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Time for a Breather

May 13, 2012 Leave a comment

So I finally finished this exhausting school year, and I’m seriously relieved. I’ve officially accrued all the grades that will actually initially be on my medical school application later this summer, so now all I really need to worry about is actually getting that done.

I’m home right now, and I noticed that instead of the crappy 4:3 monitor my mom had hooked up to the old Mac Mini before, we now have a gorgeous Aluminum Apple 23″ Cinema Display (a few generations old). I have the wonderful 27″ Apple Thunderbolt Display back at school, but this thing just makes me wonder why they ever changed the design. The brushed aluminum framing the matte screen just screams professionalism a lot more than the glossy, black-bordered “pretty” ATD. Anyway, I of course hooked up the display to my 11″ MacBook Air (currently my only computer) and it’s working pretty well!

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I recently picked up a new hobby – one that is, in my opinion, a lot more productive, and probably more healthy than my previous obsession to new computers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still tightly following general tech rumors, especially Apple stuff (I would like to switch to a single 13″ MBP this year, if possible). I took that money I made a while back from selling my 17″ MacBook Pro and applied it to buying a camera. A Nikon D7000 to be precise, and then burned some more money on an MB-D11 battery grip, a Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX, a Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR. and a Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR Micro. I also have the new Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G on preorder (it should be out at the end of this month, but I’m not holding my breath. For the past month or so, all of my internet time has been devoted to researching and learning (and lusting) about photography technique and gear. In the coming months, I may just start posting photos to this blog (or I might start a different one just for photos). Oh, I also spent a hefty chunk of cash on a new Ona The Union Street camera bag. It was expensive, but it’s also the only messenger-style camera bag that I could find that also fit a laptop AND didn’t look like a turtle shell.
Here’s my gear (I have Betty’s 18-55mm VR kit lens from her D3100 on my body right now, since she snatched up the 35mm for some sharper shots. That’s fine with me since the 18mm end of the kit lens is the only access I have to wide-angle right now.)
I’d like to point out that the HB-36 lens hood of the 70-300mm and the LC-62 lens cap of the 105mm are both 3rd party/knockoffs. When I bought these lenses off of Craigslist, I didn’t really know much at all, so I overlooked this. I did get good prices on the lenses, so I don’t really want to complain, but the seller probably could have mentioned that to me. The 3rd party lens cap isn’t bothering me too much (same design as Nikon ones, but without a logo), but the lens hood is very stiff and difficult to remove and put on. I’m tempted to spend the $15-20 to replace it. I did buy a Nikon NC clear filter for the 105mm and the 70-300mm came with a Hoya UV filter, but I will probably also buy two 52mm NC clear filters for the 35mm and the 18-55mm kit lens, just for protection.
Here’s a shot of my 35mm taken with a 50mm f/1.4G.
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Aaaand, here’s the camera bag:
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I’m not going to bother with any unboxing pics, since the boxes were not really interesting at all.
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Categories: Discussion, Personal

A New Beginning?

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

So after a rather long, unannounced hiatus, I’ve decided I’m going to try and start blogging again. I may have brought up last year that I planned on expanding into a new blog, with less of a focus on tech, and more of a broad overview, but I’ve decided to simply do that within this current blog. I mean, how many people will actually care eh? Haha. I’ll probably start mixing in stuff about my life pretty abruptly, and I won’t really take any time to fill in any background info. Hopefully the few who do read won’t really care. I don’t care. This blog is for me anyway.

Anyway, I’d first like to apologize for not posting much last semester. School was absolute hell. Four jobs along with twenty academic units almost killed me. Physically. Seriously. This semester won’t really be any easier (fewer academic units, but still four jobs, three of which will likely take more time). I still have Quantitative Physiology, which, incidentally, is already becoming a huge pain in my ass. I already have an annoying lab assignment to finish, but thankfully it isn’t due for about a week. As of now, I’m just really thankful that the semester hasn’t really picked up just yet. I’m still burned out from last semester despite having winter break to recuperate, and although I’ve only been back for maybe four days, I feel like I’ve been chugging along for a month now. I’m tired. Luckily, I have my wonderful girlfriend keeping me company, and I can take my temporarily free evenings to relax and (re)watch Breaking Bad with her (awesome show by the way).

Speaking of Breaking Bad: I caught up this winter break, and I can agree with all the critics; Breaking Bad really is one of the greatest TV shows of all time. The acting, writing, and filming are all superb, and the ending of season 4 seriously left me salivating for more. I figured since my girlfriend hadn’t watched it yet, this should be our next endeavor. Just for reference, my girlfriend and I have watched (and kept up with) Scrubs (twice), Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother, and will soon be there with Breaking Bad as well. I also watch Dexter myself. I will be talking about these TV shows every once in a while.

Some interesting stuff. I’ve been eyeing a SATA III 256 GB SSD now (to replace the 128 GB Toshiba that came stock with my MBP), and over break, after a good two-three weeks of just eyeballing Slickdeals, I was down to two choices: a Crucial M4, or a Samsung 830. I ended up picking up a “like-new” Crucial M4 off of a seller on Amazon. The drive was still in its anti-static packaging, the seller had merely taken it out of the box, which he incidentally didn’t have either. Who cares. I got the drive for about $310 (including shipping), which put the drive at $1.21/GB. In contrast, the cheapest Samsung 830 I’ve seen is about $370 (ignoring the Microcenter price error a couple months back at $229), or about $1.45/GB. Either way, both drives seem fairly reliable, with the M4 having a longer track record. Note: at the time of my ordering the drive, the 5200 hour bug was already patched with the 0309 firmware. The Samsung 830 seems to bench a little bit better than the M4, likely due to the Samsung Toggle Mode NAND, but in real-world use, I wouldn’t see any noticeable difference.

Aaaanyway, I picked up the drive yesterday (finally), after the drive was actually delivered on Tuesday. Thank the campus mailroom for being super bogged down with students rushing in and ordering textbooks. The drive had 0009 firmware, so the first thing I did was burn the firmware ISO to a CD and update the drive. This obviously involved a little hackery, as I had to take out my OptiBay to put the ODD back in (Macs won’t boot from external optical disc drives). After the firmware was updated, I put the 160 GB Intel X25-M into the OptiBay, and the M4 into the regular bay (which has SATA III). The rest was a breeze (well.. it all was), with a quick ~20 minute OS X installation, then approximately ~1 hour of me clean installing my software. Yeah, I skipped out on the Time Machine restore, since I figured it was time for clean system, after having tested many beta Lion builds on the previous drive. As of now, the M4 has been running great, so that’s that. I’ll update later if anything comes up. I’m not really seeing any performance difference, but I also have yet to do any large transfers. No beach balls at all, though, which I would see maybe once a day on the Toshiba.

Over Winter Break, I also beat The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, the former of which sparked interest in the latter. I’m currently playing Phantom Hourglass (if I can find time to play during the school year), and I do still need to get to numerous other games backed up in my Steam account (Arkham City, LIMBO, Crysis, and plenty more…). I also bought Rayman Origins for $20 (actually $10, considering I paid $10 for a $20 TRU voucher, which I used for the game) over break, and only managed to play it for about 10 minutes.

This post is starting to sound a little stupid, but really, I haven’t posted for approximately 3 months. I have so much backed up stuff in my mind. I’ll stop for now, but I’ll eventually spit out whatever I feel necessary. With this blog kind of changing its tone, I will still keep reviews and tech tips fairly separate from the more personal posts. Hopefully, it won’t be too messy.

A Book and Some New Toys

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Soon after Steve Jobs’s death, I went ahead and ordered a copy of his biography. I spent some time deciding which electronic version I wanted (Kindle vs. iBooks), but I ultimately realized that I could just go ahead and buy the hard copy, thus avoiding any syncing issues entirely. This book would be worth owning on paper anyway.

So I actually received the book two days ago, and having only read a couple chapters in, I can say that the book is great. I won’t bore you with any details since I suspect anyone reading this blog will probably read that book anyway. Furthermore, other tech blogs have been incessantly posting tidbits from the book, behavior I find incredibly annoying since most people want to read those tidbits for themselves. It’s not even tech news!

The other day, an interesting deal popped up on SlickDeals. Verizon had two iPhone 4/4S bundles listed in their online store as free. I quickly jumped and ordered 3 of each (the maximum allowed amount). That was last Sunday. On Thursday, my order status never updated, so I called in and asked. I kept getting vague answers about how I’d be getting an email with more details on my order on Friday, but my order would be processed by then. On Friday, lo and behold, I get a cancellation email with an offer for 30% off. Psh. Not cool. Anyway, I called in to complain, and insisted that my order should be fulfilled. I get some attitude from the first CS rep, suggesting that since I was not a Verizon customer, I could only get the 30% off offer as a courtesy. Discrimination eh? Escalation! I pointed out that I’d talked to non-Verizon customers who successfully had their orders pushed through by calling in (SDers). At first the supervisor tries to deny that and suggest that the other person might have just taken the 30% discount. I insisted that that was not the case. After 20 minutes of arguing, I successfully got one of each package pushed through, again “as a courtesy.” Yeah, 3 of each was probably a little bit excessive hahaha. Anyway, along with my book the other day, my package came. For a little bit of my time, I got a free Power and Protection Package, and a Premium Brand Package. The P&P Package had a case + belt clip, a car charger, and some screen protectors. The PB Package was the real winner. It included a Jawbone Icon, an Incase case (with a little stand), and another set of screen protectors. Cool! What I’ve learned from this experience: Verizon’s customer service isn’t really that great unless you pull a little bit of arm twisting; companies are usually on the hook for pricing errors, unless they want to lose customers. I know I sound like a bit of a jerk for all this, but the person I spoke with on Thursday actually promised to process my order.

Categories: Discussion, Random, Tips

My Apologies

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

So my workload really ramped up after my last posts, and I haven’t been able to deliver what I’d originally promised. I’ll probably be making a couple posts over the next day or two to try to cover some lost ground.

iPhone

The iPhone event a couple weeks ago brought the iPhone 4S (“nothing more” than a spec-bumped iPhone 4). I, along with most people, pretty much expected this news – it really follows Apple’s pattern of small updates. The 4S features an A5 processor, a much better camera, and possibly most important to most people, Siri.

I’d originally not planned on getting a 4S at all (none of the features except the bumped camera really enticed me, and I’d have to pay mid-contract pricing). But, thanks to my wonderful mother, who had an upgrade available and could really care less about a new phone, I am now on a new white 16 GB iPhone 4S. I will be sending my older black 32 GB iPhone 4 back to her soon, not because these were the “terms” of some trade, but because at the very least, I want to be able to iMessage and FaceTime my mother with the new toy she gave me.

I don’t have an unboxing gallery for this guy since the packaging is basically the same as the iPhone 4. Nothing has changed, really. It still comes with the same accessories and the box is largely the same except for a new iCloud logo on the bottom. I admit, I played with Siri quite a bit on first use, and it is amusing. Utility-wise, though, she really doesn’t do all that much (that you can’t do faster by hand) unless you’re driving. Siri really shines when you’re driving and need to make calls or respond to text messages. Using my trusty Klipsch S4i’s, I was able to EASILY make several phone calls and respond to 3-4 texts within a short 20 minute drive, all without distracting myself from the road whatsoever. Having Siri is really just like having that assistant sit next to you and make those phone calls and text messages for you. My opinion on Siri is that for now, it’s nothing more than voice dialing on steroids. Many of its features are cool, but not quite necessary in life. Two or three years down the road, though, when it becomes more developed, Siri will definitely become a staple of iPhones, and the major differentiator from the other OSes. As a side-note, since Siri is in beta, I am holding out hope that it gets brought to the A4 iOS devices once it becomes a release build. From the hackers, Siri clearly doesn’t NEED the A5 to run. The iPhone 4S still has the same 512 MB of RAM as well.

I played with the camera a little bit too. Saint Louis has really been pretty rainy and gloomy for the last couple days, and I really haven’t had much time to take nice pictures. The only changes really noticeable in everyday application are that the photos obviously come out in a much higher resolution and size, and the file sizes increase as well. Furthermore, thanks to the zippier A5 chip in these phones alongside this pumped up camera, the battery life seems to have taken bit of a hit. I don’t really remember the battery life of my iPhone 4 on iOS4 since I’ve been on iOS5 all summer, but I’ve typically used about 10-20% more per day on my 4S than on the 4. It’s not a dramatic difference, since I charge nightly anyway (with the monthly discharge of course), so it doesn’t bother me much.

Some other points of interest: that rumored yellowing screen on the new phones doesn’t seem to be an issue for my girlfriend’s or my new 4S. I would also like to point out that the speakers seem to be quite a bit louder – sitting in my room alone I can easily be satisfied playing music at about 25% volume. I’d say that’s pretty impressive. Obviously, they’re still phone speakers and do sound a bit tingy, but hey, I’m impressed with what I’ve got now.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been on iOS5 for a while now, so I’ve had plenty of time to mess with the new features. I have been using iCloud with my Macs to sync calendars, contacts, notes, etc, and the synergy is really great. I love that I no longer need to worry about not having bookmarks in sync between my two machines, and it’s really like leaving off exactly where I was when I move between my MBP, my MBA, and my iPhone. Also, since I’ve only had 200 text messages a month since I even got a texting plan, I’ve had to rely on Google Voice, Textfree, etc for the longest time. Thanks to iMessage, I might be able to just switch over to the native messaging app entirely, since all of those 3rd-party free texting apps just suck. They crash all the time, and it’s irritating having to go into two different apps to text different people. Give it a year or two, I think the carriers are going to have to rethink their texting plan charges, since iMessage, BBM, GV (each for their respective platforms) are going to start gaining momentum. There really is no reason to have to pay $20 a month for unlimited texting when the user is already paying for data.

All in all, my verdict on the 4S is fairly positive. While I would still make the same choice as before in not buying the 4S unless I had a very easy way of getting one (thanks Mom), for those still using models older than the 3GS should definitely upgrade. iPhone 4 users will mostly see very little reason to shell out the cash, though, and should wait for the next big revision. I think Apple is finally getting it’s rhythm down on iPhone revisions and the carrier contracts: those who upgrade on the big revision should upgrade at the next big revision in two years. Likewise, those who buy the “S” model of each iPhone, should wait for the next “S” model, presumably also two years away. The iPhone 4S is a great phone, and for those who have an easy path to upgrade should definitely jump. For those that have a more difficult time upgrading can hold out, since the 4S still isn’t THAT big of a change.

Categories: Discussion, Review

Soon

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Today is the highly anticipated Apple iPhone event. I’m not really expecting all that much, as the most likely release is going to be a spec-bumped iPhone 4 with cool voice-command features. There are still rumors flying around of a redesigned iPhone 5 coming up, but I just really don’t see it happening on this release.

Either way, I will be making another post later about the event, as well as the Apple Thunderbolt Display review.

Categories: Discussion, Random

That Time of Year

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, we’re into September, so it’s time to start speculating about what Apple has up its sleeve this Fall. We’ve been seeing a good deal of leaked “iPhone 4S” pictures, including logic board and front panel leaks. Most of the actually leaked material looks just like the current iPhone 4. The exception, of course, is the fact that a bunch of cases have come out from China depicting a completely different design for the speculated “iPhone 5.” Personally, I’d just like OS X 10.7.2, iOS5, and iCloud to just launch already, and the only thing really holding them back is that Apple needs to push out their next round of hardware before they’ll finally release the software.

I don’t expect iPods to get much this year, and last thing: where the hell are the SB Mac Pros!?

Categories: Discussion, Random

Customer Service

September 15, 2011 1 comment

My luck has been pretty good as of late. A couple nights ago I was just walking across campus and gosh-darnit, there, lying on the ground was a nice pair of black Klipsch image s4i’s. My girlfriend was just looking into getting a new pair of earbuds! Well, they had rubber tips already, and I didn’t really want to stick used earbud tips in either of our ears, so I started looking into new tips.

Google. Google. Google. Comply Foam caught my eye (LOTS of forums rave about these tips for Klipsch buds), so I figured I’d look into getting some. Until today, I’ve never used foam earbud tips so I had absolutely no clue about sizing, comfort, durability, etc. I saw a 3-pack on Amazon for about $15, so I really didn’t feel like spending that much on essentially an experiment, especially if I didn’t even know they would fit. Here’s where the fun came in. I dug around, and apparently, Comply Foam has a fairly good reputation for doing social stuff on Facebook (giving out free tips, earbuds, etc), so I figured, why not? I emailed them and flat out asked for a free sample. They probably wouldn’t even respond to me (as most companies typically don’t).

Monday: A kind Mr. Nate Knox in the customer service department of Comply Foam emailed me back. He asked for an address and a pack of T-100’s was heading my way. Ok, to be honest, at this point, I thought I might’ve emailed a fake address, got tricked into some phishing scam. I gave them one of my secondary email addresses and my school mailing address, so it wasn’t really THAT big a deal, even if I did start getting a shitton of spam. No big deal.

Today I get a package at the mailroom. There, in a normal medium yellow envelope was a 3-pack (different sizes) of Comply Foam T-100s.

At this point I guess I’ll cut the dramatization short, because there really wasn’t anything else too exciting. I popped the small size tips on my s4i’s, and I basically had an orgasm in my ear. I had to get to class (where I am now – yes, I really should be paying attention), and I just really, really didn’t want to take the earbuds out. The foam is REEEEAAALLY comfortable, and the sound with them is just amazing. I thought my Klipsch’s were awesome with the included rubber tips. Well, they’re not. I will definitely be buying a pack or two more of the T-100s (replacements, for my gf, etc), because they’re just incredible.

Thank you so much, Nate. You’ve shown me amazing customer service, and I’m very happy to have contacted you.

Categories: Discussion, Impressions