Saturday, September 29, 2012

Full Moon

For years now, I've been trying in vain to take a decent picture of the moon. And so tonight when I saw a full moon peeking through the trees, I thought I'd give it another try.  The problem is that I can never get it to look like anything other than a glowing blob in the sky.  No matter what settings I try, I am unable to get any detail.  I would love to be able to see the Sea of Tranquility, but to no avail.  Granted, I don't have an expensive DSLR camera, but I feel like my point and shoot should be able to do better than this.  I had it on a tripod and set it for night landscape mode.  Is there some other mode that would work better? The only night modes I have are night landscape and night portrait.  Do I need to study up and figure out what manual settings work?  I will say that this does take way better pictures than my cell phone at least.

National Coffee Day

Happy National Coffee Day, one and all.  This is a day that traditionally is filled with peace and love because people can't be unhappy with a cup of coffee in their hands.  At least not a good cup of coffee, Seattle's Best makes me angry sometimes.  But I believe that we could have world peace if only everyone who had a disagreement would sit down with their adversary and enjoy a delicious cup of hot coffee. 

That said, I decided to celebrate this momentous occasion by roasting some fresh coffee.  I started out with some green Costa Rica tarrazu beans.

Roasted them for about 8 minutes in my Fresh Roast +

Cooled the beautiful, delicious, dark roasted beans.
I then ground and brewed them, added some half & half, and am now enjoying a delicious cup of coffee.  Another successful National Coffee Day in the Craw Fu household! 
And lest you think that is all, let me just say that a new study has found that a green coffee bean supplement will help you lose weight.  In a 22 week study, men and women lost an average of 17 pounds when taking the supplement.  There is seemingly no end to the health benefits of coffee!  Truly a super food.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Apple and the iPhone 5

Recently, The Molitor, a self proclaimed Apple zealot, posted a brief treatise on what makes the iPhone, and Apple products in general, great, and I feel the need to rebut.  If you don't want to take the time to read his position, it can essentially be summarized as 'they make pretty products'. Never mind the fact that Apple just sued Samsung, claiming that the Galaxy SII was designed so that it was indistinguishable from the iPhone to the layman.

To provide full disclosure, let me just say that Apple makes fine products, I personally have owned 2 ipods for several years, and for a while owned some Apple stock and sold it for a tidy profit.  Had I held onto it longer, I would like the company a whole lot more. Apple is a well run company and does a lot of things well.  Their forte is in user interface.  For years they have designed their products in a way that they are easier to use than a majority of their competitors, and I will readily admit that my android phone has room to improve in this area - some things are more difficult to do than they should be.  Apple is also second to none in marketing.  There is a well known proverb 'a fool and his money are soon parted', and nobody does a better job of separating fools from their cash than Apple. Time and again, Apple has taken existing products and ideas, repackaged them and slapped an Apple logo on them, and convinced a large portion of the populace that it was their idea.  Even a former Apple executive admitted as much, saying that, "Apple haven't invented anything."

That brings me to what I don't like about Apple, beginning with the legion of cult members. For example, when Apple released the white iPhone 4, the fanboys fell all over themselves lining up to get in line to throw their money at Apple, proclaiming the company execs to be geniuses for inventing the color white.  Example #2: Jimmy Kimmel recently took to the street to gauge public response to the iPhone 5.  He showed people the iPhone 4S, told them it was the iPhone 5, and they predictably fawned over how much faster it was, how it was lighter weight, how much better the display was, etc.

In general, Apple customers are the epitome of conspicuous consumption, however rather than buying Apple products to display wealth (as is the dictionary description), they buy them to convey status.  They feel that owning the latest Apple product somehow makes them cool, little knowing that it makes them a laughingstock.

I'm not one to let the opinion of others to influence my decision, so I'll continue.  I dislike Apple's restrictive environment.  Users are restricted in what they can do with the products they own, and developers are handcuffed with what they are allowed do do with apps.  This is exactly the thing that opened the door for Microsoft to dominate them in the PC market, and has opened the door for Google to walk through in the phone and tablet market.  Unless Apple learns from past mistakes, they will continue to see their market share erode.  But I digress, my point is that not only do several existing Android and Windows Mobile phones sport superior specs, but they allow you the freedom to do more with your device. I realize that this is a point of preference, as many people would sacrifice performance for usability, but I am very much a utilitarian, and being able to do more and do it faster is more important to me.

This leads me to my next issue: an inability to keep pace in performance has led Apple to become incredibly litigious.  Their answer to eroding market share, rather than create better products, has been to sue everyone in sight.  They recently won a decision against Samsung, which most experts agree will probably be overturned or significantly reduced upon appeals, but more importantly will undoubtedly set off a chain reaction of retaliatory and pre-emptive lawsuits, all to the detriment of the consumer.  Yes, I absolutely believe that Apple should have the right to defend it's patents, and to some degree I believe that this is more an issue with the horribly broken patent system which will issue a ridiculous patent for a rectangular shape with curved corners. Mark Cuban has written extensively and more eloquently than I could regarding patent law, so I won't waste time duplicating efforts. My point is that this spate of lawsuits will reduce competition in the industry and increase the cost of products.  The big loser will be consumers.  There is a well written editorial here, and I couldn't state it any better than this:
In the end, consumers will lose. Companies high and low are scrapping potentially amazing product ideas right now for fear of legal retaliation. Not just from Apple -- this ruling is way, way bigger than that -- but from any company with a patent on [insert obscure shape here]. I hope we're happy.
The lawsuit against Samsung was primarily fueled by Steve Jobs' insane ego, so I hope that with Tim Cook now in charge, perhaps cooler heads will prevail, however I fear that Pandora's box is now open and can't be closed again.

Again, full disclosure: I currently own a Motorola Droid Bionic.  I'm happy with it, but would have preferred the Samsung Galaxy SII if only it were available from Verizon.  Prevously I owned a Samsung Omnia (Windows Mobile), and prior to that a Motorola Razr.  I believe that Samsung currently makes the highest quality phones, and will look had at their products when it comes time for me to upgrade.  I'm currently irritated that Google has gone out of their way to make it difficult to sync android phones with Outlook, so I will also look hard at Windows Mobile phones next time around.  What I will not look at, however, is an iPhone.  For me, Apple's phones are inferior to those of their competitors, and while I know they meet the needs of a lot of people, they fall short of my what I'm looking for.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Incredible Hulk

I'm watching the pilot episode of The Incredible Hulk television series and a few things have occurred to me. 

1.  I don't know why I never realized this before, but it is essentially a modern day retelling of the Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde story.  Both have a troubled doctor who manages to turn himself into an uncontrollable beast, and the two are seemingly separate people with no memory of what happens when he changes. It all seems so obvious now, I can't believe it just came to me now.  It also borrows from the biblical story of Samson, who was also known to wreak havoc when he got angry. 

2.  I wonder what the wardrobe budget is for Dr David Banner.  Every time he gets angry he destroys a shirt and pair of pants.  It's a good thing he's pulling down a doctor's salary otherwise he would quickly go bankrupt.  The Hulk was walking around barefoot, so I assume he destroyed his shoes too, but since they didn't explicitly show him busting out of them, it's possible he simply removed them.  That would save him a bit if he did.

3.  It is kind of a warning about the dangers of roid rage. 

4.  I find it somehow odd that even his nipples turn green when he changes.  I don't know why I should expect any different since his hair changes color as well, I guess I just thought that they would be a different shade of green.


5.  Finally, as he was lifting his car in a rage, I couldn't help thinking that someone needs to remind him to lift with his legs and not his back. If he gets a lower back injury, he will really get angry.  But then again, with his superhuman strength, maybe he's impervious to back injury.  Even a gun shot barely slowed him down, so I suppose that's a safe assumption to make. 

That's all I've got.  It's just a shame that Lou Ferrigno got typecast and never really had much of an acting career outside this show.  I guess his buddy Arnold Schwarzenegger took all the good roles for bodybuilders.  Maybe Lou should follow in Arnold's footsteps and run for governor.  It will have to be a smaller state though since he wasn't as popular as Arnold.  Maybe Wyoming.  And he would add to the growing list of former co-stars of Arnold to run for governor.  Although I guess he was never a co-star, just a friend.  Still, why not run anyway?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Open Letter To Netflix

I have a few comments and suggestions for Netflix, and since it is next to impossible to jump through all the hoops to contact Netflix through their website, and it will no doubt fall into a black hole and never get read even if I do get through all the nonsense, I'll just complain here. Although chances are nobody will read it here either, but at least it will make me feel better.

Let me start by talking about streaming television series.  I stream a lot of content through my Xbox, and the Xbox app sucks.  It is very irritating that you can't select which episode you want to watch, it automatically starts streaming when you select a series.  I won't say that somebody deserves to lose their job over that, but I will say that whoever is responsible for that decision deserves a running kick in the crotch.  Next, it would be delightful if, when watching a tv series, when you finish an episode, the following episode should automatically begin.  Or, better yet, you could simply program in how many episodes you would like to watch. And it should be this way on all platforms.

The user review feature has devolved to the point where it is pretty much useless.  It's time to drop it and only list professional reviews for movies.  The user reviews have not yet reached Youtube levels of hostility, stupidity, racism, etc, but they are quickly moving in that directions.  More and more they are becoming of the type, "Why isn't this streaming?  I pay $8 a month and feel entitled to access to every movie and tv show ever recorded" or, "this movie sux!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" or, "my DVD was scratched and I can't watch it."  Brainless comments such as these do nothing to help me decide if a movie is worth watching.  For a while, I would report dozens and dozens as 'not reviews' but apparently I'm fighting a losing battle because things are getting worse instead of better.  It's time to just dump the reviews all together. 

Finally, I would like to see an annual Netflix Film Festival every year around the time that there are other film festivals going on around the nation.  If you were able to get together some new, independent films for, say a month, that would be awesome.  And I have to think that a lot of indy film makers would be thrilled at the opportunity to have their films viewed by an audience as large as that of Netflix's subscribers.  I think this would be a win for everyone, I don't see a down side.

That's all I've got for now, however I reserve the right to update this at a future date.