Thursday, November 7, 2013

Am I missing the boat on Blu-Ray?

I'm a media junkie, I admit it.

I love all kinds of movies, TV shows, music, video games, and the like.    I'm also a wanna be audio and , , videophile -- I wish I was into super high quality, but ultimately, I like a bit of convenience instead, and will sacrifice a touch of that "perfection" because in the end... I don't think I can tell the difference.

A great example of that is something with my love of Sonos.   I love Sonos devices, and I have them all over my house.   I recently replaced my Bose surround sound system in the living room, which delivered 5.1 Dolby Surround sound, with the Sonos kit, knowing that the Sonos stuff is delivering a "faux" 5.1 experience, only in that my TV doesn't do the 5.1 pass through on the digital audio line, meaning that my Sonos is actually doing upscaling or some voodoo to make the 5.1 surround I hear.  It doesn't really matter to me, tho, as it sounds good and I like the additional features I get in favor of sacrificing this.

And so I've been thinking about Blu-Ray recently.   I own a pile of DVDs -- collected over the years -- and when the shift to HD happened, I resisted buying all my content again.   Frankly, I didn't want to spend the money.. again.  

But slowly I've been collecting HD movies... by buying them on iTunes.   It's because it's easy -- i have Apple TVs all over the house, I have my iPad for watching on the go -- and the content is easily available wherever I want to watch it, including just on my desktop in a window in the corner.   Since Sharon isn't a "movie buff" in the way that I am, I tend to see movies for the first time on the big screen, and only on occasion do we sit down to watch one together.    My movie watching is more about seeing the story again than it is about a first time cinema experience.

So I skipped Blu-Ray.    More discs didn't seem like the solution.

This morning, in doing my morning blog reading, I read about the demise of Blockbuster and there was some commentary on how streaming really can't replace stores yet, mostly because not everything is available.  (And they are right -- things like Star Wars aren't available yet on HD Streaming, or even on iTunes).

Am I missing the boat here on Blu-Ray?  Can it be part of my portable movie experience?  Should I consider a short list of "must have" DVDs, and not try and recreate my collection?   Is the quality that much better that I'll actually notice?  

I might end up with a Blu-Ray player.  I have my eye on an original PS3, because the retro gamer in me wants the ability to play PS1, PS2, and PS3 games on a single console, and so I could end up with a single player in the house.  

Am I missing something?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What I learned when my wife lost her passport. AKA: Dave's new prep list

Sharon had her passport stolen.

Despite all our normal planning, we fell victim to theft, and her purse, containing everything about her, was taken from a bar in Barcelona.  I'm not going to recount the crime itself, but what I learned as even a seasoned traveler like myself could take away from the experience.  Finding a printer was a hassle, finding pictures was a hassle, getting cash was hard... there was so much about it that was a pain.

Let's assume for a moment you are left without any stuff.  No passport, no phone, none of your credit cards, etc.   What do you wish you had done prior that would have made the process entirely easier?

- carry two forms with you, both easily available.   These are the DS-11 and the DS-64 (available here).    Don't fill them out at all, and when something happens, don't sign it until you are told to when at the embassy and the consulate.

- print your backups of your passport.   I scan everything so I have copies -- but realized I'd be spending a bunch of time printing it, since it took us over an hour to get everything and then print it for Sharon.

- carry a backup credit card.  And if traveling with someone else, swap one credit card.    I'm going to get an additional card and put it in my travel stuff with those forms I just referenced.

- and make one of your cards an American Express card.  Sharon got into a touch of cash trouble at the consulate, and discovered that AmEx holders can get money sent via Western Union for this kind of emergency.

- Seal it all in an envelope that you then sign, so you know if it's been tampered with.  This stays in the hotel safe during your stay.

Lessons learned.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Business Model for Comic Books

I let my geek flag fly a bit this weekend.    My birthday was Thursday of last week, and Sharon indulged me by letting me pick the plans for the weekend, and so running the Electric Run at National Harbor on Friday made the list, and going up to Baltimore Comic Con was the plan for the weekend, mostly Saturday with a bit of overflow to Sunday.

I've been reading comics since I was 10.   I actually have every book I've ever bought (or been given), and my first two comic books were gifts from my sister to read on the day we moved to London.   (For fellow nerds, I actually remember the two issues… GI Joe Number 10 and Transformers Number 5, and yes, I have them both).


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I've been buying comics a very long time.   I'm not going to focus on the con as much as some thoughts on comic purchasing as it's changed, and how I think it should consider moving forward.   

I've almost always bought my comics from small local dealers.   When we lived in the UK, I either bought my comics from the "Stars and Stripes", which were the bookstores on US bases that imported books, magazines and comics, or I went into London proper and visited Forbidden Planet, where I would buy my comics and fill in back issues.  When we moved back the the US, I switched to using comic shops in the US.  When I went to college, I actually took about three years off from collecting, and about my senior year of college, started back up again, and to this day, I have the same comic book shop that I use, ordering from "The Comic Cubicle" in Williamsburg, where my books get shipped up on a monthly basis.

Most of my friends that I know that read comic books also still go to comic book shops to buy comics.  (It does make you wonder how kids today would get into comics at all, but I stopped into a Toys R Us today, and discovered a section of well placed comic books right in the middle of the action figures, so I guess that's how you'd buy them now).    For most, at some point if you start trying to collect comic books on a regular basis, you'll find a comic shop.

This is important as I think about digital comics.   I will say, I love the idea of digital comics.  I love the idea of having copies of anything that I read available on my iPad when I want it.    Like most, I've switched to this for music a while ago, with all my music long having been digitized, and thus available all over my house and on all my devices.   I've started switching all my media purchases to the same model, forgoing Blu-Ray in favor of HD downloads, wanting to have my media available in all the ways I might consume it.  In response, I've seen the new "Combo Packs" come out, where Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital download are bundled together.  Perfect.  

Even my books are moving this way.  I'm very pleased at Amazon's recent announcements of Kindle Matchbook, where Amazon is going to make available books I've previously purchased either for free or for a small fee.   This is ideal -- I don't like rebuying things, and so it's fantastic that I don't have to.

And thus, we get brought to comics.    Comics are in desperate need of a solution here.    Marvel has tried to offer codes in each comic, where you can peel back a sticker and enter a code and download the issue.   This has two flaws -- first, I don't want to have to sit and enter a code for each of a stack of comics, and second, it's not all publishers, so this would help with my Marvel books, but not my DC, Dynamite, or independent publishers.

Borrowing a bit from my own industry, that makes me think about distribution.   Amazon and iTunes both have latched onto being a distributor.   In IT, we have the same model, and many cloud services are being delivered the same way.   So it seems, in a world where comic dealers are looking for ways to be more "relevant", it seems like using the dealers as a way to sell me this service would be rather simple.

I have a "subscription box" at my dealer now.   He knows what I purchase, and tracks it for me.  It could easily be part of the service for  comic dealers to add the digital portion to (for example) my Comixology account, and make those issues I purchase available for me. I'd even pay for this -- it could be a per issue charge, or it could be a "subscription" service on a monthly basis.   

I'm not sure about the older issues -- this seems like an area of opportunity to explore.   With this many years of backissues in my collection, paying for each one isn't likely to happen -- but it would be nice to have a way to purchase some at "less than cover" prices.  I've seen classic issues going for near retail pricing online, and that's just not going to happen.

Digital comics are great -- but unlike my other music and movies, I actually want this to follow more like what Amazon is doing.  I want BOTH a physical and a digital copy…. but I don't want to pay full price twice for the same content.  This has to be doable.







Thursday, September 5, 2013

What do you want to hear about?

I have the writing bug again.

Last time I started thinking about the writing bug, I was encouraged by Erick Simpson and Karl Palachuk to write about virtualization, and started cranking out blogs, which eventually became my book.  (Which, FYI, I just released on Kindle).

I've also had a long list of article requests for things that I wrote for other publications, which I usually throw up on my Facebook page to share.  (Which reminds me, I have to put them on my MVP Profile…)

And now, I've been thinking about firing it up again and tackling something.   But the question is… what?

I could tackle managed services again, or cloud, or something else… but what is the question?   What does the channel want more on?   

I have motivation and interest, but no great topic.    So I thought I'd ask… what are you wondering about?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Security paranoia in a location aware world

I know I'm super paranoid about security.  

My wife still gives me hell because she doesn't have access to my computers or phones, and has no password access to any of my stuff.   I carefully manage audit trails of my things, so I can ensure the best possible security for my identity.  (In fact, I couldn't use the blogger app on my ipad for this post, because two-factor authentication is setup on my google account to my US cell phone, and I'm using my UK one while traveling.   So I used the web interface instead)

However, I wondered today about the use of certain data from a corporate espionage perspective today as I was considering a Foursquare checkin.   I'm a fan of collecting check-ins these days, and a new stop in a new city is a great way to remember it when viewing my travel log.    As my thumb hovered over the check in, I realized.... "hey, wait... I'm going to a meeting to discuss a potential deal.     That deal isn't out.   Could someone figure out what I was doing just based on where I was?"

I think the answer is no in this case - this is a big city with lots of reasons to be here, and so I moved on.   But is this something to think about in the future?   Will companies use social media information to make competitive decisions?   Can it reveal more about what's going to happen rather that what has or is happening?

Checking in at the office of the deal is stupid - but can you read into the broader location?

Something to consider.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Help me learn about coffee and tea

I've never been a coffee or a tea drinker.   I always laugh that I have plenty of other vices -- as I do like beer and the hard stuff, I like to gamble, I enjoy driving fast -- that I've never picked this one up.  I was always a soda drinker, to the point of a bit of insanity.   In college, I never picked up the coffee habit, but kept pounding soda.

The first time I lost weight, gearing up for my wedding, I switched from "regular" to "unleaded", moving to Diet drinks as part of the calorie management solution.   I did Weight Watchers, and it worked really well for me, and I was able to get down to a trim 175 for my wedding.   Sharon even thought it was too much weight loss.

I put the weight back on over the past two years, and with a rather stern warning from my doctor at the beginning of the year, I was told not only did I need to take the weight off, but that watching my sugars and carbs was going to be part of my life.   Yay me.

Thus, I geared up and dropped Diet soda as well as the other changes to my diet, and I'm well on track to target weight.   (Beer is currently under a restriction, where I only drink it in the UK, because mixed drinks in the UK is a waste of time and money.)  

What this has done, however, is leave me in a spot where, besides water, there aren't good "on the go" drinks.   With sodas out, and juices containing a lot of sugar I'm trying to avoid, and sports drinks off the table for calories reasons, I need to find myself something I can have.

Coffee and tea are things I've just not had the taste for, but I suspect it's because it's something I don't understand more than something I won't like.  For example, I didn't always like beer, and still don't like ALL beers (India Pale Ales just don't do it for me), there are beers I like and ones I don't like.   I feel like with this wealth of types of coffee and teas out there, there have to be ones I'd like!

But where to start is the bigger question.   I hear a lot of "go into a coffee shop and try things", but what to try?  When you don't know what things are, this isn't helping much.   I can't be adding tons of sugar to things either, as that defeats the purpose.

My preferences:

I like sweet things, and always have.  Of course, I'm on a sugar restricted diet, so no cheating and adding sugar.
Carb management is important, so watching those is important.

What to try?

I know there are a ton of coffee and tea drinkers out there -- how to best tackle this?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Am I getting bored with social media, or am I using it wrong?

I had this realization this weekend that I'm getting kinda bored with social media.

Maybe what is happening is I'm getting bored with my own social media presence, and maybe I'm using it wrong. I've never wanted to do two profiles, having profiles for personal and profiles for work. I've always thought the two are mixed, and in particular, I've always liked having a well rounded profile exposed to work people. This worked reasonably well when I had a smaller network, and there were less sites to manage.

Let's break this down by social media outlet.

Facebook is my "primary" one, and of late I feel like I'm not even getting content I want to see. By some obligation, I go there at least two or three times a day, but I don't feel like my news feed is actually giving me the stuff I care about. Maybe some of it is, but the whole interface is too slow to scan quickly, it focuses too much on stuff I don't feel I'm interested in, and the number of ads showing up in my feed is just insane (and even worse on mobile! Heaven forbid I try and read that there.

I like sharing things on Facebook -- that makes some sense to me, and seems to work rather well (at least, I think so), as people tend to like the stuff I post (meaning I get actual likes and comments, so some kind of engagement.

I've never gotten Twitter.  There, I admit it, I'm a social media "expert" who just doesn't get it.   If I thought Facebook had too much stuff I didn't care about, Twitter is even worse.    I try and be careful about who I follow, and thus not get too much info, but again, it's just this mass of stuff I never seem able to keep up with, and for something that's supposed to be about conversations I never seem to HAVE any conversations with people.   I've used automation to provide my stuff -- there, I admit it -- because I've never really figured it out.  Should I just follow less people?   Is it a matter of lists or something?  How do I get to just the stuff I want to see?

I want to like LinkedIn more than I do.   The feed seems useless to find out what anyone is actually doing, and the groups are just absolutely unmanageable.    I figured out how to make Foursquare (more on that in a moment) link to LinkedIn for just work-type places, and that seems really useful, but in terms of actually having meaningful interactions with people, what am I doing wrong?   I love it as a repository of who I work with and who I'm linked to -- but can it be a personal CRM too?   I can't link it to tasks (which I love, and use heavily, on my iOS devices synced with iCloud), but I can't link them to people very easily.  

Foursquare has been kinda interesting lately, mostly in that I like collecting checkins already, and now I can link to Facebook pretty easily, and collect a ton of them.  It's been really useful for exploring new places too (despite it's inability to find me a good coffee shop to work and try coffee in around my house).  I think I have the alerts up too high, because several other friends around me check in a lot too and it's just too much incoming information, but I think if I was just diligent I'd be able to clean that up. I got into Foursquare when they made the Facebook integration so good.

I admit I also like Untappd for beer (and linked to FB and 4SQ) because I like tracking what I tried (and can never remember what I like), the MLB At the Ballpark app because it also lets me link to 4SQ but collect the checkin in their app and see my game history.   There's one or two others that seem to work the same way, so when I think of them I use them. I think I like it because it's just a specialized "check in", and isn't in another place.  

Blogging is always something I've enjoyed doing but lack instant ideas.  I try and write something weekly for the corporate blog, and I just fired this back up because I didn't have a place to put it, but maybe I just need to develop a better writing habit.   Then the question comes up as to "Should I worry about sharing this, and if so, where".  Or do I have other things feed this blog?  (For instance, should I replicate my posts on the corporate blog here.  I mean, they're my words there too, and it seems silly to make people look for me in two places).

RSS Feeds I still love -- always have.   I love reading sites, and getting things in my Google Reader (soon to be something else) and in the Reeder app.  I feel like I can get information when I want it on the topics I want, and keep up.  I'm something of a completionist, so I like the fact I can catch up on all the stuff I missed since the last time I read.  

Where is the "main" one?  Should I have things feed into other things?  

And what about mood or time or intention?   Is that what I'm doing wrong with the integrated approach?  When I'm working, I want work information in front of me.  When I'm out having fun, I want to find others to have fun with, and share my fun.

I actually think I do a reasonable job of pushing OUT good content.   I try not to share crap, I try and be relevant, I try and connect others to good information, that kind of thing.  But when I'm looking for content, I feel like it's just too much and I'm not getting the stuff I'm looking for.  The end result is that I'm feeling bored -- or not engaged or not interested or whatever -- because I'm not getting enough of what I want out of it.  

I'm throwing this problem out there to see what I get back.  

New Retro & Modern Gaming Setup

I redesigned my office, and it deserved a new post to discuss the layout and the setup. The old design  worked great, but didn't look ...