Category Archives: tech

xperia z3 compact

I like sticking it to The Man. In this instance, The Man is all the cell phone manufacturers that decided the populace only wanted phones with 5.5″ screens. So when I saw a need to upgrade from my Galaxy S4 to a phone that would not turn off or reboot without warning, I chose the only sensible device: Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact.

from sony

The Z3 Compact is not just small, but powerful. While Google was releasing a Nexus phone with a stinking 6″ screen that requires two hands, one foot, and a backpack to properly transport and use, Sony did the world a favor and made a compact phone with some actual guts. Yes, Samsung and HTC have smaller phones in their lineups, but they’re under-powered or have pathetic cameras or other grave drawbacks. The Xperia Z3 Compact actually has everything the big boys have, in a device the size of a phone.

Power? Check: a 2.5 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB RAM and Adreno 330 graphics. Camera? Check: a 20.7 MP Sony shooter with HDR and 4K video modes. Battery life? Check: this thing packs a 2600 mAh battery that can make it over two days of use without recharging. Let’s just throw in expandable memory via microSD, water- and dustproofing, magnetic charging, dual front-facing speakers, and a more-than-acceptable 720P 4.6″ display.

Let’s talk about that last point a bit. Not only are companies driving up the girth of phones unnecessarily, but thanks to the iPhone’s “Retina” display they’re competing against a false perception for the award of “most useless pixel density.” As the resolutions push into the stratosphere, we’ve long surpassed the point where even the most visually acute can distinguish a difference and instead traded off performance and battery life for theoretical one-upmanship. I applaud Sony for realizing that a 720×1280 resolution looks beautiful on a 4.6″ screen.

It’s not all rosy, though. The Z3 Compact lacks a removable battery, and it has a glass back, which is reportedly scratch-prone. The Z3 Compact must be bought unlocked from Sony as it is not tied to any carriers in the U.S., and there is a lack of really nice case options for it at the moment (the Cruzerlite Bugdroid case is probably the best, but it’s not high-class). However, its camera, battery life, and expandable storage make it better than the Motorola X, and its compact size and less-invasive (or gimmicky) software put it atop the Galaxy S5.

(I guess the iPhone 6 is a smaller smartphone too…if you’re counting that.)

cyclone, revisited

It seems so self-serving to check back in after months of absence, in the midst of rapacious Ebola and global tumult and – I can only assume – a catastrophic exacerbation of global warming, only to delineate the changes I’ve made to my computer, but what is this site for if not self-servitude?

Cyclone was humming along with no major issues, but with its processor and meager RAM becoming long in the tooth, an upgrade was in order. In order to upgrade the processor, I had to upgrade the motherboard, and if I was going to upgrade the motherboard, I might as well upgrade the case. So now Cyclone bears little resemblance to the machine it once was, having had most of its core components (including its namesake graphics card) replaced. I’ve incorporated the original RAM, 2 TB hard drive, disk drives, and power supply, for what it’s worth.

cyclone_revisited Continue reading cyclone, revisited

android self-destruct
i spent a long time thinking of a fitting image, then just grabbed a kitten instead

We’re reaching smartphone critical mass. Last year, smartphones outsold “dumphones,” or feature phones, for the first time. Today’s smartphones are fast and capable of doing everything anyone could want from them for the next few years. And the phones should be able to survive that long, barring extreme abuse.

But that poses a problem for smartphone manufacturers – their devices are too good. If users see no compelling reason to upgrade, only the tech-savvy will do so – and maybe even they won’t, which brings me to my personal situation.

Years ago, I was forced to prematurely upgrade from the original Motorola DROID when the touchscreen’s digitizer died, through no fault of my own. My DROID 3 became unstable and sluggish over time, so I upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S4. I have had few nits to pick with the S4 (aside, perhaps, from its overall dimensions), but now it’s randomly restarting itself, which is pretty infuriating.

This seems to be a relatively common occurrence, based on an anecdotal Google search. Now, I’m not necessarily positing that Samsung is deliberately debilitating their devices a year after purchase in order to induce an upgrade, but…well, it does work out for them, right?

We’re at a point where, for the last couple of years, smartphone innovation has been lacking. Until the real “next big thing” is here (and I don’t just mean a phone with an even more gargantuan screen size), all manufacturers can do is hope users drop their phones on railroad tracks. Or the manufacturers could just flip their magic switches, forcing phones to restart for no apparent reason mid-use, killing productivity and inciting rage and triggering aneurysms and…

Man, this really grinds my gears.

P.S. I’ve tried to troubleshoot the restart issue to no avail. It’s too random. I thought I’d fixed it by reformatting the SD card and moving most of the apps from the card to internal storage, but it still occurs. 🙁

mlb 14 rears its head

mlb 14 jimmy rollins dive

The developers of MLB 14 The Show for the PS4 are going about its advertisement the wrong way. Instead of promoting its photo-realistic lighting, grass, facial hair, and crowds, they should be talking up its alternate-reality mode, which is apparently enabled by default. In this mode, we witness all kinds of fascinating twists on reasonable expectations for this dimension.

Continue reading mlb 14 rears its head

mobile computing’s past, revisited

Mobile PCs grabbed my attention around the turn of the millennium. As I matured, so too did computer technology, and I loved the idea of taking the power and flexibility of Windows with me on the go. It began with a palm-sized PC (never a Palm Pilot!), the Uniden UniPRO PC-100. This was followed by a series of Windows Pocket PCs, with color screens, faster processors, and enhanced multimedia capabilities.

But while these devices seem limited by today’s standards, they really were quite powerful. With a voice recorder, touch screen with handwriting recognition, speaker, removable memory card slot, PC synchronization, and the ability to add third-party applications, they truly were handheld computers. And there were also the so-called “handheld PCs,” which ran on Windows CE and had integrated physical keyboards. I never did dabble in these, mainly due to the steep, $1000 price tag. I could only afford to upgrade to a new Pocket PC by selling my old devices.

A few months ago, I binged when I found that people were selling these once-prohibitively-expensive gadgets on eBay for a small percentage of their original worth. As any reasonable person would, I set out to rebuild my collection by purchasing devices that met one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Either I originally owned the model and it held nostalgic value, or it was a slightly-upgraded version of the model I did own
  2. It was unique in features, appearance, or power among its class of devices
  3. It was very, very inexpensive


Let’s look at some representatives from a bygone era:

Continue reading mobile computing’s past, revisited

ps4…what’s it good for?


I have no idea how Sony and Microsoft have sold so many new game consoles. There is literally no exclusive software that makes them worth having, and yet millions of people have these systems sitting near their TVs – for the travesty that is Battlefield 4FIFA is pretty impressive, but it’s hardly a system seller. I got a PS4 solely for MLB 14 The Show, the baseball sim exclusive to Sony systems – and it doesn’t appeal to everyone. Oh, and even that won’t be out before the start of the baseball season.

Let’s do the tl:dr first – you can go read one of the hundreds of PS4 reviews online, so here are just some likes and dislikes:


  • The controller feels much better than the PS3’s, despite its useless touch panel
  • Remote play with the Vita is useful and impressive
  • Umm…the system itself is compact and stylish


  • The battery life on the controller sucks
  • Removal of so many last-gen features
  • PS+ required for online play
  • A dearth of games for this game-oriented device

Continue reading ps4…what’s it good for?

decreasing usability for the sake of aesthetics, or why things suck now


I was checking out some information on Microsoft’s website when I came across a page that looked like it was straight out of a rainbow book designed for farsighted children. Perhaps this kind of page would fly on a tablet, but it makes little sense on a 20″+ desktop monitor at a high resolution. This got me thinking about Windows 8’s gigantic tile start menu again, and I’ve really come to lament the simplification of design that is inherent in catering to the lowest common denominator: in this case, smartphones/tablets.

And, man, am I going to miss the keyboard. I can only see two technologies supplanting the keyboard as the ultimate way to quickly and accurately convey large amounts of textual information: highly accurate speech recognition and direct cerebral translation (I made that last term up, I think, but you know what I mean – computers reading your thoughts and printing them out). While a keyboard may be a little “clicky-clacky,” it’s miles above having to state aloud everything you want to see written, which can make for some pretty awkward flights or office spaces. We’re not at the stage where the second option is a viable one, but only when we do get there will I reconsider my trusty keyboard.

sausage fingers, from it's always sunny, fxOf course, I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t want to give up my T9 phone buttons for all-touchscreen, but it hasn’t been too bad, and the recognition of systems like Swype have made text input relatively painless, if still a notch below the keyboard. But there are many cases where just putting a stinking physical button there would actually be more convenient and practical. My old Pocket PCs had scroll wheels on the sides which made going up and down on pages, as well as making selections, extremely easy, even with one hand – and all without having to put your greasy sausage fingers all over the screen.

So basically, everything I hate about trending technological design stems from the industry trying to stoop to Apple’s ultra-modern, minimalist design, which is obviously more geared toward content consumption rather than creation. But then that’s just the way the winds are blowing

flexible form factor fixation

Time has a way of changing perceptions. I didn’t think I needed to get with the times, but now I’ve bitten the bullet and upgraded to a Lenovo Yoga 11S. The Yoga line is more popular for its 13-inch model, and will the more so be when its successor, the Yoga 2 Pro, is released in the coming weeks with its fantastic 3200×1800 resolution display. But the 11S is still a formidable mobile option.

The Yoga is famous for its ability to bend the screen all the way behind its back, converting into a tablet. The Yoga 11S was originally based on the Yoga 11, an unfortunate Windows RT-based machine with no particular hopes or dreams. Lenovo ditched Windows RT for a full version of Windows 8 (which was wise), but they released the 11S over this summer with 3rd-generation Intel Core processors (which was unwise). The battery life and performance was not where it should have been; otherwise, reviews were favorable.

Finally, Lenovo has – with literally no fanfare – upgraded the Yoga 11S to a 4th-generation Haswell i5 processor. At the moment, this fact is not propagating through the Internet, which is why I’m calling it to everyone’s attention. Lenovo’s site does not yet list the new model on its Haswell page, nor does it sell the new version. But a random visit to none other than Best Buy’s website revealed the refreshed model, the Yoga 11S – 59385438, to be exact. My local Best Buy was in the process of replacing its old inventory with the newer model. Here are the specs: Continue reading flexible form factor fixation

new man cave

In order to offset the addition of a category called “parenting” to this website, I’ve got to put something up about my manly new place to escape from the rigors of rearing and watch baseball, play video games, and even go to the bathroom.


It took over a week for Comcast to get up and take our money, and we’re finally back on the grid. Zuckerberg has had no idea what we’ve been doing in the meantime, and the NSA only has a slight idea because my cellphone coverage has been so sporadic. Because I’ve now entered the magic words and this post is forever monitored by security agencies everywhere, I’ll just wrap up with this: the Internet is fast, at least until Comcast decides to throttle it or cut it entirely at their whim.



android app review: virtual dentist story

I try to make it a point not to feed the trolls. I also try to avoid obvious spyware and the pointless mobile games that consume the masses. But I wanted to give the public the benefit of the doubt, and see what the fuss is all about in the popular Android game Virtual Dentist Story. It’s got a 4/5 rating after nearly 15,000 reviews, and somewhere between one and five million installations…so it must have something going for it? Right?

We believe,in this game, you can learn many professional knowledge of Cavity Medicine and experience how to be a real dentist.Have a good fun and a healthy teeth!

Continue reading android app review: virtual dentist story