The Haphazard Blog

Archive for July, 2010

2 Million for All That

by on Jul.12, 2010, under Entertainment

On TMZ (yes, I occasionally read TMZ) I saw a post talking about a house that Jesse James supposedly bought. It said:

Jesse James just scored himself a massive 7-acre mega-estate in Austin, Texas — so if he doesn’t want to be seen, he’ll have plenty of space to keep to himself!

James just closed the deal on this 9 bedroom, 7.5 bath mega-mansion estimated at $1.98 million.

And it’s perfect for Jesse — complete with a home gym, several pools, private theater and a six-car garage/workshop.

My first (and really only) thought was he got all of that for $2M? In Austin, TX, there’s just no way. I went straight to Realtor.com to find what listings they had for $2M. There was nothing even close to what TMZ claimed. I think the conclusion I came to was that the house was really in an exurb of Austin or they left off a zero.

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DirecTV Deals

by on Jul.12, 2010, under Bills, Entertainment, Football, Life, Sports, TV

I’ve detailed in the past the troubles I’ve had to go through to get the same deals other DirecTV customers get. This year was a totally different experience. I had read that DirecTV was changing the NFL Sunday Ticket package to remove SuperFan and make it one package. Ultimately, they split the package up. They removed the online viewing part of SuperFan and called that “To Go” and put all of the rest (Red Zone Channel (not the same as the NFL Red Zone Channel that has commercials), Game Mix, Shortcuts and HD) into the base package. The new price is $300 for renewals.  That price was a lot easier to pay. A little higher than I’d like (I’d prefer $250) but I wouldn’t cancel over it (I was ready to at the almost $400 I expected this year).

The price got even better thanks to the great community over at DBSTalk.com. They had a thread talking about a $20/off for 6 months discount for existing customers. I called to check on what was auto-renewing on my account and after the CSR explained that to me, I dropped the “To Go” part and asked if I could get the credit. They checked, said yes and that was it. They had also started a program to match DISH offering Free HD for life. I’ve pretty much had a credit to offset the $10 HD Access fee since I got HD a few years ago. I asked about that and was told I couldn’t get that with the current credit going and that they couldn’t drop that and add the other one in its place. I was told I could see about it once the credit ran out, but no guarantees.

There was also a thread about the Free HD for Life for existing customers (it’s really for 24/months right now). I got my notification that my bill was ready and when I looked at it, I saw that the HD Access credit was no longer there. I called in and inquired about that credit, the CSR checked that I had HD and was on auto-pay and said no problem and added it. Explained the most they can do for existing customers is 24 months but to call back when that runs out and they’ll add it back on again.

It has been a completely different experience and I don’t know why but it’s very much appreciated. That kind of service goes a long way IMO. A couple months ago I was doing the math on building a home theater PC, switching to very basic cable, getting a good OTA antenna, switching from DSL to cable HSI and switching to Vonage World. Now, I will scratch off the HTPC, getting cable and a what not. I am still considering a switch from AT&T to Cox for Internet and Vonage for phone service though.

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Nikon S70 Review

by on Jul.12, 2010, under Photography, Technology

Nikon S70

I’ve been looking for a point and shoot camera that I can use. For the most part, it’s hard for me to keep the camera steady and press the shutter-release button. I thought a touch screen camera would be ideal. I could simply tap the LCD to take a picture. So with that purpose in mind, here are my thoughts on the Nikon S70.

First, if you can use a regular point and shoot camera, don’t get this camera. You can make adjustments to your settings and zoom way faster than you can with this camera. It will generally take noticeably longer to take a picture with this camera than it will with a normal point and click. I’m also not much of a fan of having to slide down the front of the camera to turn it on/expose the lens. It’s fine for the owner, but if you are prone to let other people take pictures with your camera, someone is going to slide that down and rub their finger across the lens.

Moving on to how the camera worked for me. Pretty much the entire back of the camera is a touch LCD screen except for a small part of the far right side, less than 1 cm. I found this means that you have to hold the camera in a way that avoids touching the screen. My preference would’ve been to hold the camera with my right hand and take pictures by touching the LCD with my left. Unfortunately, the way that I hold the camera, my right thumb is constantly touching the screen. So when I’m not hitting the “Home” icon, it will not register any other touches. How I envisioned I could use the camera wasn’t going to work.

I figured out if I had some type of small post connected where the tripod mount was, I could hold the camera with my left hand and work the camera with my right (I’m right handed). I found a simple 3″ long screw (1/4″-20 type) that I screwed into the camera. Now I was getting somewhere. I could hold the camera and take pictures. So, I took it out into the real world to use.

We went to the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita a couple weeks ago. I found that it was difficult to keep the camera steady (I believe I was essentially “balancing” the camera on my left hand and the screw just ensured it did not topple over vs. having a very good grip on it) to get good, level pictures. Also, most things weren’t at the best height for me to take pictures. It was best to be standing, to either get a downward angled picture or “eye level” picture. This limitation isn’t a function of the camera however. Just an observation in general about taking photos.

At the end of the day there were quite a few pictures that were blurry (too much movement when tapping the LCD) and quite a few had this inexplicable yellow tint on them that for some unknown reason would not go away. When the pictures came out right, they were very clear. I have included some samples below (I lowered the resolution, but I feel they convey the overall quality).

I came across one other problem with the camera. When I fully charged it via USB the camera would not turn back on unless I removed and reinserted the battery. This did not happen when I partially charged the camera. I didn’t investigate this much further than that since this camera really didn’t meet my needs. I returned it and will keep looking for something that will work better.

Given what I have learned from this camera I need to keep looking for a touch screen camera, but one that does not have an LCD that covers the entire back of the screen. I think that will be hard to find because if there is nothing there, it’s simply a waste of space. The more likely thing would be to have a camera that has all the buttons, but also allows a user to take a picture by tapping the touchscreen. Other far-fetched ideas would be if yo could partner with a camera manufacture and re-program the button functions and re-assign the shutter release action to another button. This would not make much sense for the vast majority of users. It would really only be for a very tiny percentage of people, but it would enable them to use a camera. A similar concept would be if the camera came with some software that would let the user “program” the controls in a way similar to how video games let you change the control scheme. Ultimately. the improvement in the cameras included with smart phones may have the most promise.

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ASP.NET, MVC and Ajax

by on Jul.12, 2010, under Software Development, Technology

For any developers out there who are going to develop using ASP.NET and considering using Ajax, I would strongly recommend that you learn jQuery. Microsoft bundles jQuery with Visual Studio so the library is available to you, along with some helpers to get you building Ajax enabled sites quickly. It’s a nice benefit to have, but what it exposes is limited. jQuery is capable of so much more and when you hit a wall with the limits of the Ajax.* helpers, you will find a lot of what you want to do is part of jQuery.

Books about ASP.NET are mostly going to cover the Ajax.* helpers and briefly mention jQuery. But, once you get the hang of it, you can abandon the use of the Ajax.* helpers (if you don’t, you will still be writing JavaScript to initialize and process events in more complex manners.) and build more advanced web sites with the features of jQuery.

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World Cup Coming to an End

by on Jul.10, 2010, under Entertainment, Soccer, Sports, TV

There’s only the third place match the final left to be played. I think it has been a surprising World Cup. I had a co-worker predict this final, but outside of him, no one I knew had the Netherlands and Spain in the final. I really don’t have much of a preference for either team. I’ve been thoroughly annoyed by the diving from the Dutch team, which seems like an all time low, worse than the Italians. I’m pretty much just hoping for a good game and leaning somewhat towards Spain. In the third place game, I’m expecting Germany to win. After Brazil was knocked out, I was hoping for Germany to win the World Cup.

I’m hopeful that U.S. Soccer will be able to capitalize on their coverage from this World Cup. Although making it past Ghana would’ve really been huge (1 more win away from playing to the last weekend of the World Cup), they just couldn’t pull it off. I think if they can continue to build on the 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup performances, they can attract more fans. And one day, they may get that striker with a killer instinct they so badly need.

I got a little laugh reading the latest ESPN Ombudsman article. While he doesn’t come out and say it, he implies throughout the first section that ESPN is in total control of the World Cup coverage. In reality the audio and video for all the game coverage is provided by a host broadcaster. All ESPN does is not mess it up. I do applaud them for keeping the on screen graphics minimalist in nature and using good announcers. The coverage is not geared for those who suffer from ADD. It’s for people who want to watch the whole game and have an understanding of the game. It’s a welcome change from the usual dumbing down of everything.

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Apple Response to iTunes/App Store Hack Seems Dubious

by on Jul.07, 2010, under News, Technology

Over the long weekend, there were reports that iTunes accounts were hacked and fraudulent purchases were made in iTunes and the App Store. Most notorious was a single author having a lot of his books in the top 50 in iBooks. Yesterday, Apple responded with the following:

The developer Thuat Nguyen and his apps were removed from the App Store for violating the developer Program License Agreement, including fraudulent purchase patterns.

Developers do not receive any iTunes confidential customer data when an app is downloaded.

Engadget also reported that roughly 400 iTunes users were affected by this. To me, all of this does not make sense. I still have questions, and as far as I can tell, the press has taken Apple’s word and moved on to other things.

  1. How was a developer able to make fraudulent purchases on other users’ behalf?
  2. Is Apple implying that Apps this developer made were able to do this? If so, what have they done to prevent other developers from doing the same thing? Have they issued a remote kill on his Apps? This would seem to be a very big security issue. (Also, some of the people who reported the fraudulent activity claimed they never purchased anything from that developer).
  3. If they aren’t implying that, what other mechanism was used by this developer?
  4. Apple’s own PR says that over 1.5M books were downloaded in the first 28 days. Since then, over 2M more iPads were sold. It took only 400 iTunes accounts to push 42 books into the Top 50? On the surface, it seems like a very low number of books (assume 400 copies of each) to take over the Top 50. Are sales for popular books that low?

I hope people out there are doing some more digging on this and not just taking Apple’s statement as the full story.

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Leonardo DiCaprio, Mountaineers Fan?

by on Jul.03, 2010, under Entertainment, Sports

Leonardo DiCaprio sporting the flying WV at the Argentina-Germany game.

Leonardo DiCaprio West Virginia University Mountaineers Fan

This isn’t the first time he’s worn the hat. I don’t think anyone has found out why yet.

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