A year without Facebook

A year ago I decided to give up using Facebook (FB).  I had several reasons why I wanted to give up using it on a regular basis.  I wrote a blog post about it http://bit.ly/1dRYyVw.

I started using FB about 6 years or so ago.  At the time I was working for HP and they were doing some testing with the newly acquired Snapfish service and how it would integrate with FB.  I reluctantly agreed to sign up.  I had no idea what I was going to post and “put out there”.  For years I have had a personal website and a blog, so why did I need this FB thing?  For quite a while I barely used it other than to do the initial testing for work.  To get somewhat motivated using it, I decided to at least publish something once a week.  I started publishing 80’s music videos once a week on Wednesdays with some commentary about the video.

Over the years, FB became a sort of PITA.  It was like I was in high school all over again.  It was all too easy to get caught up with who was doing what.  It always seemed like people were doing wild and crazy things and then I started to realize statistically someone in my group of friends was going to have an “AWESOME DAY IN CANCUN!” event at least a few times a week.  There is nothing wrong seeing your friends posting these types of things, but it just grew tiresome.  I wanted authenticity.  If you had a “stepped in dog shite, got fired, had a flat tire, and the baby threw up on you” kind of day, say so!  That is what interests me.  Keep it real.  I like to hear about the good and the bad.  It just seems like on FB everyone only posts the “BITCHIN’ day! Just won the lottery!!!!” and nothing else.

When I signed off of FB, I decided to give other social media services a try. I tried Google+ and found it interesting with the way you could circle your friends into separate groups.  In practice I rarely sent something out to just a few people though.  I like the different communities that you could subscribe to.  What I didn’t care for was the “Google-ness” of the service.  My primary phone is a Nokia 1520 which is a Windows Phone 8 device.  There are no real Google apps for my phone.  Without those apps, it made it a chore to post things and to follow others.  I sort of gave up using the service because of this.  It was nice when I would grab my work Samsung Note 3, but that isn’t with me all of the time.

I started using twitter more and more often.  I like the spontaneity and ubiquity of the service.  I found it sort of hard to follow others as the timeline can be sort of hard to parse out what I wanted to follow other than trying to drink from the fire hose of data coming in.  I also found the 140 character limit a bit challenging at times.  I still use this service more than any other social media service, but I am not a heavy twitter user by any means.

So, the big question: Did I cheat?  Did I use FB while I had a self imposed ban on the service?  Well, yes and no.  I didn’t willingly sign in and post or read others posts during the past year.  I didn’t “Like” anything on the web (I never really did that anyways).  For the most part I stayed away.  The only time I did use the service was to sign into certain websites that use FB as an authentication service (this practice is LAME BTW).  I also inadvertently logged in when I set up various mobile devices.  A couple of times I needed a phone number or address that I realized was still locked up in FB-ville, so I needed to sign back in to get that info.

Will I come back to FB and start posting regularly or catching up with what people are doing?  Probably not.  That ship has pretty much sailed.  I just don’t feel the need to check in and follow what others are doing or make posts about my life.  I may just keep using it as an address book.

Andrew at work started a new campaign:  “No Facebook February” complete with wrist bands and all.  I think people are growing weary of FB and it is things like this that are showing the cracks in FB’s appeal.

No Facebook February!
No Facebook February!

My daughter is going to be 12 in March and has been asking about FB as some of her friends are on it.  The jury is still out on whether she will be able to be FB anytime soon, but when she does I will be one of those parents who will be on FB to check in on her FB to see how things are going.  I have shown her twitter and how it works and she thinks she may like that service better.

I like the combination of a blog for long winded pontifications and twitter for short updates about my life.  I use Flickr or SkyDrive to post pictures of what I am up to on the web.  These combination of services seem to work for me for the most part.

Who knows, maybe I will post a few more 80’s videos on Wednesdays  for old times sake 😉 .

Thoughts on my Swiss Army Knife

fr11_17_2013102440

I was given a Victornix Swiss Army Knife for Christmas when I was 16 years old (the one in the picture above).  I believe the model is called “Champion”.  At the time it was considered to have “all the bells and whistles” that you could possibly have on a knife.  It even has a small magnifying glass.  I remember wanting this knife so badly when I was a kid.  I was really into backpacking and hiking and needed a knife like this for when I went into the great outdoors.
I am now almost 46 years old.  This knife has been with me constantly for the last 30 years.  I have taken it on many of life’s adventures.  It has gone with me on three separate trips spanning ¾ of the Pacific Crest Trail (From Mexico up to around Burney Falls CA).  It helped repair my broken pack frame and even started a fire or two with the magnifying glass.
I had it on me at all times when I was in the Navy aboard ship and forward deployed.  It helped fix gear and equipment when tools were never to be found or hard find.
I took it with me to Japan when I was 17 (remember when you could take knives on planes?) and climbed Mt. Fuji with it.
When I was younger and went on long distance cycling events (triathlon’s and “centuries”), I used it to fix busted derailleurs and assist with fixing flat tires when I was out in the middle of nowhere.
In college I had it with me all the time.  I used it to open beer bottles at parties.  It would help start conversations, “Hey, let me help you with that beer bottle.  What is your name?  I am Brady…”.  While most parties I attended were not the sort of place “wine connoisseurs” would hang out, the built in corkscrew was used on more than one occasion.
I know the toothpick that is on it isn’t the most hygienic of toothpicks, but when you need a toothpick and one isn’t around, boy does that come in handy!
The tweezers have pulled numerous thorns, briars, and pieces of glass out of my body that shouldn’t have been in my body.
I thought I would never use the little saw that is on it, but I have even used it to make a lean-to when I went backpacking and didn’t take a tent because I knew for sure that it wouldn’t rain when I was going hiking (boy, did I not call that one).
I could go on and on about the other tools and how they were used.  Like how the file was used when working on my 1970 VW van that had broken down. To get it running again I used the file to clean up carbon build up on the rotor and cap terminals that was causing the engine to misfire.  There are TONS of stories like this.  The point is this knife is a part of me.  I look at it and remember all of these life events.  No inanimate object has been with me for this long.
So Swiss Army Knife who I depend on and trust, thank you for your years of service.  You are a part of my life and I am glad that you are here.  Here is to another 30 years together and the adventures we will share.

Anker Astro 3 external battery review

I work in the IT department where I work.  Specifically I am in charge of the mobile devices for both corporate owned assets and BYOD.  I am the MobileIron and BES admin (among other things).  I am in the position to recommend what types of devices and accessories we purchase for our company.
 
Image
 
Several hundred of my end users at work have iPad’s and iPhones.  Many of these people are in the field and rely on their mobile equipment and accessories to “just work”.  I make sure that we deploy equipment that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and require the end users to call into the help desk because things aren’t working properly.
 
A growing number of my users have expressed an interest in an external battery to supplement the internal battery on their mobile devices.  After doing some research, I tested some products.  We did some trial runs with this other company and both my users and I were not impressed with the product we were going to go with.
 
A few months ago I purchased an Anker USB 3.0 hub for personal use.  I was impressed with the functionality and build quality of the unit.  I then noticed that Anker makes external batteries for mobile devices.  
 
I got an Anker Astro 3 for testing.  After thorough testing, I can confidently say this is the product we are going to deploy in my company.  The device is really well made and looks great!  It has a nice soft touch rubbery skin that covers the sides (and makes it easy to hold).  A nice mesh travel bag was included along with a USB micro USB cable (and an Apple 30 pin adapter that plugs into the micro USB cable).  The charge indicator is a nice ring of LED lights that show the remaining battery power.  Turning it on is fun.  You just shake the unit from side to side a few times.  Brilliant!
 
The Astro 3 was able to charge an iPhone 5 from 5% left on its battery to full in less than two hours.  An iPad 4 took about 6 hours to fully charge from about 5% of remaining battery.  I was able to get similar results when charging my other test equipment (Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S3, Blackberry z10 & q10, and Nexus 10).  The device is rated to deliver 12,000mAh at 4A.  It was very easy to charge multiple devices at the same time as well.
 
I couldn’t be happier with this product!  The only thing I would think that would make this product even better is the ability to allow for pass through charging of devices while the device itself was charging.  This is a very minor quibble though.  

Perspective

People in a miserable situation:

Image

People having the time of their life:

Image

 

The top photo is of the Zaatari refuge camp in Jordan filled by Syrians fleeing their oppressive regime.  The bottom photo is of the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

From these two pictures, you would never know one group of people is in a horrible place that they can’t get out of (for the time being) and the other group is there for a few days.  One group is experiencing misery and hardship and the other group is having the time of their lives.  One group has no freedom of choice and the other group has all the freedom in the world.  One group is at a sustenance level, the other “roughing it” because the want to.  One group is searching for freedom and the other has found it.

Perspective – it is an interesting concept.

Lit Motors and molars

While at the dentist office today getting a crown put in, I started to talk to my dentist about the whole process.  My dentist had basically carved out the back half of my tooth to insert a porcelain piece in its place.   I was curious to know how the particular crown he was putting in could be strong enough to withstand me biting down (the human jaw can produce a bite force of around 175psi) since the crown was in the middle of my tooth creating a fracture line.  The bite force should basically break my tooth in half over time I thought.  How could my tooth withstand me biting down hard on a popcorn kernel or whatever other junk I decided to throw down the hatch?  I told my dentist that I had a degree in physical sciences, so I always want to know how things work.  Well, my dentist explained a lot how the new porcelain piece is bonded to my tooth both chemically and mechanically.  He described in detail how the dentin in my teeth worked and bunch of other stuff.  I mentioned that it sounded a bit like “nano machines” at work.  He laughed.

We then started talking about the machine that was building my new crown piece.  I told him that I worked at HP for many years and was somewhat familiar with CAD machines and this appeared to be something similar.  Again, my dentist talked to me at length about the machine and told me how it carved my crown out of a solid piece of porcelain.  I talked to him about how I wanted to get a MakerBot 3D printer.  He said he just bought one for he and his son to develop something for dentistry.

It was at this point that my dentist said I reminded him of his son.  Now my dentist is a Korean guy and is maybe 5′ 3″ tall.  I am of Scottish/Irish/English/American Indian decent and 6′ 4″ tall.  Obviously I have some other attribute that made him say what he said 😉

My dentist told me that I talk about things just like his son does.  He told me about his son’s current project.  He is building a pretty cool vehicle called the C-1 by Lit Motors.  It involves using gyroscopes to keep the two wheel vehicle upright at all times.  Very cool stuff.

Now it kind of sucked getting a crown put in and a couple of fillings done, but chatting with my dentist about geeky stuff kind of made it a little more bearable :).

Kombucha brewing

I have been drinking store purchased kombucha for about 5 years now.  I decided to take the plunge and start making it myself.

The basic ingredients and equipment are pretty simple.  I am using a gallon jar, an old cut up t-shirt to cover the mixture, a cup of sugar, a live “scoby” that we got from Oregon Kombucha, Oolong tea, chopsticks to fish out the tea bag when finished, some bottles with built in stoppers and a digital pH tester (not shown).

When the brewing process is finished, I will take some more pictures and post the results in another blog post.

Image

 

All ready to go!

Image

New Years resolution – No more Facebook

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. I never felt the need to do one. If I need to make a change in my life, I just change it. Why wait for some arbitrary date?

Since I want to make a change in my life and it just so happens to be around the beginning of the new year, I am going to call it a New Year’s resolution.

I have decided to give up Facebook. I am not completely giving up Facebook per se. For the time being, I still want to have the ability to A) use Facebook as a universal contacts database (until I get off my duff and put all of the data somewhere else) and B) keep my account to log into some sites that require a Facebook account (note to web sites – Don’t be idiots and go this route. It is lame and it shows that you are lazy. It also creates a single point of failure. If someone hacks your Facebook account that is tied to say your bank account, you are screwed. Tying together authentication mechanisms is a recipe for disaster. Case in point).

So, what is changing? I am not going to be posting new content to my Facebook timeline. I am also not going to check what is going on in the Facebook world via the web site or on my phone.

Why am I doing this? Well, I am just tired of Facebook. I am tired of the “rat race” to be honest. I don’t get what most people put on Facebook (I don’t follow most sports except for rugby, I don’t care who is doing well on American Idol, and all the rest of pop culture). I am tired of seeing people’s progress on the Fartville Farm app or their zodiac charts for the day. Yes, I know I can block these, but I get tired of going in and blocking them as new games and apps appear. I am tired of the constant privacy changes. Who has the time to constantly be checking their privacy settings to make sure stuff that you don’t want to be seen by others stays that way? I know I don’t. I have other things to do. I don’t post a lot to FB, so that makes it somewhat easier to leave. To me Facebook is a poor way to communicate. I don’t like chatting all that much (why not just TALK to each other via phone or Skype, Gtalk, etc)? The FB email system is a joke; no threading, no relevant info that is easily searchable, etc. Since the terms of service for using Facebook keep changing, I don’t want to post any more content to their servers. I still don’t get why so many people post pictures to Facebook. Look what Instagram did (and later rescinded – sort of) with their terms of service. Who do you think owns Instagram (Save you a search: It’s Facebook)? Some things that I have posted don’t show up until I pay money to “promote” the post (seriously!?!?!). And lastly, enough with the walled gardens. Facebook wants to wall in the Internet into its own little cocoon of bits and bytes. Facebook wants to put a wrapper around what you see and experience on the web and track you ever step of the way. Nope….No thanks.

What will I do instead of using Facebook for social media and my <sarcasm> oh so important “web presence” </sarcasm>? Well, I mostly have been using twitter (which auto-feeds my FB timeline -turning that one off….now). My twitter account is @bradymac if you want to follow me there. I post my pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bradymacdonald/. I don’t post a lot on Google+ (I do like their communities feature), but here is my info in case you are interested: http://goo.gl/fvL5Z. I am also going to start using the Path (path.com) app more frequently.  I think they have the right idea for social media (at least for me).  Path  really does need a Windows Phone app though.  My website is http://www.bitflipper.com where you can find my email address and other info as well.

I guess I will see how this goes. I figure for those of you who want to keep in contact with me, we will do so by other means. Who knows, maybe I will give it up completely.

My feelings on gun control

The recent shooting at the school in Connecticut was absolutely horrible.  The week before that incident there was a shooting at the Clackamas Town Center in Portland Oregon which is only about 30 miles from where I live.  It wasn’t that long ago that a dozen people were killed in a Colorado movie theater.

Do guns kill people or do people kill people (and the guns are just an ends to the means)?  The debate rages on. If guns weren’t so readily available, would these massacres still have happened?  In most of these cases, the gunman turns the weapon on themselves after their killing spree.  Is it so hard to imagine a suicide bomber strapping an improvised bomb to themselves and entering a school or mall and taking out dozens of people?
The NRA is saying we should be posting armed guards (possibly National Guardsmen) at schools and other events.  Unless we start installing TSA Airport screen devices and checkpoints at all of these locations, how are we going to prevent a shooter from doing at least some damage?  If the gunman is that intent on killing people, a couple of guys out front is not going to stop them.  Case in point: the Columbine shooting incident had an armed sheriff’s deputy on site and that didn’t stop the shooter.
Ok, here is where I get on my soap box for a few minutes.
I believe in the 2nd amendment.  If it weren’t for guns, we would still be under British rule.  This country was built in part by guns.  I don’t agree with some of it, but having an armed population can sometimes make a corrupt despot think twice about doing what North Korea has done to its people.
While I don’t hunt or shoot for sport, I have hunted in the past and went shooting for sport.  While in the military, I shot sem-automatic and automatic weapons.  I personally own a shotgun and a pistol.  I understand that some people enjoy shooting weapons just for the pleasure of doing so.  Guns have always fascinated me in how they are made.  The precision and tooling required to create a gun  I find very interesting.
I do however feel that we should ban the sale of automatic/semi-automatic weapons and large clips/magazines for general public use with one caveat.  If you want one of these weapons, you can have one, but you MUST keep it at an approved firing range.  I don’t see any need for someone to take their semi-automatic weapon out of one of these facilities.  You want to shoot fully auto?  Fine, do it in an approved facility or target range.  The guns will have some sort of RFID or tagging system that sends out an alert if it leaves the approved gun range.
I don’t want to see the banning of single action bolt rifles, hand guns (with regular sized clip), shotguns or anything like that.  I feel a person has the right to protect their property and go hunting (this from a vegetarian 😉 ). I do think it should be harder to acquire these weapons than is currently in place.
I don’t think posting armed guards everywhere is going to help.  I think all that does is give a false sense of security.  Many banks have armed guards and bank robbers still rob banks.  They may wear body armor or they just feel like they are invincible – whatever.
Here is the monkey wrench that is being thrown into the works: 3D printed plastic guns.  Pretty soon it won’t matter how much you regulate or try and stop gun proliferation, 3D printing is going to change that.  Right now the availability of 3D printers are still too expensive for most people, but so too was inkjet printers when they first came out.  3D printers are set to change manufacturing and distribution in the coming years.  Right now the guns being printed are crude and the parts are being banned in several of the online 3D parts repositories.  This is hard to keep up with especially as time goes on and more parts and repositories are out there (think BitTorrent for 3D parts).
Bottom line is that we need to start looking at the why’s and how’s that creates these sort of horrible tragedies.  Is it because we have a society based on violence?  Well, things were violent back throughout history.  Gunfights in the Old West, dueling with swords or guns at the drop of a hat, etc.  Automatic and semi-automatic weapons just make this killing more efficient.
Perhaps we should be spending more time on “at risk” individuals who have displayed anti-social tendencies or have serious mental issues.  I don’t mean to just drug them up with the latest drug du jour that big pharma has cooked up, I mean real work with these people.  To me this is where we should be spending our time and money.
Look, I don’t have the answers here.  I don’t know who has them.  But, I think we as a society should be constantly talking about these things.  We shouldn’t wait for a horrible tragedy to occur to start talking about it.  That isn’t the time to have serious discourse on the subject.
I am hoping as a society we learn to better understand what causes these types of occurrences so that we can become something better than we are now.

Nokia Lumia 920 low light performance

The kids were watching “The Grinch who stole Christmas”.  I took a pic with my work Nokia Lumia 920 phone.  I also took a pic with my Samsung Galaxy II (AT&T SkyRocket).  Both are 8MP cameras (technically the Lumia is an 8.7MP).  I didn’t enhance either picture.  I am also showing what gets uploaded automatically – Skydrive for the Nokia Windows Phone 8 and Google+ for the Android.

IMHO the Nokia blows the Samsung out of the water.  I didn’t use a flash on either picture.

Nokia Lumia 920 pic

Samsung Galaxy II (SkyRocket) pic