Gateway Dragon Boat Festival – From the Air

I mentioned a while back on the podcast that I bought a drone. I’ve had it for about 7 months now, but haven’t had as many opportunities to use it as I’d like.

I was pretty skittish about it at first. I started looking up drone regulations in the United States. Between reading about those and worrying about flying an expensive piece of equipment that could very possibly crash or fly away, I got to feeling like I’d made a mistake buying it to begin with.

Since then I’ve gotten much more comfortable with flying. It’s not the controls so much. Those came kind of naturally from years of video games and a history with flight sims. What I worry about is the connotation of flying a drone around. I worry other people will freak out or call the cops or something even though I’m extremely cautious and never do anything creepy or dangerous to others. Now, I’m feeling like I can actually fly without somebody coming over and yelling at me. I’m not saying they would. It’s my own insecurity more than anything. I don’t want to be the center of attention in public, really.

I really, really enjoy flying and the footage from these things is incredible all things considered. I’ve got a DJI Phantom 4 which is a nice drone, but still reasonably affordable for people who are into this sort of thing (and I found a good deal too). The features including object detection, tracking, and 4K video capture are remarkable. Just a few years ago this was unobtainable technology for the average person, but now you can capture footage that used to require helicopters and planes.

So this is my first drone video I’m putting out in public. It’s the first thing I’ve shot that can kind of stand on its own as something interesting to watch. Oh yeah, and it’s in 4K so take advantage of that if you’ve got a 4K display.

Continue reading “Gateway Dragon Boat Festival – From the Air”

Nintendo Switch Review – DEBUG MODE

Nintendo Switch? Didn’t that come out like two months ago? Aren’t you a little late to the reviewing game?

Yes, yes, and probably. Honestly I intended to get this review done a month ago but a number of things prevented that. On the other hand, I think anybody who did a “review” after only a couple days or even a couple weeks is being kind of disingenuous. That’s not long enough to seriously evaluate a games console especially when the launch lineup is so limited. The games that have come out since launch have provided a clearer idea of how the Switch might fare in the coming months and years in a practical sense.

I wasn’t even going to call this a “review” but that’s the search term I have to use if I want anybody to watch this thing. But two months is at least a somewhat feasible amount of time to evaluate a console. I feel like I have a much better handle on it than if I had tried to rush a review out early.

This video was a little different for me. I actually got to/had to use my camera equipment for once which was fun, but stressful at the same time. I haven’t done product videography before and it shows, but I did the best I could shooting almost everything by myself. I’m fairly happy with the results and I learned a lot.

E3 is less than a month away now. Nintendo will almost certainly have a lot of big announcements regarding games, services, and software updates. At least they’d better. Switches are still sold out a lot of places, but to keep strong sales they’re gonna have to bring the noise. Fingers crossed for a new Metroid. A real one.

Printers are the worst

I’ve had a personal saying for years now. Printers are designed, manufactured, and possessed by Satan. I hate them and they hate me.

There are, I suppose, good printers. Office printers seem to work well most of the time, but they’re not practical for home use at all. And come to think, the first time I used the printer at my new job I wound up dealing with a paper jam.

There’s a reason that copier smashing scene from Office Space resonates with so many people. Printer/copier/scanners are horrible to us. Consumer printers are particularly bad.

Consumer printers have this sinister business model where the actual machines are sold as loss leaders because you’re going to have to buy extremely overpriced ink as long as you want to use it. According to Consumer Reports, printer ink costs anywhere between $13 to $75 PER OUNCE. How is this not price fixing?

This thing is the worst.
This thing is the worst.

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A brief word on Net Neutrality

Net neutrality was big in the news recently thanks to the FCC. I’ve been a big believer in the principle of net neutrality ever since I heard it defined many years ago. Lately there’s been a whole lot of misinformation about what net neutrality is and isn’t thanks to politics.

I’ve seen numerous opinions on social media for and against net neutrality which are basically divided along ideological lines. Conservatives (and libertarians, I suppose) seem to hate it while liberals are applauding the move.

Like a lot of political issues, I think most Americans want the same end goal. We all want to be safe, happy, prosperous, and free. We disagree on how to get there.

All I really want to do is communicate what net neutrality is as simply as possible. The definition has become clouded by the debate over the FCC’s decision and that’s not helpful for anyone. Net neutrality existed as a concept long before the Obama Administration or the FCC got involved. It means something specific and just because some people disagree with the FCC’s move to classify internet service providers as utilities doesn’t mean opponents of that decision suddenly get to redefine the principle.

Wikipedia’s definition is great:

“Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”

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The Search for a New Phone

So it’s time to find a new phone. Autumn, my trusty old Nexus 4, has served me well, but it’s been acting up lately and the battery life is dismal.

nexus 4

Actually, that’s my second trusty Nexus 4. This is my first trusty Nexus 4.

nexus 4 broken
This is what happens when you chase after pretty girls and your pockets are too loose to hold your phone properly.

Yep. Those are some pretty nasty cracks. It was so bad that the screen stopped responding to touch input effectively rendering the phone useless. I take good care of my phones, but let’s face it: they go with us everywhere. They’re bound to get into trouble now and again.

Continue reading “The Search for a New Phone” – the wrong way to do digital commerce

So the other day I got an issue of Rolling Stone magazine with Pope Francis on the cover. That struck me as odd for a couple reasons.

First, why is Pope Francis on the cover of Rolling Stone? Did he start a band?

rolling stone pope

Oh man. That would be hilarious if the Pope started a band. That’s a universe I want to live in.

Second, why am I getting Rolling Stone magazine? I never subscribed. But there is was: my name and address on the sticker.

This has actually happened to me before. A few years ago I got Working Mother magazine for six months.

Yeah. I am not kidding you. Same deal: my name was on it and everything. And believe me, I definitely didn’t subscribe to that one either.

Anyhow, I decided to check my credit card history just to make sure I hadn’t been charged for a magazine I didn’t order. I didn’t find anything about Rolling Stone but I did see a different charge I didn’t recall making. Ugh.

Continue reading “ – the wrong way to do digital commerce”

The internet is in danger… again

The internet is awesome. I think we can all agree on that, right? Maybe…?

Sure, we complain about it a lot. We wonder what constant information and social media does to us as a species. But it would be seriously obstinate to insist that the internet hasn’t benefited us a great deal.

One of the best things about that internet is that it’s basically decentralized. Nobody owns it. Nobody runs it. That freedom has both positive and negative aspects, but in the long run, it has brought great innovations to all of us. Had the internet been a less free and open system it is possible that such innovation would have been stifled.

That freedom and openness is now in danger thanks to AT&T. Under the guise of consumer friendliness they’ve announced “Sponsored Data”. Companies can pay to have their websites and services not count against AT&T subscribers’ data plans.

Let’s say, for example, that Facebook pays AT&T for this. That means AT&T subscribers can use Facebook as much as they like without it costing them any precious data.

Sounds like a pretty good deal for AT&T customers, right?

Well, yeah. On the surface it seems like a pro-consumer move. In reality, this could turn out to be one of the worst things AT&T has ever done. And that’s saying a lot. With this move, AT&T is opening the floodgates for a non-neutral internet.

What the heck does that mean? Glad you asked.

Net neturality

Net neutrality is one of the founding principles of the internet. It basically means that all traffic on the internet is treated equally. Nothing gets greater priority than anything else. The internet has been and is supposed to be data agnostic. It doesn’t matter what website is loading. Internet protocol assigns them the same priority. The network itself is neutral. 

This means that a multi-billion dollar company like Google doesn’t have an inherent advantage over somebody hosting a website from a homemade server in their basement. Sure, Google’s money counts because they can afford faster servers, more servers, and advertising campaigns. But there’s nothing about the structure of the internet that gives Google (or any other giant company) a fundamental advantage. 

AT&T’s new plan will change that. AT&T subscribers will no longer have access to a neutral internet. Sponsored Data will train consumers to prioritize “Sponsored” websites – websites who have paid for preferential treatment – over other websites.

This is a very, very bad trend.

This sort of alteration to a network gives service providers a lot more power over the internet and their users than they currently possess. Suddenly we enter a world where to be really competitive online companies have to pay AT&T… and Verizon… and Sprint… and that’s just in the US! Were this trend to catch on in other nations, the cost of doing business would increase even more.

Given the importance of the internet to modern life, service providers should function like utility companies: providing you with bandwidth and charging you accordingly just like electric, gas, and water. Sponsored Data is a step in the opposite direction. It puts AT&T (and other telecoms should they follow suit) in the position of a gatekeeper. If your company hasn’t payed the Sponsored Data tax, you may lose users to those who have. Think about how this might apply to political, social, or religious organizations. Censorship by another name is still censorship.

This isn’t about “haves” and “have-nots.” This is about creating an extra barrier to climb over in order to be competitive online. It’s completely artificial. This is a problem that doesn’t have to exist but it will entirely because of the greed and shortsightedness of telecommunications companies.

The neutral internet is a wonderful thing and it needs to be preserved. I’m generally not one for seeking government solutions, but that is what we need in this case.

A few years back the FCC ruled on net neutrality. Wired networks (i.e. the internet service you get at home) were required to be neutral, but wireless networks (i.e. the internet you get via mobile phone) were exempted as a compromise. That was a mistake. Wireless internet is a huge market and is only going to grow in importance.

We need Congress to act on network neutrality. That’s probably too much to hope for since Congress isn’t exactly an effective legislative body these days. And they haven’t been very good at writing laws concerning technology in the past. Don’t forget the massive armada of telecom lobbyists who will fight tooth and nail opposing such a bill. Unfortunately, the cards are stacked against the internet remaining neutral.

Please get the word out. If you value the internet as a tool, as a platform, or even just for the entertainment value – please tell your friends and tell your representatives in Congress.

I’ve already contacted my representative and both senators about this topic. I never do that, guys. That’s how serious I am.