Slap/Pop

The journeys of a Sacramento photographer, musician, web geek, and gamer.

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Caught up in browser tab/window hell? Extensions to the rescue!

Screenshot - 2_20_2014 , 8_20_56 PMIf you’re like me, you use a ton of browser tabs.  Tabs are amazing.  Everything is right there, ready to be read, typed, shared, and switched to at a moment’s notice.  Some sites even let you know when you have a notification waiting, like Facebook.  So I tend to leave a set of tabs open at all times as my default daily routine.  I’ve been like this for years, it’s just how I work.  But recently I’ve been noticing that even my once-beefy and now more than respectable desktop is being impacted by memory-hogging sites like Facebook, Gmail, and more.  To the point where I can’t even reliably type in certain pages without experiencing massive lag.  Dafuq, right?

Well, I’ve finally had it.  I’m trying something new.  My previous setup was something like this:

  • Main window: Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, reddit (now and again), a few other random regular sites, and whatever I’m looking at, reading, or YouTubing.
  • Second window: nzbs.org, SABnzbd local interface, Sick Beard local interface, Couch Potato local interface, and Plex local interface.
  • Third (occasional) window: Separate dedicated projects, or over on the second monitor.

Screenshot - 2_20_2014 , 8_35_48 PMI tried to adopt a more modular scheme so that I didn’t just have 20 tabs open in one browser.  Yikes.  So I found the marvelous Tab Bundler extension.  This way I could use pre-defined windows based on tasks.  One window (or “bundle”) would have Facebook and Gmail.  Another, various subreddits and admin pages.  Yet another for my Usenet-related pages (NZBs.org, SABnzbd, Sick Beard, etc).  But I didn’t necessarily stick to it too well.  Yeah, I still had all of my Usenet stuff in a window that was minimized when I wasn’t using it, but the majority of the rest of my use was still that main window.  Facebook and Gmail alone were sucking up up to 1GB in memory easily after left open for days (or often a week or more).

So I got sick of it and found a nice little Gmail extension, Checker Plus for Gmail.  Liked it so much I immediately donated a few bucks toward the dev.  When I’m not broke again, possibly more to make up for my small donation now.  But it’s great.  Clean and simple popups, inbox viewing, and all for a tiny tiny amount of memory (currently 20MB) compared to what the gmail.com tab took up (between 100-400MB usually).

One thing I noticed is that the extension doesn’t support the use of Gmail’s new categories.  You know, the Priority, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums tabs above your mail list if you’re using the new Priority system.  Which you should be.  They’re awesome.  Anyways, looks like Jason Savard, the Checker Plus for Gmail developer, has a way monitor the Gmail categories in his extension using labels.  Sweet.  Off to Gmail to make some labels.

Fast forward a good amount of time, and I went through and cleaned up all of my labels, nesting what could be nested, clearing out what wasn’t needed, etc.  Exciting, right? Hah.  Anyways.  Then I saw I had a Google+ notification.  Then I thought about finding a Google+ extension.  Bam, found a nice one in Google+ Extensions by, well, Google.  Done.  Now what else can I replace…

NZBs.org?  Nope, not that I can find.  No biggie.  SABnzbd?  SABconnect++.  Sick Beard? SickBeardConnect.  Couch Potato?  The CouchPotato devs have an official extension.  Bummer is that it doesn’t let you monitor your CP install or activity, only add movies based on whatever page you’re on.  The upside is that I didn’t have to fetch the API key like for the other two extensions.  So… That’s something.

So now I’m down to just the Facebook tab, and then whatever else I’m incidentally working on.  And down from 50% or more RAM utilization out of 16GB to about 30% (keep in mind, I do have a ton of services running on the machine other than just the Chromes).  And things feel a good amount snappier, I feel much less cluttered, and I feel like I have more access to web apps and services with the extensions with minimal effort and time involved.  I can accept that, most definitely.

Do you have a favorite browser extension?  Anything ridiculously awesome I should know about?  If so, let those comments fly!

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I took a month-long break from drinking…

Leading up to Halloween this year, I decided that I was going to take a month-long break from drinking, as a cleansing activity I suppose you could say.  As the Halloween party shenanigans didn’t end until November 2nd, I started my sober month on the 3rd with the determination to make it until December 3rd.

I wanted to take a break from drinking because while I don’t drink on a constant regular basis, there are definitely some nights of excess.  That comes with mornings of unpleasantness of course.  In general, I just came to the conclusion that I wanted to take some time off, and see how it affects me.

So, fast forward and I went through the month.  It wasn’t really a difficult experience, as far as the urge to drink alcohol.  The difficult part was finding something to drink at my friends’ houses/bars that wasn’t alcoholic and wasn’t water.  When the place is full of beer and the only other beverage is soda for mixer, I can’t really drink all the mixer.  Dick move right there haha.  So I drank a lot of water.  Which is great in general, but gets boring.  Sometimes I’d show up with a coffee, energy drink, or a soda, but when that’s gone I’m back to water.

Going out to the bars with our group of friends was interesting.  Some places just kicked down free sodas, and some didn’t.  But the problem here is that when a bar pours a soda, it’s a small glass, filled with ice, and barely any soda.  It’s gone in like, four drinks.  I drink a lot.  Not referring to alcohol, but liquids in general.  I go through water at home at an alarming rate.  So this tiny, mostly ice soda (or water) is frustrating to constantly refill at a crowded bar.  This is why I normally get a beer (or a double rum & coke, as opposed to a single).  So there’s that annoyance.

By far, however, the largest hurdle to get over was being sober around a bunch of drunk friends.  I love these guys, but sometimes you just have to be inebriated on their level (or at least somewhat close) to be surrounded by drunken shenanigans.  It’s when the phrase “I am WAY too sober for this…” comes into play.

But that was really the major negative aspects to it.  It was nice to not have to worry about how I’m getting home, or paying for a cab (or paying for booze in general when going out).  I found that I was wasting less time at home, and I was actually getting some stuff done.  I don’t want to say that my sleep schedule and habits got better purely because of it, because they didn’t.  But I was able to do things that helped correct that schedule more quickly when I stayed out too late.

That’s another thing.  Because I wasn’t staying out and getting hammered with everyone, I could leave whenever I wanted.  It also meant that I was more aware of time, and it didn’t zoom by as fast.  As a result, I ended up leaving gatherings much more early as opposed to staying until past 4am.

Over all, it was a good experience.  I didn’t feel any withdrawals, I didn’t have any craving for alcohol that I could attribute to alcohol itself and not just thirst/taste (although I’m sure some people will say that is bullshit, and it’s my way of “reasoning” with it–I call bullshit on that).  I’ve had two beers sitting in my fridge for several months now.  I rarely have alcohol in my house if it’s just me.  Oh yeah, totally forgot about some hard alcohol that I’ve had in my freezer for about the same amount of time.  They’re all still there, and I may not even drink them for a long while.  Who knows.

Now that I’ve been done with my one month and drinking for a week (alcohol has been consumed on two separate nights so far), I figured it would be time to write this post.  The break in drinking served as a good measure of what I can do, and where I stand with alcohol.  I don’t need it, but things with friends sure get boring quickly without it.

After the experience, it definitely does emphasize that an overall slowdown of my drinking habits is not only possible, but also a good idea.  I’m not even a heavy drinker, per se, but it’s nice to see what the difference is.

I’ll still drink with friends, and at bars, definitely.  But I do believe that there will be a change in the quantity of alcohol ingested.  I have to figure out this whole “drinking liquids quickly” issue, for sure.  Maybe I’m just a thirsty guy in general.

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Oh, Miley…

Ivan: I CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALLLLLLLL

Me: I CAME IN A JAPANESE REAL DOLLLLL

Ivan: HAHAHAHA

Ivan: Haven’t we all. :/

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If you’re not watching Orange Is The New Black, you’re TV’ing wrong.

orange-is-the-new-black-posterI’ve recently run out of shows to get caught up on, and have just been waiting for the slow, weekly trickle of some of the current shows I’m watching, such as Falling Skies, Continuum, Under The Dome, etc.  So when a few people started mentioning Orange Is The New Black, the latest Netflix Original, I decided to give it a whirl on a particularly not busy day.  That happened to be one of the best ideas in entertainment consumption I’ve made in a while.

Starring Taylor Schilling, someone whom I don’t know at all, I decided to give the show a go, not knowing anything about it.  But right off the bat, it grabbed me, and I knew I’d found something good.  There’s some really great casting choices, most notably Jason Biggs from American Pie, Laura Prepon from That 70′s Show, and one of my ridiculous little crushes, Natasha Lyonne, also from American Pie.  Add in the incredibly badass Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek: Voyager fame (who also was in a show called Mercy with Schilling) and a host of other amazing actors, and you quickly see how well put together this show is.

Oh, and the titties.

First moments of the show…  TITTAAAAAAYS!  Seriously though, there’s a lot of boobs.  A couple of lesbian sex scenes thrown in for good measure.  And bewbs.  But it makes sense.  It takes place in a women’s correctional facility, so by that logic, tits, am I right?  Seriously though, plenty of nudity and rather foul language does make this a non-kid-friendly show.  Which is part of what makes it so believable.  Shit just seems authentic.  Gritty at times.  While this is definitely a funny show quite often, make no mistake, it gets pretty dark.

Unfortunately I blasted through the first 11 episodes in one day (yeah, it was that good, as well as me being that bored), and finished the last two the following day.  So now I’ve got a whole year or so to wait until the next season, whenever that is.  But it is confirmed at this point, and it’ll be very interesting to see where things go, especially after the last moments of the finale.

If you haven’t given it a shot yet, watch this show.  If you only gave it one or two episodes, give it more.

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Thoughts on Android: Data Synchronicity

I’ve had a few thoughts about this specific post, and have been wanting to sit down and write it for a little while now.  Even so, I don’t quite have this fully formulated in my head (I don’t even have a post title yet), so we’ll see how this goes.  But this particular post is about Android.  More specifically, a few key features that I think the Android ecosystem is ready for, and I think will mark the next major evolution in smartphones–if they were implemented, that is.

Android has come a very, very long ways since its inception, and even since the days of 2.2 Froyo and then Gingerbread.  Android has been carefully crafted into a beautiful, enjoyable OS to handle your daily phone and tablet needs.  So much so, of course, that iOS 7 had to play catch-up in many areas, effectively “ripping off” (those were air quotes, btw) a substantial amount of design, features, and overall feel.  Features that we’ve had floating around in Android for a while now, and some very cool new ideas.  But the fact remains:  Android is now to the point where iOS is taking more than just utilitarian features like a notification shade and copy/paste.  That’s good for both OSes.  I really like what Google has done with its Holo UI, and unifying design language through things like the action bar and overflow buttons, etc etc.  I really like the new iOS aesthetics.  It’s crisp, clean, unified.  I do believe that in a way it was heavily inspired by Holo, but it screams Jony Ive class and identity.

I’m getting off point here.  What I’m saying is that Android is here.  In full force.  It’s not a “second choice” to iOS anymore, it’s a full-fledged beast of an OS, when utilized properly.  And I think it’s time that Google and app developers flip shit up a notch.

Data Synchronicity

With all these multiple devices, there’s usage overlap.  You often play the same game on both devices, use the same apps for reading sites (such as the Android Central app, for a fresh example).  Why not have the same data synced between all the devices?  It makes sense, right?  Apple already does that with its iCloud service, which backs up photos and videos in the Camera Roll, device settings (mail/calendar accounts, wallpapers, contacts, etc), ringtones, voicemails, SMS/MMS/iMessage messages, home screen organization and app data.  This is all counted against your free 5GB of iCloud storage space (backed up purchased content from the iTunes store is unlimited).  This is amazingly useful in case of a problem with your phone (or the whereabouts of your phone).  Get a new phone when the next one comes out? Bam!  Restored over wifi.

The problem with the way that iCloud works is that it’s not (currently) a true synchronization system.  It’s a backup system.  Meaning it’s not real-time; iCloud backs up from the iOS device once a day.  It doesn’t sync that data between your iOS devices (that I can recall).  I believe that true data parity between devices is the next phase of smartphone evolution.

Play a game on your tablet?  Your progress is waiting for you on your phone.  Read some content from a site’s app while waiting in the DMV, pick up when you get back home to your tablet.  Take a photo with your sweet-ass Samsung Galaxy NX camera?  It’s instantly available to edit in Snapseed on your tablet (once the devices are connected to wifi, of course).

And the cool thing is, the frameworks for these features are already out there, in the form of Google Cloud Save and the Google Drive SDK.  The short version of these two methods are that Cloud Save is for small amounts of data (game saves, basic app data), whereas the Gdrive SDK is for larger files such as photos, videos, file structures, and generally larger data.  It’s even cross-platform, as it will work with iOS apps, and web apps using the API.  This is already a thing.  Some apps do use it.  Which ones?  Hell if I know, not that many.

And then there’s the Google Play Games service that was announced a few weeks ago at Google I/O.  Obviously, it’s meant for syncing gamesaves.  But it also has leaderboards, achievements, allows for real-time multiplayer, and has anti-piracy controls.  This is amazing.  It needs to be out already.  NOW.  Oh, wait.  It is?  Yes, it is.  Hit that link and see how many (or, how few) games support it.  I’m sure in the past month and a half there are more games that support it, but still.  Not many.

Here’s my problem with the way that things are set up:  They leave it up to the developer.  This means that the majority of games do not support these options.  There really should be a system in place where all of your data is automatically synced if desired.  Don’t make the developers do anything.  How?  One option would be to only allow developers to create save data a certain way in the app.  It gets handled by a system API that does all the cloud saving on its own.  Obviously that wouldn’t work for things like multiplayer, but still, for game save data, it’d be perfect.  For progress in reading apps it’d be perfect.  For maintaining settings in apps (such as logins, non-device-specific app settings), it’d be perfect.

If Apple can automatically sync app data via its iCloud backup across the board, so can Android.  I’ll gladly use my Gdrive space for it, if it means that all apps and games are saved to the cloud and synced to all my devices.  With the strides that Android has made in the areas of user-friendliness, I think that this is the next major hurdle to overcome.  Make multiple device users’ experience seamless.  Make upgrading to a new device painless.  I hate the fact that there is so much setup involved when you switch devices.  It’s nice that the phone can download your apps for you, although it doesn’t download purchased apps.  But it doesn’t pull down data.  It doesn’t remember logins.  If I could cloud restore my apps, I would probably try more ROMs out.  But in the end, I’m lazy.

So how would this whole process work?  Obviously you probably won’t want every single app to sync its data.  There would be an app for managing which apps get synced and to which devices.  This app and its data would be synced and couldn’t be changed.  First thing to be pulled down from the cloud when setting up a new device/ROM.  From here, specify which apps get synced.  Each device that has apps installed could be assigned a profile, which you could use to apply to new devices/ROMs (such as a “Nexus 4 phone” profile that has all your normal shit on it, but doesn’t have some things, such as games you only play on your tablet; of course, your tablet would have a profile on it that has just those apps you want on your tablet).  Get a new phone?  Fire it up, and during the Google setup right after the question that asks if you want your device restored, you would get to pick the profile you want, or choose Custom and hand-select what goes on that device, creating a new profile.

All of these apps will pull down onto your device ready to use.  You won’t have to enter your username and password again.  You won’t have to re-enter configurations or restore settings backups.  Pick right back up on where you left off on your game.  Ready to go.  Y’know, just as soon as all of this data is downloaded.  Probably should be on wifi for this, yo.

The theory behind this, of course, is that every single app in the Android ecosystem has its app data synced.  You don’t ever have to think about it, it’s just there.  I think that once this gets worked out, the Android user experience will be even more incredible.

If you made it this far, wow, props to you.  I know this has been a rather meandering post, but like I said, all very stream of conscious in in writing it.  I still don’t even have a title yet.

I really hope I’m not the first person to think about all of this, and that some of the people beating me to the punch are some very talented Google engineers, already pushing out alphas of this very concept.  One could dream, right?  I think it’s a necessary evolution of how we interact with our devices.

Have any thoughts, feedback, anything I missed or whatnot?  Drop it in the comments!

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So, Brazil…

No words, just this.

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A creative block has a hold of me, and I can’t think of a title.

Obviously, I haven’t been posting here much, like I’ve been wanting to.  I’ve been working away at the dayjob, and past that, I’ve been completely unmotivated.  Not to mention the fact that I haven’t been doing much of anything exciting these days.  Certainly nothing blogworthy.

So what happens to content creators when this occurs?  What happens when you can’t come up with anything to write about, photograph, compose, or whatever it is you do?  Do you force yourself to come up ideas?  Or do you just take time off until you come up with something?

Personally, I’ve been doing a bit of both.  I’ll sit down at the computer with a vague idea and try to flesh it out.  These days, I just end up stymied and give it up after a while.  Then I just ignore everything for days or weeks, and try again.  It’s really been a horrible circle for me.  I’ve stagnated in pretty much every project or activity I usually enjoy.  Which honestly is driving me crazy, and I think that the creative block is perpetually causing more creative block.

Even writing this blog has been a painfully long process.  Then again, that may have something to do with trying to write it while watching Futurama, even though it’s one I’ve seen before.  Which brings me to what I’ve been doing instead of being creative:  watching an absurd amount of TV.  My last post was about Arrested Development, and how I’d never seen it even with season four on its way.  Well, blasted through the first three seasons in time for the fourth season to start.  Then watched that.  Then watched all three seasons of Happy Endings, which I believe to be one of the most underrated shows on TV.  You should also be watching it.

But I digress.  These days, it seems that my coping mechanism for not knowing what to create or work on.  Totally not productive, I know, but I tend to stress out much less with TV than freaking out about what to blog or publish or whatever.  So TV it is.  Although it didn’t start out as a way to deal with not being creative, but more of a way to handle being frustrated with certain aspects of my photography and other things.  I just shifted all of my efforts away from photography, and to something that wouldn’t bring me aggravation.  Unfortunately, now that I want to be creative again, the actual practice of doing so is not coming so easily.

But that’s part of why I restarted this blog, to give me an easy, low cost of entry manner in which to be creative.  Hopefully it will help get other things going in my brain, and I’ll break away from the couch more often.  It’ll happen, it will just take time.

That said, I do love my TV.  I mean, how about S309 of Game of Thrones, right?  Hah.

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Arrested Development Season 4 is coming soon. And I really haven’t ever watched it.

Netflix is bringing Arrested Development season 4 to us all soon.

Netflix is bringing Arrested Development season 4 to us all soon.

Arrested Development seems to be one of those cult favorites that’s not so cult.  And yet despite being both of those, I haven’t really watched it.  Don’t get me wrong, what I have seen I’ve liked, but it’s never been one I’ve sat down to watch front to back.  But now that Netflix is bringing out season 4 in a mere 10 days, maybe it’s time I should.

What really sets this return apart from most other season premieres is the fact that the show was canceled, and then brought back to life because the fans were vehement enough about it.  Like Family Guy, Futurama, and Firefly (shut up, we can dream, right?).  Netflix has shown that it is skilled with reading what we want, and that it can create compelling original programming.  Even though this is not a “Netflix Original”, it’s Netflix-produced, so it’s a start.  That reminds me, I need to watch Lilyhammer and House of Cards.  But that’s for another day.

The cast is impeccable, no doubt.  The humor is quite smart, when it’s not smartly retarded.  It’s right up my alley.  But I’ve just missed the boat on this one for years now.  Maybe that will be the next series I start watching, now that I’m caught up on everything else, for the most part.

Then again, I’ve known that I really should watch less TV and do more productive things, like blog, photograph, or clean my apartment.  But those aren’t nearly as fun or easily accomplished after working a 10.5 hour shift like I did today.  Who knows, maybe I’ll start season 1 while I eat.  And with luck, I’ll make it to bed at a reasonable time to not hate my life tomorrow morning at work.

In any event, are you excited for season 4?  I am, and not even as an active fan of the show.  I’m happy for the fans, and for the cast/crew, and I just hope that this shows the industry that there’s hope (and money) in giving the fans what they want.

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Well, my birthday is over, but here’s the highlight…

Well…  Looks like my birthday was a bit of a bust.  I guess that’s what I get for it happening on a Tuesday.  Yeah, it’s MY Saturday, but not anyone else’s, mostly.  But that said, one of my favorite bassists EVER wished me a happy birthday.  Yup.  Tye Zamora, from Alien Ant Farm.  Super amazing bassist, and super hilarious dude.  Random bit of info, way back before they were big, Tye invited me and my guitarist from Toe Finger 5, Darren, to a party in Chico.  And because we’re idiots, we declined because of school/work.  Lame.  Anyways…  That made my night tonight.

And with that, I can be happy.  :D  It’s the little things, really.  Hah.

Tye from Alien Ant Farm wished me a happy birthday.  Squeal!

Tye from Alien Ant Farm wished me a happy birthday. Wooo!

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It’s My Birthday, and I’m Returning to Blogging

Look at the post just before this one.  That was written the day before New Years Eve, at the tail end of 2009.  Today is now creeping into May 14th, 2013.  No, you’re not missing anything.  I just haven’t blogged on this site for that friggin’ long.  A few weeks back I decided that I was going to change that, so here I am.  Putting that plan forward, slowly.

And while the site’s not rolled over properly yet, I figured…  What better a day to start posting again than my birthday?  I’ll start a new project just as my last year-long project comes to a close (more on that later).  And while I shouldn’t start yet another project since I have literally like five others I haven’t been working on, this one’s definitely less restrictive, and hopefully will be easier to keep up on.

As I previously was blogging about, it was about a bunch of different stuff.  Music, photography, tech, the web, all that shit that gets my nerd on.  Just whatever I feel like sharing and shouting at the most-likely-not-listening internet.  But hey, why not, right?

In addition to just starting up the blogging itself again, I decided that I was fed up with the previous platform I ran my blog on.  I was using Drupal as a blog platform before, and while the power and flexibility it offered at the time was alluring, the amount of problems and complications involved with getting things running was mind-shatteringly frustrating.  And upgrading?  Worst.  Task.  Ever.  You basically had to gut the site partially, and run a dirty install over other parts, if I remember correctly.  Either way, not fun.  Wordpress has made HUGE strides since 2009.  Hell, most sites don’t even run WordPress in a standard blog format nowadays anyways.  It’s all CMS this, and magazine that, and omgooohshiny.  Which is great.  I like shiny.  That’s why I went with Drupal first time around.  I might get called away to the next “ooh shiny” platform as well (I already have my eye on it).

But that’s enough of that.  The goal here is to give me another outlet in addition to Facebook for various stuff.  Something I can put forth some larger pieces of content, despite the lack of guarantee of views like I have on Facebook to a degree.  And seeing as I’m no Scoble in terms of followers, that lack of guarantee is pretty, well, guaranteed.  But either way, I’m looking forward to getting some content out there.  So we’ll see how this goes.