Thoughts and things I care to share

Computing Hardware 2015

Samsung ATIV Book 9 PlusIt seems like I change operating systems like most people change shoes. I’ll go from Windows to various versions of linux on a monthly basis. About 18 months ago, I wrote a post about my computing hardware for 2014. It’s now May of 2015 instead of November of 2013 and I figured its time to update that hardware list again.

The big changes are in my main laptop for personal use, and my mobile phone. I dislike calling it a phone, but that’s what most people still call their mobile devices, so… what the heck, right?

On the laptop front, I’ve gone with a Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus. This model has an Intel Broadwell Core i7, 256GB SSD, and a 3200×1800 touch display. It’s the nicest laptop I’ve ever bought, and it should last for quite some time. Especially considering that my old Sony Vaio is still a viable machine to this day. I’ve updated that Core i3 laptop with a 128GB SSD and have Ubuntu running on that.

Google Nexus 6 UnboxingTowards the end of last year I upgraded my mobile device from a Google Nexus 5 to a Google Nexus 6. Yes, yes, it is big. However, that was what I was looking for in any case. The great thing about these larger format phones (that is, larger than 5″ screens) is that they start to replace smaller tablet devices and thereby reduce the number of devices a person may want to carry. Now, I don’t make a habit of carrying my tablet at the same time as my laptop, but it has happened on rare occasions in the past. Moreover, having that larger screen allows me to see more of a document, email, web page, or video, etc… It makes the device even more usable and functional for me.

HP Chromebook 11Along with the new laptop and mobile, I’m still using my HP Chromebook 11 that I wrote about last time, my Google Nexus 7 (2013) and that Sony Vaio with Ubuntu that I mentioned as well. Each has their uses that highlight their strengths. Sometimes it really is nice to sit back with the Nexus 7 and read a book. That Chromebook is great to toss in a saddlebag of my motorcycle and head out for coffee. Other times, I need the open flexibility of linux, and of course the all around utility and stability of Windows 10 (I’m a geek, so yes I’m a Windows Insider) to do just about everything else.

So there we are, I’m pretty happy with the new Samsung laptop. It’s my first true Ultrabook, and has a lot more power than I expected.

The interesting thing that’s happening at the same time, is the transformation that Microsoft has been going through. Windows 10, even at this pre-release stage, is impressive in its stability and functionality from a long time user standpoint. In addition, Office 365 and the amount of space included for OneDrive makes using Microsoft software services not only viable, but fun again. That is a huge change from even a year ago and makes up a number of reasons why I’m sticking with Windows this time around.

Mobile Power

A nifty gift my wife got me for Christmas last year was a mobile power pack. This one has an integrated solar charging grid along with a plethora of charging options for multiple devices. You see, I’ve been looking for a mobile power solution for the last couple months, and had thought of one of the larger LimeFuel devices in the 24K mAh range. My wife got me two gifts, they are getting a post each, after reading Josh Cullen’s extensive guide she knew exactly what to get me, tune into my next post!

PowerAdd Apollo ProThere are a number of these kinds of mobile power packs out on the market. Some more expensive than others, and I was looking for a quality device, with a few charging options for multiple devices. Apparently, my wife was picking up on this and found one with a twist that I hadn’t even thought of: Solar charging!

Enter the PowerAdd Apollo Pro

The beauty of this power pack is two-fold. First is the obvious feature that covers the front of the device. The solar panel incorporated in the Apollo Pro is a great feature to have. However, this small panel doesn’t make for speedy solar charging. Rather, it merely supplements a trickle charge to the existing reserve on the power pack. It really needs to be charged from an AC outlet before being used. It can charge from the solar panel, but it would take over 48 hours to top it off, so supplemental trickle charging is the key aspect to that feature.

PowerAdd Apollo Pro KitThe second feature is the multiple charging options. This power pack not only charges standard USB devices a single port, but also includes a set of multiple charging tips with a selectable high-output 12/16/19 volt port designed for charging laptops. Yeah, that’s right – laptops.

The battery in this unit stores 23,000 mAh worth of power. Compare that to your average 3,000 mAh smartphone or 5,600 mAh tablet battery, and figure out how many charges you have from a fully charged unit! Figure that you can ‘top off’ the charge on the unit itself from the solar panel, and you’ll have multiple charges for several of your mobile devices while away from a power outlet.

In any case, there are a number of options for mobile power supplies these days, and I’m looking forward to being able to using this unit for some adventures throughout 2015 the rest of the year.

Playlist – U2 Live!

A few months ago I shared a playlist called Darker Shade of Lunacy, and I said I’d share a few more playlists as I finished putting them together. The truth is that I get them done when I damn well feel like it.

So this one for live U2 tracks has been done for several weeks, but I finally made time to share it with you. Frankly, with U2 you can’t go wrong with arranging them in whatever order you like. In this case, I’ve attempted to arrange them chronologically. You can judge how well I’ve done. Also, since U2 doesn’t have a lot of live albums out there, they tend to be from a handful, and mostly follow how they’re laid out on those albums.

In any case, I’ve tweaked the arrangement to my liking and thought I’d share them with you. I happen to use Google Play Music, and that’s where the following links to.

U2 Live! - Google Play Music Playlist

Title: U2 Live!

Description: My favorite U2 live tracks arranged mostly chronologically to my liking. Enjoy!

Playlist – Darker Shade of Lunacy

So like pretty much like everyone, I’ve got a few favorite playlists that I’ve been perfecting for awhile and I wanted to share them with anyone interested. Be forewarned, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, so much of my music taste runs to classic rock, 80’s pop, and a bit of hair metal.

This is the first playlist I’ll share, though I have several more. After creating this one a couple years ago, I recently began refining it to fit the overall theme that I originally had for it.


Title: Darker Shade of Lunacy

Description: A collection of moody, heavy, sometimes dark but rocking tunes that, though they cover the better part of four decades, seem to meld together with a constant theme.

A Motorcycle and a Tent

A motorcycle and a tent

That’s all I really need.

To travel the world and experience new places.

See the countryside, and breath deep the fresh air.

Grow in knowledge as well as hope.

To dream and to live out my dreams.

That’s all I really need.

A motorcycle and a tent.

Independence Day 2014

Old Glory, Patriotic Rustic Peeling American Flag, The Stars & Stripes, Red, White, Blue, on Wood

Happy 4th of July!

I absolutely love finding versions of our flag that exist all around the country. I’ve seen this picture many times, but thought I’d share it this year. Finding truthfully represented versions of our flag painted on barns and shops or signs is pretty cool to see. Especially the one’s that have a little age on them. Not sure why, but it makes them even more endearing to me. Maybe it’s because everything on the Internet is just a little to precise, a little to perfect. We all look better with a little age on us.

Happy Birthday America!

Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack via Compfight cc

New Ride for Summer

2009 V Star 1300 Tourer

Well, I finally made a move and bought a motorcycle this spring. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for several years, and I guess it took me a while to decide on what bike I wanted.

A couple of years ago when I had started looking into which bike I would get, I found that the Yamaha FJR 1300 really stood out among the crowd of models. However, after a year or so of drooling aver the FJR, I found myself not so enthusiastic about the “sport bike” aspect, and started taking a close look at cruisers.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I have found that I really, really love the classic lines and sound of a cruiser V twin over the revy whine of a sport bike. As I looked into what was available from both domestic and metric cruisers, I liked what I saw more and more.

In the end, I fell in love with the new 2014 Indian Chief models that Polaris brought out late last summer. These new Indians brought a lot of new technology, with traditional Indian styling. Just what I really want!

2009 V Star 1300 TourerTrouble is, it just didn’t make sense to buy what ends up being a $21K for a first bike. So then I started looking at something a little more “affordable” for a first bike, a Victory Gunner, which at $13K was a lot less. Since I’ve been thinking and planning about this for quite some time, my “sensible” side kicked in. I realized that I should take some of the great advice from friends, coworkers and many folks online and go with a used bike to begin with. So that’s what I’ve done.

Not that I haven’t ridden before, it’s been about 25 years since I was in the saddle, and it was a much smaller bike. Back in my youth, I had a mini-bike, and then later, an on/off-road metric bike (we called it an “enduro” back in the late ’70s) that I road through high school and a little beyond.

So with that in mind, I felt pretty comfortable picking up a used 2009 V Star 1300 Tourer for my first bike. So far I haven’t been disappointed. My thinking on it was that I really needed a reliable bike that was easy to handle, but had a little “growing room” that I feared a smaller bike wouldn’t have. I didn’t want to buy a bike this spring and be looking for something bigger by the end of summer.

So, I’m back on a motorcycle and with a little good weather this weekend, I’ve been able to rack up a little north of 200 miles. It feels good to be be riding again, and I’ve got a few plans for some weekend trips, including some camping ones with it as well.

Blogging at a Crossroad

At the crossroads by Thomas Guignard

Maybe it’s the years, or simply wanting to share my thoughts again. It seems I’m at a crossroads in regards to blogging, and to be honest I’ve been at this crossroads for a long time.

Over the last 8 years (can you believe this blog turns 8 next month!) I’ve focused almost exclusively on social media. It was a great ride and a lot of fun which taught me quite a bit in areas that I hadn’t even known to exist before. It brought me out of my introverted shell, allowing me to meet hundreds (thousands?) of great people who I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to.

All that time, however, there was another side to what I do and who I am. In fact, a larger more important aspect that I rarely touched on was my real career in information technology.

Though I mentioned it in passing many times, I never really delved into the technical aspects of my profession, choosing to explore the social media path at its infancy, helping to bring ideas and establish connections among people. This is what drove me to start Social Media Breakfast in Minneapolis early in 2008.

That experience was entirely possible from blogging and my work with early social media tools. Being among the first wave of people to really “get” what social media was about and take part on a national scale. It was great fun. It still is for many of the people I initially met and conversed with. Several have built and are growing great, strong businesses on local, regional, and national scales.

What I found over time was that it wasn’t exactly for me. In my heart I’m not a marketing person, though I do understand some of the inner workings. I’m also not a public relations person, though again I did seem to adapt to a portion of that role in my work with SMBMSP. What I am, however, is a storyteller… or at least that label feels more comfortable than the others, and that is a core piece of social, and the work I was doing.

Today, however, I have completely reverted to my IT roots, and I’m happy with that. What I have had trouble with though, is getting back to blogging. At one point back in the day, I was posting on a daily basis. Today, it seems I can’t even post monthly, let alone once a week. I seem to keep holding back on writing/posting anything because I’m afraid of what “my audience” might think of a change of topic. The reality, of course, is that practically all of the readers I once had have long since moved on.

I’ve fallen into the classic blogger’s dilemma of worrying too much about what people think and not enough of the value of my own contributions. Believing that I might let someone down just for being myself and following the path I’m meant to follow.

So what does it all mean?

What this post isn’t, is a proclamation or promise to blog more often. It’s really just a note to anyone interested that what I may post about in the future is likely to be a lot more technical, and a certainly a lot less about social media. Who knows, by changing the topic of this blog and my focus for it, I just may find that gumption and passion to actively write more often. That will be the true proof that I’m out of my writers block… we’ll see.

Home page header photo credit: At the crossroads, by Thomas Guignard

Blog post photo credit: Crossroads, by Richard Elzey

Computing Hardware 2014

HP Chrombook 11Another year is coming to a close.  2013 has been a great year for me as a consultant, with a lot of opportunities for learning and working with new things.

In my professional life I consult with companies to help them build & maintain managed IT services, specifically around Microsoft Windows server and client environments.  It’s a lot of fun, and both large and small clients have unique requirements, technology, and cultures.

On the personal side though, I use a completely different set of technologies.  Every year it seems to morph, usually little bits at a time.  For example, we all have a desktop or laptop that lasts us for years, maybe a printer, WiFi, storage systems, and entertainment of course.  Me too, though the end of this year seems to have taken a bit of a turn for me.

Nexus 7It will be no secret that I’m a heavy Microsoft user, and that I’m also a big consumer of Google services.  During this past year, I’ve found myself almost completely using online services rather than local software.  I do have an Office 365 account for myself, and having Office 2013 is great, but it’s the online portion of that subscription that makes it really usable.

Google Docs is another service I have begun to use much, much more, to the point of rarely actually using MS Office for personal use.  I use Office for work all the time, of course.  Along with Google Docs and Office 365, I use Evernote rather than OneNote, self-hosted WordPress for blogging, all the usual social networks, of course, and several other services as they fit unique needs.

What this means, is that I really don’t need MS Windows for personal use any more.  So here at the end of 2013, I’m changing the computing tools that I use.  Much of this isn’t a surprise, a Nexus 7 (2013, 16GB, WiFi) for a tablet, and a Nexus 5 for phone.  I still have my 3-year-old Sony laptop, but that dual-boots Ubuntu 13.10 and Windows 8.1 (spending most of the time in Ubuntu).  The big change was picking up the Chromebook 11, built by HP and Google.

Nexus 5I’ve been leaning towards a Chromebook for a year or more, but this one checked all the boxes for me.  Small, lightweight, instant on, USB charging (very cool), a great keyboard, very good display (even though resolution is only 1366×768), and stylish.  I can literally do about 99% of what I need from a computer from this Chromebook.  The only thing I can’t is video editing, and that’s mighty rare for me anyway.

The interesting coincidence, is that all three of these new devices have only 16GB of local storage and, of course, rely very heavily on the cloud to function.  For where I live & work, that’s not an issue, so I’ve found a significant boost in personal productivity by having devices that are instantly available, have the same synchronized information a click away, and are in some cases interchangeable. A study source – has proven valuable to me, with so much tech advancement it helps to keep up with the professionals.

So for the next year or more, I’ll be mainly using Google hardware and, for heavy lifting, Ubuntu on my “big” laptop.  As I said earlier, I’ve been heading in this direction for some time.  Now that I’ve moved fully over, I feel more empowered to actually *do* things with the technology I own, rather than having to manage the technology… which is what I do in my professional life.

At least this makes things a little simpler.

Comment Cleanup

Who's the dick writing comments on my blog? by Scott BealeIt was overdue really.  Over 7 years on this blog and I hadn’t done a thorough review and cleanup of my comment section ever.

There were nearly 4,000 comments and, unfortunately, a very large chunk of them were duplicates and a more than I want to admit were some kind of spam comments.  The duplicates undoubtedly came from the time that I imported my comments into Disqus and then exported them back out to my blog to stand alone. I should have caught the duplicates then, but I must not have been paying attention.

The spam comments are a frustration.  They weren’t rampant, but there were a lot more than I thought there were.  Some were the passive kind of spam where they didn’t leave a link in the comment, but the name and URL they used to “log in” were certainly links to follow.  Luckily, only a handful were “lightly” inappropriate, counting them on one hand easily.

In the end, it turns out that there are just under 2,000 comments left, but they are at least valuable conversations that I had regarding posts with a number of readers and a good many friends online.  These I will treasure.

Photo credit: Scott Beale

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