Sunday, February 1, 2009

Blackberry Bold vs. iPod Touch

Wow, the PMP/PDA war never ends! With Act 3 in my life coming ever nearer -- less than 2 months -- I've started to pack up my last Act and started provisioning for my new life. One of the things I'll lose when I leave my current job is my Blackberry. I'm not as addicted to it as other folks are -- I hardly use 10 minutes worth of cell phone time a month, I read emails on it only when I'm in a meeting, and I never could get tethering to work on the 8800...

But, since my cell phone will likely be my top link to customers in my new job, I thought it wise to get a new one.

Let's review my current situation:
1. Cellphone -- Blackberry 8800 (owned by my employer)
2. Aircard -- USB Connect 881 from AT&T -- owned and paid for by moi
3. PMP -- Zune 16GB Flash and Apple iPod touch 16 GB (2nd Generation) -- both mine
4. Music subscriptions -- Zune Marketplace, XM Radio (two subscriptions -- one for the car and one for the Pub)
5. MP3 files -- 28,000 (yes, all owned by me -- I have more than 1,500 CDs)

Looking at that list, some things came to mind:
1. Consolidate all music down to an iPhone Touch with tethering
2. Consolidate all music down to Blackberry Bold with tethering

The problem with Option 1 is that iPhone has no streaming music subscription, like Zune. Also, I kind of like having a keyboard on my PDA.

Option 2 is what I settled on, mainly because the BlackBerry Bold 9000 is a screamer, it multi-tasks well, has a speaker phone and it has some potential that's unfulfilled...

I also canceled one of the XM subscriptions (for the Pub, I use Zune on my laptop to get any songs we need to hear on demand). I'm getting ready to sell the Zune on eBay. It's a great little player, but it's just sitting here getting old (kinda like me). I'm also contemplating selling the iPod Touch -- that's a little tougher because I LOVE the way it handles the media I own, as well as the media I'm recording on Windows Media Center -- that's a place where the Bold falls way short.

I canceled the Aircard -- and upgraded it to the Bold with tethering. I bought a 16GB microSDHC Card and I'm filling it up with podcasts and recorded video.

All in all, I really like the Bold, it's as light as or slightly lighter than my 8800, the screen is much brighter and sharper, and it's FAST! I like the speaker that's built into it, going so far as to use it as a background music running Slacker. The battery life could be better, but I bought a second 1700mAH battery for $7.

The screen is half the size of the iPOD/iPHONE, but we're talking small screens in either case. The camera is sufficient for catching a plane crashing into the Hudson, but I wouldn't want to try to take any kind of detailed snapshots for recordkeeping. The video is okay too, although a little jumpy.

So what am I missing with losing the Zune and maybe the iPod?

First of all, no FM radio -- not such a big loss since I listen to XM mostly, and with podcasts, I've got enough talk radio to last me 4 years right now. Second of all, the Bold doesn't support wireless synchronization, even though it's got a great WiFi built into it. That's a huge loss compared to the Zune and iPOD, but there are work-arounds. Third, no flash support -- or not much except for YouTube.

By the way, the Blackberry Desktop Manager locks up my workstation when I try to run the Windows Media Synch application.

The tethering works like a champ on my laptop, although I'm only getting about 400K down and 150 or so up. But that's livable in most situations (I won't be watching any on that, I know). It would be nice if it works when I get to Ireland this summer...

All in all, I think I made the right choice. I think I'll regret not having an iPhone sometimes -- and maybe I should have looked at the Storm -- but right now, it's what I need. With the XM subscription cancellations, the combination of my AirCard into my BB data plan, and the money I make from selling my like new Zune and iPod, I think I'll come out ahead in both the long and short runs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zune vs. iPod Touch

Before Christmas, I decided to replace my trusty old iRiver H10 with something that wasn't as fussy about USB and had Vista drivers -- and had video capabilities. Since I've never had much luck getting into the Apple flow -- (anyone want a low, VERY low mileage G5 iMac?) I decided to look past the various iPod incarnations and examine the options.

The second generation Zune sparked my interest -- especially the flash Zune 16GB. Really small form factor, great linkage to Windows, Microsoft branded, and it had Zune Marketplace which overs a Rhapsody-like subscription service that lets me load anything on my Zune any time for less than the price of a CD per month. FM radio, too!

I got the Zune and promptly managed to crack the screen - I'm not sure when, or even if it wasn't broken when I took it out and put it on the charger. But it was broken the first day I took it out at work. So I logged onto the Zune website, found the warranty repair place, typed in my problem, and Microsoft sent me a free mail-in box and label so I could send it in for warranty repair.

While waiting 3 weeks(!) for the device to be returned, I started to read horror stories that Microsoft does not consider a cracked screen to EVER be a warranty repair. Oh well, I thought -- I guess I'll have to pay to get it fixed. Sorry! Microsoft won't even FIX a broken screen. They sent it back broken. Duh?!?

I found a place that DOES fix broken screens, and shortly I had my Zune back and running. great work, too!

Then something terrible happened -- the boss gave all of his direct reports a 16GB 2G iPod touch as a Christmas gift. My wife -- always the adult in this relationship -- said, "Sell it on eBay." But I, ever the kid, could hardly do that without at least taking it out of the package.

Well, here it is, more than 6 weeks since I got the iPod and it never leaves my side. I listen to podcasts at work all day, listen to podcasts and music in the car on the way home, use the iPod to remotely access customer's PCs with LogMeIn Ignition, play sudoku on it. I'm addicted ALREADY.

The Zune? I haven't even plugged it into the charger in 4 weeks. I still use my Zune Marketplace subscription pretty regularly (you can see my Zune Tag profile at the bottom of this blog) -- iTunes doesn't offer a comparable subscription -- but the Zune PMP is almost an orphan.

...more thoughts on the iPod Touch in my next post...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dogfish Head Red and White

'Tis the taste big bottles of beer, I guess. Stopped by my neighbor's for a holiday open house tonight and got a chance to try Dogfish Head's Red and White. Once again, let me go out on a limb and give you some tasting notes BEFORE I check out the pros...

First thing was the head -- very Belgian-like -- tight bubbles, almost creamy. Color was nearly cherry lambic. Slightly cloudy. First taste had a lot of fruit in it as well, but then the sweetness of some serious alcohol hits the tastebuds and you know this puppy is not fooling around. I check the bottle -- 10% ABV... Oh yeah. No hops, no malt, no spice. All fruit and very Belgian sweetness to the nose and palate.

Okay, what do others say?

From Dogfish Head:
A big, belgian-style Wit brewed with coriander and orange peel and fermented with Pinot Noir juice. After fermentation a fraction of the batch is aged in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels, and another fraction is aged on oak staves. The beer is blended together before packaging.

This has been one of our most popular Limited Edition beers at both our Rehoboth Beach, DE brewpub and at festivals. It successfully marries the refreshing citrusy qualities of a Belgian-style white beer with the robust complexity of a bold red wine.

From "gusler" at Beer Advocate:
The beer leaves the 750ml bottle a fuzzy incarnadine color with a reddish pink head that crowns the body, lacing provides a tight skirt to surround the glass. Nose has a tart oak like aroma, combined with coriander & orange peel, also hints of red wine and amazingly only very little of the 10 percent ABV shows through. Start is vinous, with a nice bit of toasted grain sweetness, top is light to medium in feel. The finish has a unrelenting acidity, the wine like traits along with the oak make the end sweet and somewhat sour with the parched aftertaste long lasting, another amazing brew tis’ true.

From JustBeer:
This beer is much more mild than I expected it to be. I was thinking it would be one of those that reaches out of the bottle and lets you know it has arrived, but not the case here. The color and head really aren’t red… more amberish orange, but that is ok. The nose is clean and crisp and the overall first tastes confirms the noted orange peel. The body definitely has hints of the Pinot and serves the mellowing purpose, I believe. As we continued to take it through, the alcohol levels hit us a bit and Dave and I had a great evening… :) By the last glass, this beer looked as unfiltered as it tasted… almost made you want to chew the last bite… I mean drink. :) But still, good stuff that is highly recommended.

I'm not as impressed as others with this beer -- a little too much alcohol for me. And it's a little too sweet. That doesn't mean it's not good, it just means it doesn't fit my taste profile. I do like Dogfish's Chicory Stout, if that counts...

Happy New Year!

Anchor Christmas Ale 2008

I never got the chance to post a review of this beer, which was one of the highlights of this year's Christmas Party at Gibby's Pub.

I got a magnum of this at Binny's. That was impressive enough...

I cracked it open a little late in the party, so I'm not completely clear on the taste, although I remember it was nice. After splitting the magnum 10 ways, we all got a little taste.

I remember it as medium to dark reddish ale, a slight taste of spices, with a nice malt finish. I don't remember any specific spice. Now, let's read other people's tasting notes:

Ginger, allspice, cinnamon, caramel, liquorice and orange peel all make an appearance. All the smells mix well together, though some are a little harder to distinguish then others.

In the mouth the beer is surprisingly light, and a hint watery. The beer goes down quick and smooth. There is a nice toasted malt presence mid-tongue, with a spice bouquet finish. Much like the aroma, the spice finish is well mixed and not overpowering. If anything I notice a hint more ginger then any other aspect.

This Anchor beer is a smooth drinker, and to me has medium body. It was a little bitter, but no hop-action until the finish where there’s a bit that comes through. Overall, this beer tastes very malty, and just a touch of whatever spices are in the secret mix come through so it isn’t like ‘mulled beer’ or anything over the top like that. If I had to guess, it might be a little bit of ginger (or something similar) in there that sort of prickles the tongue for awhile after. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste, and left my mouth feeling a little dry and a bit sticky. Not bad though.

And back at Gibby's, the reviews were generally positive -- Nice! Drinkable! Got more?

Congratulations Anchor -- 34 years of Christmas Ale and counting!

Nuclear Reactor Operator

That's a picture of the Navy Nuclear Reactor Training Facility outside of Idaho Falls, ID in 2006. It looks like a bunch of buildings, but some of those buildings used to house operating nuclear reactors. When I was in the Navy from 1973 until 1975, I was stationed for 6 months in Idaho training on the S1W nuclear reactor prototype at this site. It's the building in the right center of the picture. Here's a closeup on the right.

Idaho Falls in the mid-70s was a weird place. I remember it as a combination of Native Americans, Sheep herders, Mormon women, cowboys and sailors. Kind of like the back lot at Universal Studios while they were filming It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Life for the sailors training on the reactors was tough.

If you were doing well in school, you worked one of three shifts -- that rotated -- for 8 hours per day. You took a bus to work that took about an hour and a half to make it to the reactor site. It was through the desert, so your lips would chap by the time you got to the lab.

At the lab, you went to class and worked on the reactors and continually went through testing. Written tests, practical tests (you had to actually do something) and boards. The boards ran the gamut from tough to bizarre. I remember one question being "Where is the purple valve and what is it for?" Turns out, the purple valve was a remnant of some early fire protection system that had no use currently, but some goofy instructor had painted it purple and they used it as a way to see if you were paying attention.

Other board questions could be "How many bolts are there on the Condenser cover?" or even "Who was FDR's vice president?" No kidding.

If you fell behind on your studies, you'd get stuck pulling 12s instead of 8 hour shifts. That meant you stayed out at the site, since by the time you got home, you wouldn't have enough time to sleep. For the single guys, that sucked because it deprived you of the chance to hang out at the clubs in town, or go dirt bike riding, or rafting. For the married guys, it could doom a marriage. The Navy wives could get very lonely out there in the middle of nowhere.

A few notes about where I lived. I lived on 1st St. if I remember correctly, next to one of the irrigation canals. You can see it in the center of this map (you'll see "100" right by it):

View Larger Map

In the summer time, people used to float down the canal in inner tubes with 6 packs of beer. Great fun! Of course, in other times of the year, people would fall into the canals and drown due to the amount of water running through them. Not so much fun. be continued.