Comments or no comments

One of the blogs I follow recently went comment-less and the idea has merit. I don’t have a lot of followers despite having a 5-year-old blog and only recently did a handful (less than 10) become regular commenters. Most of the time I get likes and views, but generally no comments. With that, I’m going to go through the mental process of deciding if I keep comments on or turn them off across the board. I have not determined if I can turn off comments (and still keep the ones already made) or if it will remove comments completely. Will hit up WordPress dude for an answer to that question as I’m being lazy today and not searching for myself.

Inspiration: John Liming’s Blog
Source: Comments Off by Matt Gemmell

To keep them on…

Who doesn’t like to get comments on the stuff they post? I certainly love to see what others write in response to what in some cases can be a hard subject to author let alone comment on. This is a blog written by me though, and although I have yet to get spam, I have had a few comments that met the trash can because they weren’t appropriate. Matt’s article goes into detail about how he encourages thoughtful conversation through re-blogs and posts written as a long response to a post he’s written. He uses Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to continue the conversation while keeping his original post intact. I follow several blogs as well that will get 200-300 responses on every post that I admit I almost never read past the first page. I certainly don’t get that many response and often get none. At this point in time, my burden of comment moderation is a small one. If I got featured on “Discover” at some point, I’m sure that would be overwhelming almost immediately.

To turn them off…

What am I really missing anyway? The followers who comment on a regular basis, also follow me on Twitter as I’ve done the same thing. Find a good post, I tag them in a tweet. Feel strongly about a good post I have re-blogged and written my own response to it in lieu of leaving a comment that would certainly have been way too long. A re-blog is tagged as a comment I believe even if comments are off, but I’m not sure and will need to test around with that. Looking back at the comments that have been left, there are maybe a dozen posts out of over 250 from the last 5 years that had comments that actually resulted in contributions to the conversation. It makes sense then to turn off comments that generally don’t add much to the post itself other than agreement or a one liner that confirms a point made. Twitter is good for that. I’m guilty of the one liners myself and will need to start limiting that *or* take it to Twitter or Google+ (refuse to sign up for Facebook again).

What I decided

(see the edit)  I’m going to turn off comments for a while and see what happens. I’ve provided the links to both my social accounts to share your thoughts and comments on any of my posts on this blog. If there is a post that prompts a strong response, I encourage you to re-blog and craft a response on your own blog. If the ping back doesn’t list, please make sure to let me know so I can read it (that is if I don’t already follow you). This will be an interesting experiment that seems to be an increasing trend on the Internet.

EDIT:  I thought about this post overnight (scheduled it yesterday) and decided that turning off comments, for my blog, was the incorrect decision.  I almost never get spam because of the fact that I require a user to be logged in to post and I moderate every comment (more so I don’t miss them than anything else).  They’ve been turned back on as of this edit, but I still encourage you to follow me and comment on either of the two sites below if you feel so inclined.  I’d like to have 100 WP followers by the end of the year, a goal I thought unattainable even a year ago.

You can reach me at either of these sites:

Twitter
Google+

Technology and geek unite

My wife let me buy a new television on Thursday. Not just any television, but a 4k UHD television that clocks in at just under 55″. It was a snug fit into the stand we have with only an inch or so to spare all around, to the point I had to push it in by the feet as my fingers wouldn’t fit on the side. It was surprisingly affordable and of course, the coupon queen my wife is, made me use her eBates account to get it from BestBuy (more on that shortly). It was also my daughters actual birthday yesterday and we went to the local restaurant that gives her a free dessert for her birthday. As is the case with all the other rare moments in my life where I’m allowed to make a large purchase of technological awesomeness, I was impatient, but collected. We finished dinner in a normal pace and waited for our daughter to finish as she eats as fast a sloth. Once she was done I was itching to get going before my wife changed her mind.

I had purchased online in advance of us going to dinner, so it was a matter of going in and just grabbing it from the pickup desk. My wife wanted to visually see it and thankfully was on display as I’ve had experience with her not seeing something in person and changing her mind. It was sharp, clear, and bright, as I would expect an in-store television to be as they jack up all the settings on purpose. I’d done my research, wanted something that didn’t need to be replaced in a few years when technology got better, so went higher end than usual. The Vizio brand has opted to remove all the television “smarts” and instead opted for a smart phone interface over your own homes wi-fi connection, it’s pretty cool. She didn’t get it, and when learning that Vizio was the only brand doing this, she was skeptical of my choice. Anticipating this, my justification was that the television didn’t suffer from app-gap when the manufacturer decided to discontinue the television, rather, it only had to keep up the OS of the television as the apps utilized are on our smartphones and then “cast” to the television.

Anyway, the store. I’m usually loathe to purchase anything from BestBuy, but their prices are actually on par or cheaper than even Amazon in some cases for the same things. We had purchased all of our new appliances there as well and had some of the best service we’ve ever had. I also purchased my most recent laptop (what I’m using now) there as well. The last three trips we’ve done our research online, purchased online, and then went to the store for pickup. Our experience was that of pure customer service without the requirements for questions or having to rely on the salesperson. Also helps that with purchases on the BestBuy credit card (one of the few we still have active) over $399 qualify for 18 months no interest. The only better choice would be all cash, which at this time of year isn’t a possibility, but is the only time that awesome sales are plentiful. Using credit was a judgement call and one that I made with reservations.

After jamming it in the back of our horrible Dodge Journey, and braving the 14F and 30 MPH winds, we finally got it home. I wasted no time getting all the old stuff unhooked and off the shelf. While I unpacked the new piece of tech, my wife cleaned the spots that you don’t ever clear unless, well, you get a new television. I took my time hooking up all the wires to make sure you couldn’t see them hanging down in the back because another 4 years of hearing “I can see the wires” wasn’t in my future. Wires were tucked and routed, invisible to the observer watching from across the room! I turned it on, and after a brief buzz, the screen lit up and it was awesome. After a brief setup, I went to switch the inputs and ….. update, it needed an update. These things always need updates. My laptop needed one, my daughter’s Xbox One needed one (so did the controllers), so naturally the television needed one as well. 15 minutes later…..

I switched it to the Roku (because I don’t have cable) and pulled up Hulu to watch some shows before bed. Now, keep in mind, that Hulu broadcasts in 1080p and I wasn’t expecting a better picture than what we had on the 40″ prior, just bigger. My wife, on the other hand, mesmerized by the display at the store said to me in a rather flat tone “I thought it would be sharper.” A simple statement that was directed at something we had just put a decent amount of money on and brought into the house. Not what I had expected at all. Well, challenge accepted, I started fiddling. Made a setting change, asked if it was better. Continued this for about 15 minutes all the while the show, I wanted to watch, was causing a distraction to my concentrated thinking of making the television “sharper” for my wife. She was the queen of watching shows 2-3 times because her phone interrupted her while watching, so much so that I changed her notifications tones to someone saying “Shiny” because that’s what it’s like when the thing goes off. I ended up giving up, because a 1080p picture on a 55″ is always going to look “less sharp” than a 1080p picture on a 40″. Only 4K content, which is hard to find, will showcase how this television is superior to our 40″, which isn’t 4K. It’s a Blu-ray movie tonight 🙂

This is unfortunately how every item that falls into the “technology” category is viewed by my wife. I get a new laptop, with specs out the wazoo, and she says “It’s thinner than your old one.” I get a new mobile phone a few years ago and she says “Hmm, it’s not as light as I expected.” I install a new wi-fi router, with two networks (one for us, one for guests) that has both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and she says “You’re going to leave it there?” I’ve reserved myself to the idea that technology is lost on my wife and I’m going to have to work (not hard) to be a geek for both of us. Just once I’d like her to tell me that something is cool and actually impresses her. Just once….

Love to hate smartphones

This isn’t a new subject for me as I’ve written several times on both sides of the debate. I’m now, after switching to my cheap Lumia (Windows 10 Mobile) and then switching back to my equally cheap Galaxy Express (Android 6), at the point of ditching smartphones all together. These devices, with their screens bathing our peepers in blue light, are taking over every aspect of our lives to where we are actually crippled when we don’t have use of them even for a few hours. A pervasive piece of technology that has invaded, without our knowledge, and conquered our lives right under our noses without us even giving up a fight. In many ways, you can take any classic alien movie, replace the aliens with smartphones, and the story would most likely hold up. I’d watch the movie titled “Invasion of the Brain Snatchers” that chronicled our plight against the invading smartphone intelligence trying to take over the world.

Here is the debate raging in my head right now regarding the next smart phone I’m considering to purchase sometime early next year, which will be an unlocked version regardless of my decision, if I buy one at all.

Apple (iOS)

As if, these devices are electronic versions of Hell. They’re locked down, impossible to tinker with and Siri will speak to you in a condescending tone if you attempt to make any changes. I’m not an Apple fan, never have been, never will be. They’re expensive and once you’re in that ecosystem, it’s extremely hard to get back out of it. I’ve helped more friends than I can recall get away from Apple in favor of Android. In one case, I had to literally burn all their music to CDR’s, then rip them back to a non-protected, non-Apple, MP3 format. A total waste of time, but at least he has a sleeve of 50 CDR’s as a backup.

Android

This has potential, but Google has completely fubar’d the ecosystem so far. One of the most fragmented systems known to man in terms of the number of versions still being used and extremely vulnerable. A lot of the features from Marshmallow and soon, Nougat, will go unused because Android developers need to make apps available that are backward compatible. There are 10 versions of Android that currently make the graphic below from Froyo (2.2) to Marshmallow (6.0).

shareofandroidversions

SOURCE: Statista

The fact that malware is actively targeting all version of Android older than 6.0 means that 81% of all Android phones are at risk or already infected. How can you call a phone that runs Android a smart phone with those kinds of issues? If Google can rope in all these fragmented OS versions and exercise some control over their ecosystem, I think they have a chance of actually continuing their success.

Blackberry (Android)

I’m not discounting these guys out just yet. They just announced a huge deal with TCL China, a phone manufacturer, to continue building devices with the Blackberry name and running a secure version of Android. They already had marginal success with the Priv, and are announcing unlocked phones that will be sold worldwide in early 2017. I would certainly snag myself an Android Blackberry with a physical keyboard if the price was right. They have certainly kept up with regular updates on the Priv and there is a possibility that these phones will get Nougat as well.

Microsoft (Windows 10 Mobile)

This is a real disappointment. They had a really good phone OS that started with 7.x that was different from all other mobile phone systems and just worked. The apps were a real pain but there were some really good developers that created third-party apps that often worked better than the native apps for iOS and Android. The first mistake was forcing everyone on 7.x to purchase new hardware to be able and run 8.x. Again, they had a really good phone OS that got better, and with a decent selection of hardware, Microsoft was on a good track to get some traction, then, then, nothing. Windows 10 Mobile was announced and once the upgrade phone list came out, a lot of top end hardware was left behind. What few die-hard fans were left just got the shaft, again, and essentially wrote off the entire thing. I was with them from 7.x, got a new phone to get 8.x, and was left with hardware that wasn’t getting Windows 10 Mobile. See ya Microsoft, I’m out. Chances are slim that I would purchase another, unless the rumors of a mobile phone being released that can run desktop applications actually comes true. Then I have a mobile phone replacement for my laptop.

Decisions…

To be honest, the whole idea of a smart phone has been lost on me. It’s a necessary evil at this time that is a constant distraction for me and everyone around me. My wife is utterly addicted and will often be glued to the screen and barely answer “Uh huh” or “Ok” when consumed by the screens content. She often complains of having trouble going to sleep, except on the nights that she doesn’t use the phone before bed. I’d agree with her if the observations didn’t tell me otherwise, case in point “Q&A: Why Is Blue Light before Bedtime Bad for Sleep?”

I may just say f**k it and get a flip phone to keep the people who need to get in touch with me (in case of that elusive emergency) happy. We’ve lived on this planet much longer without smartphones than we have lived with them, how quickly we forget…..

I’m so done with smartphones

While fighting with my mobile phone last night, I contemplated throwing it against the wall to make the insane frustration stop. Having paid for it off-contract though, I quickly put that action out of my head. This, you see, is my first mobile phone with Android as the operating system. Saying that I’m underwhelmed with its ability is an understatement. We’ll get to why I have switched in a bit. Recalling all the awesome phones I’ve had in the past few years (list below), the Android tops my list of “meh” as far as my love for the phone. I’ve listed these in order of my ownership, newest to oldest, the numbers in ( )’s is my personal ranking of these phones. #1 and #2 I would gladly take back if they were still relevant and not obsolete.

  • Samsung Galaxy Express Prime / Android 6.0 / (9)
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 / Windows 10 for Mobile / (7)
  • HTC One M8 for Windows / Windows Mobile 8.1 / (1*)
  • Nokia Lumia 920 / Windows Mobile 8.1 / (2**)
  • Samsung Focus / Windows Mobile 7.8 / (5)
  • Blackberry Bold 9700 / Blackberry OS6 / (2**)
  • AT&T Tilt / Windows Mobile 6.1 / (8)
  • Samsung BlackJack / Windows Mobile 6.1 / (4)
  • Palm Treo 650 / Palm OS / (6)
  • Various analog non-smart phones, too many to list

*I’d still be using this phone if HTC and Microsoft had decided to upgrade it from Windows 8.1.
**A toss-up honestly, physical keyboard (BB) is on-par with superior build quality (Nokia).

What’s striking about this list is that phones, some used over a decade ago, rank higher than my current phone. My current phone is literally being used out of necessity as the specifications are definitely in the “budget” range making any task painful at best. I’m still paying off the HTC One M8 for Windows (previous posts, here (towards the end of the post) and here, have all the background detail) and refuse to get a newer phone with payments until the HTC is paid off…. in July 2017. Despite me ranking the Lumia 920 equal to the Blackberry Bold 9700, I would choose the Blackberry (assumption is that the OS on both of these would be current to make the choice relevant). That was my tank, always reliable, and just worked. I hardly ever had to reboot it and it had 3-4 days of battery on each charge. The last phone on that list above that could do that was the Palm Treo 650, the true champion of durability tankness. I’m still a little disappointed that Palm couldn’t keep up with the mobile device market.

I’m using an Android phone now because Microsoft has flipped off this fan for the last time. They’re pointing a finger at HTC for not updating the M8 and HTC pointing a finger at Microsoft for not updating the M8 was the last nail in a slowly built casket. Windows 10 for Mobile is a damn good operating system and up until I stopped using the One M8, the previews ran flawlessly. As much as I hate to admit it, there was a lot of “workarounds” required to do all the things you can easily do on Apple and Android OSs with a simple app download. I managed though and was hopeful that Microsoft had finally turned the right corner and was building the ecosystem that was required. That didn’t happen. Focus has been turned elsewhere and Windows 10 for Mobile has been relegated to the “we also have this” pile. The downturn of desktops/laptops for the 8th quarter in a row paired with Android claiming over 80% of the mobile market, I fear that Microsoft is slowly heading down the same path as Blackberry, HP (webOS), and Palm (which a purchase from HP didn’t save). Sure, Windows 10 is fantastic, been setup for long-term support, and unified experiences across multiple platforms…… but those platforms are, in a sense, dying. The only platform that is growing is the tablet/2-in-1 market, barely, but mobile phones, rather, mobile computers are taking over. Microsoft has failed to innovate and penetrate this market, and 2017 is going to be a pivotal year for them if they can’t get the rumored Surface Phone released.

Some serious thought has been invested in moving back to a simple, dumb, flip phone that costs $30. If it breaks, just get a new one and move the SIM card. I can buy over 25 flip phones for the price of a Samsung Galaxy S7 and I don’t have to be locked into a stupid finance agreement with my carrier. It would also only cost me $14 (with taxes) per month for a flip phone compared to the $40 (with taxes) per month I currently pay (there are 7 lines on our family plan). Something to be said about not being 24/7/365 “connected” to the world.

Privacy and security, a perpetrated myth

Post inspiration:  Yahoo, complying with U.S. intelligence directive, searched emails

freedomstate
Before you say it, this dude is crazy.  This quote is totally relevant though and absolutely true.  The Patriot Act is a perfect example of the State giving us security.

We’re living in a scary time in regards to online data and how that data is kept secure and private. We put a lot of faith in the companies where we save our personal data without much thought about how its kept private and secure. The article above is confirming what I’ve known since the Patriot Act was passed. The U.S. Government, in execution of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) request, using the Patriot Act as leverage, has forced Yahoo into complying with a directive to search emails. Yahoo designed a custom application to search their entire email system looking for key words, not yet known, catalog then place the information in a repository for remote pickup.

What irks me to no end is that the FISA was passed in 1978, well before anyone even dreamed of electronic storage or communications. The government used the FISA, as a sub-section of the Patriot Act, to allow it to spy on U.S. citizens in the prevention of terrorism. The crappy part of this is that they’re not targeting anyone specifically, rather, their using keyword searches and specific criteria to search EVERYTHING they can access easily. Think of trying to swat a fly with a 20 lb. sledge-hammer and you’ll come sort of close to what the government is doing. What I didn’t realize until just recently, is that the FISA has been amended with the following:

  • USA PATRIOT Act
  • Protect America Act of 2007
  • FISA Amendment Act of 2008
  • USA Freedom Act

These aren’t what I’d call light reading. In my estimation, the FISA has been essentially used as the vehicle to push modern agendas that eroded away the security of U.S. citizens to the point that we’re not treated any differently than a foreign actor. The problem with keyword searches is simple: searching for “bomb” in the email inboxes of potentially 500 million people will result in a massive amount of data. The data is of course taken out of context and often falsely targets individuals that have nothing to do with terrorism. That’s the problem with casting a wide net, you get a lot of things caught in it that you don’t want or need to catch, but need to look at none the less.

I had a Yahoo account, I deleted it on Wednesday. I had a Gmail account and deleted that a few months ago. I’m consolidated to a few Outlook accounts at this point and am starting to think that a fully encrypted offshore email service is the better way to go. It’d be a major pain to migrate everything to a new email address, but for now, I’m going to stay put as I’ve yet to see anything damaging in regards to Microsoft bending over backwards for the government similar to the way Yahoo did. I do have a ProtonMail account, based in Switzerland, and reported to have end-to-end encryption that is unique to each account (meaning not even they can decrypt). As in, if you forget your mailbox password, in order to recover access it has to delete your mailbox and start you over. With years worth of email (something I’ve been meaning to go through), it would be a horrible tragedy to have to start over.

Our government has created a structure of law that allows them to essentially do what they want, when they want to, basically without our knowledge or approval. I’m left asking myself what the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights actually stand for when, very clearly, we’ve lost some or most of our rights to privacy, security, and personal freedoms. Shame on Yahoo for just “complying” with the Governments request to search emails of all their users. Shame on the American people who have traded their privacy in exchange for violations of their rights in the name of national security. My recommendation, encrypt as much of your data and activity as you can. Encryption, as we found out in the FBI vs. Apple, requires court orders to compel you to unencrypt; and then only after they have justified their request. I’m sure the elite will alter the law to make it so that even encryption isn’t adequate protection for your privacy. How and when remains to be seen.

Review of the Dart by FINsix

finsix-dart
It’s super small, slightly larger than a standard pack of gum.  Ultra compact due to the new frequency switching technology.

It’s been a few weeks since I received my Dart after funding a kick starter about two years ago.  FINsix ran into some production and fabrication issues early on that affected their entire schedule, however now that I have it, things can’t be better.  I’ve managed to ditch all my power bricks for the laptops I have to carry except for one.  The one I still need to carry is a 90W supply that the Dart can’t charge as its only 65W.  In addition, there is a secondary USB port on the wire that can handle 1A (during laptop charging) and up to 2.2A (when not laptop charging).  This one device can charge your laptop and USB devices without the requirement for multiple bricks and charge plugs.

secondaryusbcharger
USB charger right on the wire!

The size of the Dart is quite impressive as it’s slightly larger than a standard pack of gum.  Build quality is fantastic!  Here’s what you get in the package for $99:

  • Dart charger
  • 9 tips (compatibility with hundreds of systems)
  • Carry sleeve
  • Instructions and Care

I must admit that having to wait two years had me slightly skeptical that I’d ever see the finished product or what I received would feel rushed.  Obviously I’m not disappointed at all with the purchase and early adopter funding through Kick Starter.

This small charger takes my 13.3″ HP Spectre x360 from 10% to 100% in about an hour.  The HP charger that came with my laptop would take twice that long and often get uncomfortably warm.  The Dart gets warm as well, but not nearly as warm as a standard brick charger.  Some of the reviews indicated that people could hear a high pitch hum from the charger, but I don’t have that issue (or I can’t hear it, which is possible).  My only complaint is the fact that they didn’t make the unit slightly larger to include 90W charge requirements for more powerful laptops, but in this case, it’s a work laptop and is due to be replaced next year.

Here’s the full package!

fullpackage

If you’re interested in purchasing one, they’re listed on FINsix’s website for $100.

I would highly recommend one of these to replace multiple charging systems that you probably carry around, misplace, and replace when you can’t find them.

Facebook, no more, finally gone

Ever since I deleted my Facebook account, I’ve found that I look at my phone so much less than I used to.  I was never really into Facebook or social media that much, but I did find that I became a lurker.  Someone who read everyone else’s posts but rarely commented or posted anything on my own.  Deleting my account was a multi-step process that shouldn’t have been necessary, that’s a post in of itself.

The time I spent on Facebook, Twitter, etc. was an unknown to me until I finally got rid of them.  It would be the first thing I checked in the morning, thumbed through at random times through the day, spend at least a half hour at bedtime. It’s all time I won’t ever get back and it was time I could have been talking to my wife (but she’s on her phone too).  I’m hoping that not having my nose to the screen will prompt her to not do as much of that when I’m around and willing to talk, with my voice, in real life, no virtual keyboard required.

There are other benefits as well, such as my mobile phone.  I started this morning with 100% as is typical with a nightly charge, but at the end of the day, I still have 72% with moderate to heavy use.  I’ve deleted Facebook, Twitter, and Messenger from my phone.  Seeing the amount of data that Facebook alone used, it was #2 in my most used data list behind the Google store.  I listen to streaming music almost 6-8 hours a day and the data usage for those apps didn’t even break the top 5.  Social media and its “always on” applications are a battery vampire apparently.

I’m still using Twitter, but only for political posts and to follow my third party candiates.  I’d share my handle, but that would remove the anonomity I enjoy on this blog.  As I don’t have the app installed on my mobile, I am forced to read updates only when at a real computer, mostly at lunch or during boring bits in meetings when I’m not sharing my screen.  Social media is a drain on time, productivity, and mobile batteries.  If you’ve been playing with the idea of taking a break or deleting your account, I’d take the jump.  Facebook has a “deactivate” feature where you’re account is put into hibernation but not deleted.  It will give you a trial run to see if deleting is the right thing for you.  Stay tuned for my experience in deleting my Facebook account.

Cutting the cord, 4 months on

It’s been four months now that I decided to cut the cable cord and save some money on my path to minimalism.  Cable television, although convenient, was riddled with commercials and I really only watched about 10 channels out of the 270-ish available to me.  Having a DVR to record up to 6 shows at a time quickly became unmanagable in my limited amout of time to watch television.  I found I would get into a show run, get a few hours one random weekend and binge through 5 or 6 shows in one shot.  Often I would run out of room quicker than I could watch the shows and end up deleting entire series because I wasn’t in the mood to start them (at one point I was interested to watch it).

My previous setup:

  • 6 channel HD DVR system
  • 2 stream boxes (from DVR to television)
  • 75Mbps cable Internet
  • Monthly bill = $180-ish/month

My current setup:

  • 1 Roku streaming stick
  • 1 Roku 2 set-top box
  • Hulu subscription
  • Netflix subscription
  • SlingTV (but I will most likley cancel this, not the best service yet)
  • Monthly bill = $102/month (SlingTV adds $20/month)

It took some time to get used to the fact that you couldn’t just turn on the tv to a random channel like HGTV for background noise.  Paying for streaming services has a sort of obligation to pay attention, or else just not watch anything at all.  I started putting music on in the background instead (like Pandora or Amazon Music) that didn’t require any special subscriptions and I could access via Roku.  My wife is complaining that she misses watching the news, but I remind her all the time that the news is depressing and is filtered.  If she read the news like I did, I doubt she would continue after a few days.  My personal preference is that the news not be moderated or censored and unfortunately American “news” is both.

In my honest opinion, I am liking the fact that I’m saving almost $80/month and quite possibly more as the HD DVR did not turn off, ever.  It ran all the time and was consistently doing something judging by the humming of the hard drive and various components inside the box.  What I do really like the most is that I can sit down anytime, regardless of the time of day, and watch something specific and without commercials for the most part.  Some of the free streaming channels still have commercials, but they’re front ended and not during the actual show.  Easily glazed over until your show comes on.  I also have access to a lot of content via the streaming services that normally isn’t on television, although some of it isn’t that good in some cases.  Netflix in particular likes to put on movies that were so bad they are classified as “made for streaming service” and never actually publically released.

If you like saving money (other than Comcast subscribers) and can get used to not having all your content when it’s immediately available, its worth experiementing with cutting the cable cord.  Some cable companies are getting smart to the idea, espcially bundling companies, and have made Internet only service $10-15 cheaper than the bundle with Internet and cable television.  My company thankfully hasn’t done that yet.  There is an odd sense of freedom knowing that I’m not subscribing to the system of moderated and filtered content.  What do you have to lose by trying?

ITIL Training = Eyelid Olympics

My company decided that it was time for me to take ITIL Foundation training.  For those of you not in an IT field, this is essentially an industry best practice of standards on how to efficiently and effectively perform change in the IT organization.  I’ve been in the IT industry pretty much the last 17 years or so and practically live and breath the standards that I’m now learning about.  So I don’t refer to things with proper names or terms like they talk about in the training.  I know the methodology regardless of knowing the names of what I’m doing or not.

I can admit that ITIL is not the most exciting, rather, it is one of the more dry and tedious content subjects in IT.  Not even with CISA did I struggle to keep myself motivated for a mere three day class.  The scary part is that there are several levels of ITIL that you can obtain, each certification test getting harder than the previous one.  I’m wishing that the content as you get more detailed picks up in excitement where I can describe it as more riveting than watching paint dry or catching the latest episode of Bass Masters.

There is one more day of endurance training for my eyelids before I sit down to take the 40 question certification exam.  I’ve taken all the practice tests and online test preps and am averaging well above the 65% passing score required.  For me, this really is common sense and as long as I keep the hundreds of terms straight and not get caught up on tricky questions, I should do just fine.  The person that I’m taking the training with unfortunately is not in the same situation.  He’s younger and has less than 5 years experience and is struggling with understanding the terms and how to apply the standards.  I hope he passes.

I probably won’t have another post until Thursday when I give all of you another installment of Three Things Thursday, one of which will hopefully be a passing score on my ITIL Foundations exam.

5 Reasons I Like Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Been a while since I wrote about technical stuff. Having been involved with the Windows 10 Insider Preview for a long time, and it being less than a week before the huge Windows 10 Anniversary Update, I’d cover some of my favorite features showing up in the next release.

Win10Start_NEW
Windows 10 Start Menu Awesomesauce

1 – Start Menu

The iconic start menu that’s been around in multiple forms since Windows 95, is FINALLY getting a refresh that actually makes sense and includes some of the better features from Windows 7 and Windows 8. A fantastic merging of all things cool from all the previous Start menu’s that we’ve come to expect from Windows. Shortcuts to the most used items on the left margin: Power menu, Settings, Windows Explorer, and Profile. Most used applications in the next scroll-able column with Recently added (both can be removed) and the scroll-able all applications list. The final area to the left of the apps column is a smaller version of the larger Windows 8 Modern UI. Fully customizable with anything you want it to show, its very handy for application you use a ton but don’t want to always scroll through an applications listing.

2 – Settings

More settings (formerly in the Control Panel) are now accessible in the Setting menu. With a ton of added functionality and some better sorting that is actually, dare I say it, logical. Most of the common settings we need to access are now in the Settings menu rather than having to dig through to find the Control Panel. As they release further updates to Windows 10, more and more will be ported to the Setting menu eventually making the Control Panel irrelevant.

3 – Booting / Startup

Anyone with Windows 7/8 and a mechanical hard drive (spinning disks) can say they have to wait up to 3 minutes for the computer to become usable without hesitations. Windows 10 on the other hand, puts a lot of the boot process on the back end once the computer is full booted allowing you to get to work faster and not have to wait. You pair Windows 10 with an SSD (solid state drive, aka, not mechanical spinning disks) and you get a 10-15 second boot time and almost immediate usefulness. For those of us that hate to wait (Me) an SSD is a gift from the heavens and I hear violins playing every time I push the power button and have to wait only 9 seconds to get working. Totally awesomesauce near-instant gratification!

4 – Edge browser

I can hear you all right now “Edge, what? Seriously?” Yes, Edge. For all the short-comings and bloatedness of Internet Explorer, Edge has managed to smooth out the rough edges enough to make this browser my daily driver. I find that most of what I add to a browser (password manager, adblocker, secureVPN) are all now available in Edge. It’s a lightweight truly native HTML5 browser that is lean and mean. It has a brutalistically minimalist design that appeals to me on many levels and for movies/videos, it gets out of the way without having to do anything, as in content driven “full screen” mode that is automatically enabled/disabled.

5 – Native Windows 10 Apps

The Microsoft Store has come a long way in the last few months. There are native applications now for all kinds of things like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc. Native apps do not require you to open them in a browser and have direct connections to the back-end servers making it a much more pleasant experience. I love how the Facebook app works in Windows 10 and favor it over using my mobile device or the website now. I’m not an app heavy user though, so your own experiences may differ from mine and I’m also running the latest release ahead of the production release on Aug 2nd.

Final thoughts

If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 already, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why are you waiting?
  2. Who doesn’t like “Free”?
  3. What are you truly afraid of?

If you upgrade to Windows 10, hate it with a passion, you can downgrade back to your previous version within 30 days. At some point in the future though, you’ll be forced to upgrade or face the Internet with an unpatched and vulnerable operating system. Ask anyone who’s still on Windows XP how they’re making out!

July 29th is the last day to upgrade for free! After that, it’ll cost $100 or more to upgrade. The only valid reason I can think of to not upgrade is that your current PC is not compatible. You guys get a pass with that reason as a new PC isn’t a small purchase.