Assassin Bugs Take Flower

Smart Cameras

The iPhone 11 and Google Pixel 4, among others, are the latest smart cameras that happen to also make phone calls. Their sample images in reviews look fantastic! But picture this, not long ago, cameras didn’t have phones built into them. My first digital camera was a 3.2 Megapixel Canon PowerShot A400. It wasn’t much, but I was able to take a shot with it that, to this day, is still one of my all-time favorites.


Shooting Bugs

One day, before the iPhone existed, my wife and I visited Maas Nursery in Seabrook, TX. The place was huge, full of pottery and plants and photographic opportunities. I happen to like macro shots with flowers and bugs, so that’s what I aimed for.

Of the many pictures I captured with bugs on flowers, one takes the prize for me. I don’t know what kind of flowering plant this is called, but the insects are Assassin Bugs. This image is awesome to me because of the composure of the bugs within the full framing of the flowers, the pose of the main bug, and the secondary color complements of orange, purple-ish, and green.


Smart Photography

Given this example of a photo made with a low resolution, tiny sensor in a “dumb” camera, it goes to show that specs and hardware are not the most important parts of the art of photography. A good subject with good lighting and good framing is what counts the most.

But imagine if macro lenses became standard on the newest smartphones! My wallet is ready to open.


What was your first digital camera? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Quest For A Music Service

Rip, Mix, Burn

Raise your hand if you remember iTunes in the era of the iPod and how game changing $0.99 songs a-la-carte were. Nowadays, it’s all about streaming music services. I’ve stood as a hold-out, but the ground is cracking beneath my feet. I think it’s time to move on.


Listening History

If you’re like me, then you may recall the way music worked in the 80’s and 90’s. If I wanted a hit song, I rushed to the boom box to mash the fat plastic record button on the tape deck while the radio announcer talked over the first few seconds of the music. Ah, those days…

If I wished to avoid the DJs, the air-wave ads, or the hissing crackling audio of cheap cassettes, despite Dolby B and NR noise reduction, my other option was to buy a whole entire CD (album) from an artist to get that-one-song. That’s right, we “old” people would sometimes pay $15 for a song.

Then Napster, Kazaa, and Apple changed everything.

Now Playing

Fast-forward (like a cassette tape!) to now. Way back in January this year, I tried Apple Music for the first time! I told you, I’ve been a hold-out. Buying specific songs for a buck on iTunes to make a mix-tape (playlist) was revolutionary and easy, and not so easy to let go of.

So Apple’s streaming service was cool, if not a bit overwhelming. It was kinda weird to see my decades old music library suddenly inundated with new albums and artists. The Apple Music app on my iPhone also wasn’t organized very well. I had a hard time combining my trusty library with all the new stuff and getting it sorted. But most of all, I wasn’t ready to pay $10 a month for the rest of my life; I figured it’d be cheaper to buy 5 new songs a month at roughly half the price!

But things have changed. Again.

I switched my main computer from iPad to Chromebook. In other words, from Apple to Google. So I wanted to switch to Google Play Music too. I’d used it before, and besides uploading my songs from iTunes (library migration is hard!), it had a feature I really liked: Stations based on a song or artist. It was great for new music discovery!

But I quickly saw that Google was, yet again, killing a service! Slowly but surely, Google Play Music is being replaced by YouTube Music. And it’s just not there yet. You can’t transfer your existing song library to it. The app is limited too. If I must abandon my old song library and start over, then I’ll go with the best solution I’ve found so far.

Spotify

I’ll start with this one-weird-fact. For years, I thought the Spotify logo was lame. But I can say it has grown on me. Judging a book by its cover is a no-no. And now that I’ve actually started trying Spotify…oh my, I think I may have fallen head over heels!

The app and service are so MUCH better than Apple Music! The interface is clean, elegant, simple, and easy. The service works great as a result of clarity and simplicity. How has Apple fallen behind in this regard? I think it’s due to the baggage. Apple’s music app/service has the burden of combining the old (iTunes library) with the new (streaming library). But Spotify starts fresh from the ground up as a groundbreaking streaming service.

Speaking of starting fresh, I’m experiencing a surprising liberation. Since there is no way to import my old music collection into Spotify, I’m literally starting over with a clean slate. It’s a refreshing transformation! I can create all new playlists. I don’t have the laborious task of migrating, importing, or matching music. I have all-the-songs!

Also, Spotify is a third-party solution. It’s an independent, not sold-out, service. So it’s cross-platform. That means I can use any company’s device (iPhone, Chromebook, fire tablet) and always have my whole music library!


A Sound Summary

Long have I resisted subscription services, but Spotify is awesome! I’ll keep trying it out and see if it sticks. I think it will.

At least the Spotify logo is not a cassette tape.


Where do you get your music? Sound off below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

First Days Of Facebook

Liking Facebook

So…last week I re-friended Facebook. I’ve been back on for a few days now. And – surprise – I have some thoughts. Mostly good. [Like.]


Commenting On Facebook

Being off Facebook for six months was a long break. In Facebook’s absence, my web-social time was spent on Twitter and WordPress. So now there’s good competition for my time. More on that later.

I restarted my new Facebook account from scratch. That part is nice, having a squeaky clean fresh Newsfeed and Timeline. The app is now on my phone, and I sent out many Friend Requests and filled out my basic profile info – the metadata of me.

It’s great to be connected again to all my friends and family so I can see what they’re up to, how they’re doing, and easily share with them. It’s especially nice to stay in touch with the many people I know who live far away.

I rejoined just in time to catch some birthdays, and I caught up on a lot of good photos I had missed out on this past Summer! I also became an active member of a Group I had been absent from. So there are a lot of cool, fun, or useful things on Facebook that I’m enjoying.

Also, in 30 days or so, Facebook Marketplace will open up. To avoid scamming, the Marketplace is designed to wait a month before allowing new Facebook users access to it. That’s smart. And this is one reason why I like it. The people you buy or sell with are connected and vetted to some degree, which helps make the process safer. I have not used Craigslist in years!

In my short time being one of the billions of people on the social network, I was reminded of a few downsides to it. These are not surprising, but I’m going to need to work on them. The first one was mentioned above: time.

Facebook, like all social media, is designed to take up your time and attention. It can be addicting. I’ve received a ton of red notification numbers and banners on my phone and on the web browser. Granted, this is higher than usual activity since my account is new again. Once the honeymoon phase wears off, things will quiet down a bit. But I will likely need to adjust settings and moderate my behavior so I don’t get distracted by what can feel like the party on Facebook.

The other thing I will be proactive about is the Newsfeed. That thing is still a cacophony of posts! So many memes, posters, and silly pix and vidz! Facebook made it so you can friend yet not follow. In other words, you can connect with others to see their Timeline, Message them, or join a Group with them, but you don’t have to see their posts in your Newsfeed. This helps keep a good signal-to-noise ratio. Oh, and I’ll try to not contribute too much noise myself.


Checking Facebook

Overall, I’m enjoying my fresh friend-and-family-feed one week in! My goal is to be active but not too active. And when the shine grows dull, I’ll take a break if I need to – without deleting! For a time, I can be inactive yet not deactivate.

Let’s call this Social Media Moderation. Or Social Network/life Balance.

And I’ll leave you with a quote:

“…even if you don’t want to actively use Facebook, it’s one of those services that you basically have to sign up for. Like email.” – M.G. Siegler

That, I think, is more or less a truism these days. Facebook, like email, is a social utility. For better or worse. I’ll focus on the better!


Where do you stand on Facebook? Love to hate it? Hate to love it? Can’t live with or without it? Share below, or drop me a line here! Thanks for reading!

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Future Final Fantasy

I was blown away when I saw that Final Fantasy VII is getting remade after all these years! Why? Because it’s not just a remaster of the same game with enhanced graphics. It’s totally redone in spectacular fashion! So if you will, allow me to geek out and reminisce.


Remember And Remaster

The visuals are so good, they bring to life what I could only dream of back in 1997 when I first played this then-groundbreaking Playstation game. The best fully-rendered stuff I’ve seen is on my Wii U (Xenoblade Chronicles still bedazzles my eyes). But this FFVII Remake on PS4 takes things to another level with lighting effects and more.

The gameplay is revamped as well. You have options. Either play old-school in turn-based battle, or go into full-action mode, or do a mix of both. I like the choices and think it will make the game more fresh without the risk of ruining a classic jrpg from Squaresoft.

Hopefully the story that drives the whole thing remains the same. The real question I have is in the telling. This remake will be distributed in chapters or separate game installments. The point was to enable the full game and story to be remastered without cutting any material. How much gets added to it is unknown to me. Hopefully any additions won’t detract from the pacing or overall story.

Over the years, I’ve tried to replay through the whole game again. But due to a busy life of adulting and already knowing how to grind out the game, I’ve only beaten it once. This Remake, though, looks like it will be so good that I won’t be able to stop playing it all the way through!


Not So Final Fantasy

My first grand entrance into the FF universe was with FFIII (FFVI) on SuperNES. So when FFVII came out for PS1, it was amazing on every level! I followed these up with FFVIII and IX. While both are great, they didn’t touch the stellar status of the previous games.

FFVII Remake looks like it may be as groundbreaking as the original! In fact, although I’ve never owned a PS4, this game pretty much has compelled me to buy one just to play it.

So yeah, next year I might blog a little less if I get my gaming hands on this. Something to look forward to!


Have you played FFVII? Will you play the Remake? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Taking Note Of Evernote

Notable

Is it possible to geek out about notes? Would that be nerding out instead? Either way, as I like to trek through tech, I look for the best solutions. Many companies offer apps, services, or entire ecosystems. One that is the epitome-of-noteworthy is Evernote.


Best Notes Ever

This month, I re-discovered Evernote. The last time I really used it was 2014. Since then, I’ve relied on first-party apps: Apple Notes or Microsoft OneNote or Google Keep. I’ve switched between these over time, depending on the main computer I was using. (I’ve tried Simplenote and used Ulysses too.) They’re all great in their own ways, having pros and cons.

But Evernote sticks out. Unlike the big-three, it’s a third-party solution from a company dedicated to the task at hand: note taking. It’s mission is a singular focus on using notes to organize your life. This is Evernote’s expertise.

Also, I’ve been fond of the green elephant for a long time.

Being a blogger, writer, and thinker, I love jotting down or typing up what’s on my mind. It gets my thoughts out of my head in front of my eyes to see. It’s a satisfying process of organizing my brain.

Simply put: I note my notions.

All The Goods

The first thing that surprised me when I started trying out Evernote recently was the interface. It’s much cleaner and leaner than years prior, yet I found all the tools and features one might want. It’s polished now, and as I began using it, I noted (ahem) how easy it is.

Evernote uses a simple folder (called Notebooks) plus tagging system for organization. You can even have Stacks of Notebooks. To me, this makes a lot of sense. I’ve used apps that employ only a folder system and apps that utilize only tagging. While simplicity is a virtue, Evernote gives the option of both. It’s neither too little nor too much.

One of Evernote’s most impressive features is the Web Clipper. The thing is awesome! It’s easy to add it to your web browser. What I love about the clipper are all the options to share anything on the web to Evernote with precision and ease.

Let’s say you’re doing research online and find an article with a quote you want. You can grab the whole web page, just the quote alone, or simply bookmark it, to name but a few options. Then, without leaving the web page, you can file the content into any of your Evernote folders, tag the content, and add remarks to it. And this all takes place inside a simple elegant drop down window in your browser. It’s incredibly useful and well done!

All that is cool. But how reliable is Evernote? Can you trust it with the fruit of your mind? To that I can say in the span of about 10 days, I’ve added over 100 notes into various folders with tags, links, web clips, and have applied some text formatting. And I’ve done this on the iPhone app and both the Edge and Chrome browser on different computers. So far, everything has been syncing flawlessly.

Finally, one of my biggest reasons for relying on Evernote is because it’s cross-platform. Being a third-party service that works on the web and in smartphone apps, I can use it in Apple-land or in the Google-verse, for example. Evernote is cloud-first; I like living in the clouds.


Note To Future Self

I’ve jumped onto different note-taking platforms over the years. I gravitated towards the built-in notes app on whichever device I had because of its system-level integration. The default app is the easiest to choose and use.

Now I’m hoping and planning to stick with Evernote for the long haul since I can take notes on any device (iPhone, Chromebook), and because it has shown much improvement over time. Evernote will likely stay great or become greater.


What’s your fave note app? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!