, but had to wade through countless amounts of bullshit to get there. And oh yeah, sometimes the bullshit might format your hard drive. It’s like the Wild West. While that’s good for some users, for the average user, it’s not. I welcome Apple having their hand in everything that I can download to my device. It raises the bar on quality and significantly reduces the chances of me doing damage to myself.
    • Android users don’t buy applications. This leads to quality developers¬†not developing for the platform, which severely limits the selection of quality applications out there.
    • Google has yet to figure out the fragmentation problem. With 4000 devices to support, as opposed to the handful from Apple, developers face a much steeper hill when developing for the platform. Some simply choose not to. This again limits the number of quality applications available. Additionally, there are countless versions of the same application available. When searching for VPN software (why this particular one isn’t built-in, as with iOS, is another matter), I was presented a handful of variations that differed merely by a few numbers and initials. In this case, I happened to know the exact “flavor” of the operating system I was running and selected the correct one, but I shouldn’t have to.
    • The platform is an afterthought to many developers. Anecdotal evidence, but browsing the recent release list on the Android is like browsing the App Store twelve months ago.

At the end of the day, it mostly comes down to the operating system. The device itself is fairly nice and can be had for a good price, but I can’t come around to Android just yet; going back to the iPad on the weekends feels like a breath of fresh air. To me, that’s worth a few hundred extra dollars.

If your budget is strict and you absolutely¬†need a tablet, however, this is probably the best you’re going to do in 2012. That said, don’t be surprised if you happen to find yourself not using it, because I didn’t find it to be that good, enjoyable, or useful. If I were you, I’d keep saving.