Category: General

May is keeping me busy

I’ve neglected this blog for a while. I have a number of posts almost ready for posting (like my continuing series of calendar app reviews), but I’ve been preoccupied with other endeavors. Mainly, I’ve been developing a board game. My lawyer has advised not getting into too many details at this point, but it’s been a fun project that I hope to be able to share with you soon. In the meantime I’m going to attempt to finish some of the almost-there blog posts.

New Blog Design

jonesin for a blog April Fools logo-02This blog is just over two years old now, so I thought it was time to spruce it up with a new design. What better way to usher in spring than with brighter colors and a more laid-back typography choice? The old design was so white and boring. I tried to capture energy and excitement with this visual update. What do you think?

***UPDATE***

Obviously, this was an April Fools’ Day joke. I’ve included a screenshot below if you missed it. Hopefully no one actually thought I had completely lost my mind (and design sensibilities).

Screenshot of the April Fools' Day Redesign

Pro Tip: How to Properly Wrap an Apple Power Brick

There has been a lot of noise around the Web claiming to have a great new way to wrap your Apple MacBook power bricks. They say it is a great space saver. Sure they, might save you some space, but don’t be fooled, this is not a good idea.

Two photos depicting the wrong and right ways to wrap a power cord.

I planned on writing a whole post about this, but WIRED beat me to it. Basically the offending tip said you should tightly wind the long power cord around the brick and tuck it securely under the smaller wire. As Robert Baldwin of WIRED points out, this isn’t a good idea. It creates unnecessary stress on the wire and will lead to a shorter life of the cord. If that’s not enough reason, stress on certain parts of the wire could lead to an exposed wire, and that is a fire hazard. Read the WIRED article to get more specifics.

The best way to wrap or store any wire is to let it coil naturally. Every cord has a natural tendency to coil one way and forcing it to go another, or wrapping it tightly around something else will cause it to wear faster. Power bricks aren’t cheap, so I’d suggest using a little extra bag space and letting those cords coil naturally.

Coin: One Card to Rule Them All

What’s your wallet look like? Mine is huge and full of everything. For years I’ve searched for a better way to carry what I need with me, without filling all of my pockets. Enter Coin, an all-in-one card that might just be the answer.

An overstuffed walletI’ve seen this concept floating around for a while. A special card that can hold multiple credit cards so you don’t have to carry around a wallet full of them. Coin impressed me the most. So much so, I immediately ordered one. That’s out of character for me. I’m usually the research-it-to-death and look-at-all-the-options guy. I think I’ve followed this new class of device for so long that I jumped at the first one that seemed truly useful and possible.

Coin does more than just stores a few credit cards. It can work in place of any magnetic strip card (think gift cards, reward/loyalty cards). With the tons of cards I have at any given moment, that truly excites me. No longer will I be checking out at a store, only to realize my gift card is at home. I won’t lose reward points because that rarely used rewards card was left at home for extra wallet space.

With a few taps you can select between cards. While the actual Coin device only stores up to eight cards, the mobile app can store an unlimited number. You can easily use Bluetooth to switch which cards are loaded to the Coin device at any time. Coin swipes just like any standard card would and includes identification right on it, so it should be accepted anywhere. As long as your phone and Coin are around, you’ll never be without the card you need.

Security is always and issue, but luckily the creators have thought through this. In many ways they’ve made using Coin safer than using a standard credit card. Your phone will notify you if you’ve walked off and forgotten your Coin. It can also notify you if you card was swiped more than once (for when that shady looking waiter tries to steal your info in the back room). There’s even a lock function so the Coin can’t be accidentally switched to a different card after you’ve handed it over to pay. Still unsure? Check out their frequently asked questions page for other concerns.

I’m very impressed with Coin and how well thought out of an experience it seems to be. I think adding a Coin to my life will greatly improve it. More cards in my pocket, with more space to spare, now that’s a win.

What are you waiting for? Make your life easier and get in on a Coin before the price doubles.

 

Intro to Interactive Programming in Python on Coursera

For some time now I’ve been intrigued with Coursera. The idea of being able to take real courses, for free, online, just seemed amazing. My friend, Rachel, has been a big proponent of it, and had time and time again pestered me to give it a try. For whatever reason, I hadn’t until recently.

A few weeks ago I started a Coursera course through Rice University called An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python. As the title implies, it’s a beginner course dealing with Python (a programming language). While I’ve programmed some in the past, it’s all been pretty basic and mostly self-taught. I took a couple of classes in Visual Basic and C++ back in high school, but that was over a decade ago. Lately my coding hasn’t gone much beyond HTML and jQuery. The Python class sounded like fun, especially when reading that the final project is an Asteroids clone.

I’m now wrapping up week three of the class and I’ve already learned a lot. It turns out Python has a lot in common with other languages I’ve worked in (C++, Java, C#), but also has different features (like the lack of semi-colons after every line, thank you!). To make the class really accessible and easy to complete, the professors even created an in-the-browser environment to write and run your code, called CodeSkupltor.

Every project in this class takes the skills you learn about each week, and applies them to mini-games. The first few projects have included a rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock game (based on the Big Bang Theory reference), a guess the number game and a stopwatch that tests your reflexes. All of these can be run from a modern browser, so click the links and give them a try. Just his the “Run” button in the upper left.

It seems like we are learning great amounts from week to week and I can’t wait to see what’s next. This has been a great experience with Coursera so far, so I’m already looking at what to take next. Have you tried Coursera? What did you take?

Sharknado Halloween Costume

Happy Halloween, everyone! As usual, I went all out on my costume. This year I went as the Internet sensation, Sharknado. This summer it took Twitter by storm (oh, you punny, huh?), and now it will go down as one of my favorite homemade costumes.

Man dressed as a Sharknado poses at Halloween party.

I used a combination of batting and tulle to create a twister that wrapped around my body. I meant to take photos along the way, but got so wrapped up (so many puns!) in making it that I totally forgot. After affixing the materials to my clothes with safety pins (who has time to sew all that?), I pinned on a dozen little sharks. To top it off (here I go again), I found a great shark hat. The whole thing turned out wonderfully. The final touch was a slightly larger stuffed shark I carried around and occasionally threw at people. I mean, I am a Sharknado, so sharks are bound to be flying around in my vicinity.

One of the funniest moments of the party I attended, was when I saw this little guy. Seriously, we didn’t plan it, but our costumes totally made the perfect pair.

Man dressed as Sharknado holding a small child dressed as a shark.

And just for fun, here’s another picture, this time with skeleton Abby.
Woman dressed as skeleton poses with man dressed as a Sharknado at a Halloween party.

What do you think? What are you dressing up as this year?

 

Happy iOS 7 day!

Screen shots of Apple's iOS 7.The highly anticipated update to iOS is finally here. While initially iOS 7 left me with a few concerns, I’ve found it to be an improvement and for the most part, very satisfying. I’ll go into more detail after I’ve used it day-to-day for a longer period.

So what do you need to do to get updated? I recommend a manual backup of your phone (even if you normally backup through iCloud). It’s easy and doesn’t take to long. Open iTunes, plug-in your phone, select it in the upper right corner and look for the “Back up Now” button. It’ll do it’s thing and in a few minutes you can eject your phone and upgrade to iOS 7 without fear.

So now you’re rocking the fancy new iOS 7, but besides the eye candy, what’s new? Wired wrote a great little article detail many of the changes in iOS 7. It’s worth a read.

iOS 7 is great and all, but the real treat today (and for the next few weeks) will be all the great UI updates to your favorite third-party apps. Wanting to stay relevant and not look out-of-place, many app developers have worked hard on getting their apps to reflect the new style in iOS 7. TapFame set up a page detailing some of the before and after screen shots. I find some of these third-party updates even more exciting than iOS 7 itself.

Have you installed iOS 7 yet? What’s your favorite feature? How about third-party apps, who’s done the best job translating their app into the new iOS 7 design language?

Kreyos Meteor Smartwatch

Kreyos Meteor smartwatchesThe idea of a smartwatch has always intrigued me. I’m constantly pulling my phone out of my pocket and being able to do those checks right on my wrist. I thought the Pebble might be the answer, but I missed out on the pre-order. Maybe that was meant to be, as I’ve just ordered another smartwatch, the Kreyos Meteor.

Billed as “the only smartwatch with voice and gesture control,” the Meteor brings a whole new level of cool to the smartwatch game. Sure seeing notifications from your phone on your wrist was cool, but it’s even cooler if you can interact with those messages without pulling out your phone. That’s what sets the Meteor apart from the crowd. With this device you’ll be able to get all your messages, emails and more. You’ll even be able to answer phone calls and reply to messages with your voice, all while your phone stays tucked away in a pocket or purse. This device will finally let you have the communication device you’ve dreamed of for years.

The Meteor also lets you control your music, post to social media and even supports fitness tracking. There will be a full SDK so other apps can tap into it.

There are a ton of unique features to this watch, and instead of listing them all, I suggest you check out the Indiegogo page. Watch the video, read through and you’ll see why I jumped on this. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll be sure to review it as soon as it comes in (they expect before Christmas).