Skip to content

I Bought a Pedometer

2014 November 6
by Craig Tisinger

I decided to take a small step into the world of fitness gadgets. I bought a pedometer last week. I bought an Omron HJ-321 from Amazon. At $15, the price was right and it had very positive user reviews.

I didn’t want to jump into a high-tech wristband at the moment. I don’t want that level of complexity right now. I just want something I can clip to my waist that will count my steps. I don’t need anything more than that. I like that this is a simple device that I don’t have to charge every day or every other day. The pedometer has a 7-day memory, so I have created a spreadsheet where I will enter my step count once a week. I like to keep track of stats.

I know that smartphones can count steps and do some cool stuff with the information. That isn’t all that useful for me, as I do not carry my phone with me all the time. Most of the time, my phone stays plugged into the computer or a wall outlet. Since it wouldn’t be on me all the time, the information would not be complete.

The health community recommends walking approximately 10,000 steps a day. That goal isn’t as easy to achieve as it sounds, especially if you work in an office or sit at a desk for large part of the day. After seven days of use, I have not reached that goal. I had a fairly high step count on the first day when I received the pedometer in the mail. That was due to the fact that I happened to play tennis that afternoon for an hour and a half. Despite covering a lot of ground in the game, I was still well short of 10,000 because I only had the device for less than half of the day.

My highest step count in the past week has been 9,400, and that was only achieved by going out of my way to get the number up. With that in mind, the pedometer is serving its purpose. The purpose is to get more exercise. Wearing the pedometer, I have certainly found myself walking more. I will now take the long way to get somewhere. I park farther away from the entrance of a store. I walk around the block when I go out to check my mail.

I haven’t taken an intentional long walk in the one week I’ve owned the pedometer. The clocks changed last weekend, and it’s now getting dark too early in the evenings for me to reasonably take a walk after work. This coming weekend I’m going to head over to the lake and walk until I reach those elusive 10,000 steps and hopefully beyond.

I look forward to making good use of the pedometer. I’m glad I bought it. I’ve been enjoying it and have been wearing it at all waking hours. Perhaps it will encourage me to take up running. Nah, let’s not get carried away.

Third-Party Keyboards on iOS 8

2014 October 1
by Craig Tisinger

I’ve been experimenting with two third-party keyboards on iOS 8: Swiftkey and Swype. I want to share my thoughts.

If you’re an Android user, you’ve had access to third-party keyboards for years. I know this. I’m not under any illusion that alternative keyboards are a sudden revolution. I’ve wanted to try Swype for a long time, and I’m glad that Apple has finally opened up the platform to allow third-party keyboards.

Swype is a great keyboard and it works incredibly well. I have not experienced a single mistake while using it. It is actually rather astounding. I applaud the work that the developers have put into Swype. The only downside for me is that I can’t use it easily with one hand. I have to hold my phone in one hand, and swipe they keys with the other. I don’t consider that to be a limitation, but the result is that I find myself rarely using it.

Swiftkey is my favorite of the third-party keyboard offerings. The best element is the upper and lowercase display of the keyboard letters, based on what mode I am in. That alone solves one of my biggest annoyances with Apple’s keyboard. On the Apple keyboard, the letters are displayed as uppercase all the time, so I often get confused if I am typing in caps or not. Swiftkey is also highly accurate with my two-thumb style of typing. The black display is an interesting look. It would be cool if they had an option for different colors, but that isn’t important.

Both of the aforementioned keyboards are solid, and are great in their own right. However, I don’t care for the somewhat clumsy way that iOS implements them. I have to go way out of my way to access another keyboard, each time, on the fly. Apple seems to want to inconvenience you into using their keyboard.

I want to be able to set a single keyboard as the default in the operating system settings. Without being able to do that, I end up with Apple’s keyboard time and time again. The standard Apple keyboard pops up the majority of the time.

A clear example of this annoying behavior is when I write a quick reply to a text notification. In iOS 8, a reply window appears immediately in front of whatever I am doing, without having to launch the Messages app. When the keyboard appears for that reply window, it is always the Apple keyboard. At least, this has been my experience.

The OS doesn’t seem to have any logical memory retention of my last keyboard selection. Sometimes when I am texting with someone using Swiftkey, for instance, it will remember that when I return to write that person again later. However, if I begin texting someone else, it reverts back to the Apple keyboard, for seemingly no reason, despite the fact that I am using the same Messages app to compose text that I’d used with the other person.

It is my understanding that when you are entering a password, Apple forces you to use their keyboard. I don’t see that as a problem, as they are attempting to protect users from their password entry being captured by the third-party keyboard developers. Sure, that’s a little paranoid on their part, but I can understand why they designed it that way.

If you like to use Emojis in your messages, you will find the extra keyboards to be very annoying. I like to swap between text and Emojis when I message my friends. Having four keyboards on the system makes that very difficult. If I am using Swiftkey, I have to tap the keyboard globe three or four times to get to the Emojis, then tap the globe another three or four times to get back to the keyboard I was using. Even more annoying, each keyboard doesn’t have the globe key in the exact same place. All of that unnecessary tapping just to insert a smiley face in a text message gets old fast.

Having done my experiments with Swype and Swiftkey, I’ve decided to disable them for the time being and continue to use the Apple keyboard, with a side of Emojis. I don’t have problem with the Apple keyboard, beyond the uppercase letter display that I mentioned earlier. The addition of predictive text in iOS 8 is a welcomed feature that I find to be very useful.

The alternative keyboards are great, but I find it to be too much work to constantly toggle between them. If the Apple keyboard is going to appear more than 50% of the time anyway, I don’t see a compelling reason to fight against the operating system to try to use another one.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

2014 September 1
tags:
by Craig Tisinger

Yesterday I watched the original Star Trek movie, simply named “The Motion Picture.” It was released in 1979. It was the only Star Trek movie I had not seen. I have watched all the others at some point in time.

I should mention that I watched the movies in an odd order. The first movie I watched in the series was part 4. I saw that in the theater back in the day when it came out in 1986. I later watched part 5, then 6. I will say that Star Trek 6 is my favorite of all the movies. I saw it in the theater as well, and it is excellent. Years later, I rented part 2, which is very popular among the fans. After that, I went on to watch part 3. I have also seen Generations, the other movies with The Next Generation cast, and the more recent franchise reboots. I think the new ones are great.

I had never watched the original movie because I always thought it looked kind of dated, and it was too long. The runtime is 2 hours and 10 minutes, which I find to be ridiculously too long. My uncle warned me about it years ago. He told me that I probably wouldn’t like it. Among other things, he cautioned that the special effects were bad.

Now having seen it, I enjoyed the movie. I liked it more than I thought I would going into it. That said, the movie moved incredibly slowly at times. They could have cut 30 or 45 minutes off of the film and still told the story. No kidding. The ultra-slow camera pans and drawn out space scenes were unbearable at times. I don’t know how the editing department got away with the amount of fluff that padded this movie.

The special effects were far better than I expected. I was quite impressed with them. For a movie made in the late 70s, the effects and imagery were stunningly good. (There’s a catch. More on that below.)

The sound effects and background music were a bit much. I thought that the music was dubbed too high in the sound mix in a lot of places. It was almost a distraction at times.

The plot was relatively simple. I didn’t find it all that interesting early on, but I think it had a good payoff at the end. It was a clever idea. The big element that this movie lacked was a starship battle of some kind. The Enterprise launched only one photon torpedo that I recall, and that was to get out of a worm hole. I would have liked to have seen a space battle at some point.

The cast looked a little older than I expected, considering that this was the first movie in the series. The acting was pretty solid. William Shatner acted like a jerk for the first half of the movie, which seemed a bit out of place for his character.

I didn’t care for the uniforms in this movie. The colors were dull and not very exciting. The occasional usage of short-sleeved uniforms was totally uncalled for. I didn’t care for that at all. The uniforms were designed much better in subsequent years.

After watching the movie, I listened to the Film Sack podcast (episode 200) where they discussed the film. They talked about how unnecessarily long the movie was, among many other things. Overall, they didn’t care for the movie, and even went so far to say that Star Trek 5 is better than this one. I would probably agree with that, even though it’s common knowledge that Star Trek 5 is pretty dumb.

Getting back to the topic of special effects, I found out some important information while listening to the podcast. It turns out that the movie I watched yesterday on Netflix is the director’s cut, which was released in 2001. When the movie was re-released at that time, the studio remade the special effects using 90 CGI images and sequences. With that in mind, it’s no wonder I was impressed with the effects. I don’t know what the original movie looked like when it came out.

Overall, I liked the movie. I am a fan of Star Trek in general and I can’t believe I went this long without seeing this movie. I’m glad I watched it, but I couldn’t imagine sitting through those long drawn out two hours again.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The End of My AdSense Experiment

2014 August 30
tags:
by Craig Tisinger

One year ago, I added Google AdSense ads to my website. I placed an unobtrusive box on the right sidebar where the ads would be contained. Placing ads on my site was an experiment to see if I could make enough change to cover my hosting fees. I wasn’t expecting to make a lot of money from it, but what I have made isn’t worth messing with.

After one full year using AdSense, I have earned a grand total of $6.52. Nearly half of that sum came from a single click not long after I got started. Looking at my current stats, I have earned a mere 3 cents in the last 28 days.

I chose not to put ads on the mobile version of my site. I thought that would look tacky. Considering that, and the fact that my site doesn’t get a lot of traffic, it’s sensible that my earnings would be very low.

I think that the quality of the ads was pretty good overall. I don’t recall a time when I looked at my site and was unhappy with the ad content. I just find them to be a distraction.

This morning I removed the ads. There’s not a compelling reason to leave them up. The page is cleaner, and my site is classier without them.

The Annoying iOS Game Center Banner

2014 August 6
tags: , ,
by Craig Tisinger

I’d like to submit a complaint about the Game Center banner in iOS. When you load a game in iOS that works with Game Center, a banner slides down from the top of the screen that says, “Welcome back, [your username].” My argument is that it is too large and hangs around a little too long. Sure, this is a rather nit-picky thing to gripe about, but if you load games often enough, trust me, it will slowly chip away at your tolerance.

A great example of how the banner is super annoying is with one of my favorite games at the moment, called Kingdom Rush. Kingdom Rush has background game music that I prefer to turn off. (I turn off all in-game background music, actually.) The problem, particularly with Kingdom Rush is that the music is re-enabled every time I launch the game. The controls for turning it off are in the upper left corner of the launch screen. When I load the game, the music cranks up and I scramble to turn it off, except I can’t turn it off quickly because of the annoying Game Center banner that is lingering at the top of the screen.

I think that Apple should redesign the banner to take up less space in future versions of the operating system. Moreover, it would be nice to have an option to disable it entirely. I would disable it if I could.

Having said all that, I have an even greater idea for how to handle this. Perhaps they could reprogram it to only enable a (smaller) banner when the phone is silenced. When the phone is not silenced, how about a voice that simply whispers “Game Center” when you launch a game? It would be wispy and fun. Wouldn’t that be much better than the annoying banner? I think so.

iOS Game Center Banner

Mr. Wonderfuls Chicken and Waffles

2014 June 14
by Craig Tisinger

I don’t know when the chicken and waffles trend started. I’ve always found it a little puzzling. There is an upscale restaurant downtown that sells them. I’ve wanted to try it, but it is often very busy. I found a knockoff version elsewhere in town called Mr. Wonderfuls Chicken and Waffles. The name cracked me up and I had to eat there for my tour of crazy restaurants in town.

I got a take-out order from this hilariously named place last night. The meals that include waffles seem to be priced rather expensively, so I opted for a simple 2-piece chicken meal. The meal came with 2 sides and a roll.

My fried chicken was a little overcooked and a tad dry. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it could have been plumper and moister. It may have been better if I had dined in the restaurant instead of taking it home and having the delay before I started eating.

There were plenty of sides to choose from. I chose cabbage and macaroni & cheese. Both sides were delicious, particularly the mac & cheese, which I must say was truly excellent. Seriously, if you eat there, you must order the mac & cheese.

The service was friendly. It took a little long to get my food. I’m sure that varies from day to day. There weren’t many people in the restaurant when I was there, but there may have been orders phoned in ahead of me that I wasn’t aware of. I would eat there again if I happened to be in the area, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.