Fish Tacos at Jack in the Box

My schedule for today is crazy running kids from activity to activity. I decided to grab some fast food for lunch and Jack-in-the-Box was convenient. I always try to choose something that is not too unhealthy but there’s not much to choose. Today I spotted something new: Snack Pitas. For $1.99 you can get a pita with chipotle sauce, lettuce, and a choice of steak, chicken, or fish. I opted for the fish and it was quite good. I wonder how bad it was for me.

Apple ID Troubles

In mid July I was trying to buy some Apps or Music from the iTunes Music Store. It seemed like every day I was getting a message that my account had been disabled for security reasons. It was really annoying. I was having to change my password for iTunes every day. It was really annoying. I tracked the problem down to my Apple TV. I had recently updated the software on my Apple TV. There was one small change in the Apple TV software that it now does not allow Apple IDs to contain a space. The space key is not even on the on-screen keyboard. The result is that my Apple ID which contains a space could not be entered.

After a trip to the Genius bar and a call to 800-MY-APPLE, I was given two options: (1) restore the software on my Apple TV back to the factory default, or (2) change my Apple ID. I like my Apple ID and don’t really want to change it. I really do not want to mess with downgrading my Apple TV. Neither option was really appealing. The support rep said that Apple Engineers were aware of the problem and hoped to have a fix in some future update by had no guess as to when such an update might be coming.

I decided that I would go ahead and change my Apple ID. This means that I will have to make changes on several computers and iPhones where I use my Apple ID. So I go into iTunes and try to change my Apple ID. Nope – that doesn’t work. Inside iTunes, you can only change your Apple ID to an Apple ID that is formatted like an email address. I did not want that.

I managed to find the web equivalent of the iTunes account management screen. On this screen I was able to change my AppleID to something that was not and email address although I did have to come up with a new password.

https://myinfo.apple.com

What is still lacking is a way to merge Apple IDs into a single account. I tried to set up Apple IDs for each of my kids. The idea was that I would be able to give them an allowance and let them buy what they wanted. The problem with that idea is that each account is completely separate. If I wanted to buy a song and share it with each kid they had to have the account and password that matched the song. This would be unworkable. I quickly abandoned this idea and the other iTunes accounts that I had created.

Motorola H680 Bluetooth Headset

I tried several headsets recently in a search to replace a really simple Jabra headset I had (the ear-hook finally broke). I wanted small and efficient design. I wanted something light that stayed on my head if I am working on my computer or working on my car. The Motorola H680 has done all of this. I like that it has a real on/off switch and not the typical mash the button into your ear for several seconds until it beeps method. The ear-hook is tiny on this headset and you can remove it or reverse it for either side of your head. i took mine off and the thing stays in just fine no matter what day to day stuff I am doing. It produces clear sound in my ear and others have no trouble hearing me. It synced to my iPhone easily. I would recommend this to anyone not wanting to spend an arm and a leg for a good simple bluetooth headset. I have a friend with a new Jawbone headset and the noise suppression system makes her sound muffled every-time she calls, for much less I have a good, solid bluetooth headset that I can hear and be heard on.

Ender In Exile

In Ender’s Game a boy saves the Earth while believing he was playing a game and at the same time commits xenocide against a race of intelligent insects. The series has had many installments explaining how Ender, his friends and family all interacted both before and after this universe altering event. However, Orson Scott Card has had a gaping hole in his series that he will now fill on November 11th, 2008 with Ender in Exile. Finally, we will all find out what Ender and his sister Valentine did on their long journey to the outer colonies in space. This journey is taken after Ender is deemed too dangerous (in part by his own power mad brother) to return to Earth. These years were always lost to the fans of the series and many of us wondered what things were happening to him on his relativistic journey that helped to shape the boy into the man that would become the Speaker for the Dead that we meet in subsequent books. Now, Card gives us these years of his character’s life and I am sure we will all be the happier for it.

AT&T Wants You to Update Your iPhone

There’s a strange new phenomenon going on. AT&T cares about what version of the iPhone OS I am running on my phone and will actually send me a text message when a new version is available. What’s also interesting is that AT&T sent this to me after I had already updated. This means that they either do not know what version I am running or they do not share that information with their text messaging team.

Since upgrading I have been able to enjoy my phone much more. This is the version of the OS that we have wanted. I immediately noticed that my reception was better. I am actually able to use my phone inside my house for the first time. I cannot really speak to the increase battery life because I tend to keep my phone near a power source

My applications are much more stable. I have tried more games which means more money for developers and Apple.

World War Z

Do not like the zombie genre? Me either but this book is really good. I have never been into the heavy gore and violence usually associated with stories about the living dead. However, Max Brooks takes you on a journey with survivor excerpts collected from around the globe, in a reporting style that works well for this bit of fiction. The book also reads good on several levels. On the surface you can get amazing and interesting survivor stories documented as they are collected for posterity. On a deeper level, the book accomplishes what I understand many of the undead films and stories try to convey but I rarely get to because the gross out factor outweighs the message. Max balances his messages with entertainment well here.

These “Oral Histories” tell the story, showing how governments, individuals and cultures around the world adapt to a crisis without a conscious. You will find parallels in World War Z to our world facing terrorist and cultural threats that cross every nation’s borders. You will also find riveting stories that rival any “reality fiction” works available.

This is a great read.

World of Warcraft Battlechest

Why would I buy the World of Warcraft Battlechest above all the other retail packages for WoW? Simple, for about half the cost of buying the original WoW and The Burning Crusades separately you get both in the same box plus some strategy guides. If you have not played the World of Warcraft and you want to get into it; then this is your chance to leap ahead and pick up the expansion pack giving you the extra races of Blood Elves and Draenei.
WoW is everything you have heard it is. Without a doubt the best mmorpg (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) around . You will find yourself immersed in a universe that is complex and character driven.

Fighting to gain higher and higher levels so you can ride mounts, get pets for your character or raise the dead are just a few of the rewards your character can get. If you have seen the ads with William Shatner, Mr. T or Verne Troyer and thought to yourself, “hmmm, that sounds like fun,” then give in to your inner-child now and get into the World of Warcraft. Working together with other players you will build alliances, defeat bosses that require team work and lead raids on opposing sides in the game laying waste to their villages.

The game is not all about fighting and you can learn skills such as metalworking, leather-crafting and engineering to help your online persona raise money to buy better equipment and supplies. Need to relax? Take a break and learn fishing, first aid or cooking. All of these complex and innocuous skills will lead you into a well-rounded experience and help you make online friends that will look out for you and help you as you work to attain level 70 and get your flying mount.

This game is very addictive and to really enjoy it you need to set aside time to play it. It is not the kind of game that you can poke at every so often and realize its true potential. Think of the World of Warcraft as the part of your life you have been missing and stop denying yourself the fun.

Scorpion Down

Ed Offley details in great minutiae the destruction of the U.S.S. Scorpion by the Soviet Navy on May 22, 1968. I read this book because I had an interest in submarines from when I was a child. My father had books detailing all of the German U-Boats from WWI and WWII. The ship numbers, where and when they were lost or if they and their crews survived. This carried through and when I was in college taking Oceanography classes my professor talked to both the class and myself about the loss of a colleague of his in the 1970’s while working on an experimental submarine that was being tested in the North Atlantic. The only notice the families of those that died were given by the U.S. Navy was that they had died serving their country. To say that our nation or any nation treats its submarine operations as a secret beyond top secret is an understatement.

This book picks apart in detail the methods that the United States Submarine Command used to conceal the truth about what happened to the Scorpion and her crew by misinformation, simple turn of phrase and blatant lies. What I like is that the author never makes the judgement that the Navy acted in a malicious manner but rather goes to great lengths to explain the truth about what happened. The Navy is shown to have protected this secret to help prevent an escalation between the former Soviet Union and the United States during the height of the cold war. Intrigue, spies and mortal danger are all present in this book and you will not only get the truth about the incident but you will learn about many other events during the rather “warm” war between the U.S. and Soviet submarine fleets during that period. A lot of this book fits in with stories I had read in one publication or another when I was younger. One parallel to what I already knew that Offley gives, points out that the Russian submariners were more afraid of the death due to the bad design and implementation of their own submarines than they were at the hands of their American counterparts.

The only downside to this book is that at times his documentation and historical information is so detailed that it bogs down the reader. However, the information and uncovering of the facts is intriguing enough to get the reader through these rough patches to get to the next revelation. This is a great book and it demonstrates the heroism of anyone that has served in their countries’ submarine fleet and the secrets that they guard to protect everyone; even when they are not on their boats.

Guild Wars

Guild-Wars is an awesome online roleplaying game without monthly basic costs.
A lot of people compare it with successful “World of Warcraft” (WoW) by Blizzard, but in fact it’s a total different game.
Before I come to the pros and cons of the game let me explain what you can expect from Guild Wars:

First of all there are 3 different kind of modes. The PvE (Player versus environment) is a campaign where you try to solve missions with other players against the computer. You start at level 0 and become level 20 if you’ve success.
The second mode is PvP (Player versus Player). In this mode you can demonstrate your competence by fighting against other “real” players in a little group.
The third mode is GvG (Guild versus Guild). A guild is association of different players with their own flag, territory and rank. By fighting against other Guilds you can improve or corrupt your rank.
Before joining a mode you have to decide your class. You’ve to choose between warrior, necromancer (black magic), elementalist (natural magic forces), Assasin ( soldier with dagger), mesmer (magic forces), monk (healer), ranger (bowman), ritualist ( can create ghosts).

I really like this game because it doesn’t get boring, you can spend hours on playing it. On top of that you can found a guild with your friends and compare your skill to other players. Furthermore you’ll always find a player helping you in the guild wars campaign, because there’s just one server – and that’s the big different to world of warcraft – and so all the 4 million Guild Wars player can meet each other without changing the server.
The only pro I found is, that the missions are often very long-winded and it isn’t possible to save. If you interrupt the mission by closing the application you’ll be the next time in the nearest meeting point, where you have to start the mission again.

But all in all it’s a very exciting game, because there are so much things to do and to discover. On top of it the $49.99 on amazon.com is really a fair deal, if you see what you’re getting.

Initial Impression of Apple’s “Let’s Rock” Event

It looks like the last page refresh has come from engadget.com and live.gizmodo.com and all the news is now news. Kevin Rose’s leaks on the Nano and iTunes were mostly right. The Genius feature looks like the natural evolution of the iTunes MiniStore and smart playlists. The new iPod Touch was expected. I really like the addition of the volume controls and the speakers. That was my wife’s complaint about her iPod Touch — the lack of speakers. Now I need to figure out a way to upgrade it. It looks like Apple is staggering the iPod Touch 2.1 update and the iPhone 2.1 update and not trying to launch them both at the same time.

I think the game titles are promising. I know my kids will want Real Soccer 2009 and Need for Speed (in November). I’m not a fan of games on the Mac. It’s a combination of the lack of good games and the fact that I see the Mac as a tool and not a game platform. I have a DS, PS2 and a Wii for gaming. But the iPhone/iPod Touch seems different. I also like the pricing model. I can buy a game once and the whole family can play it (3 iPhones and an iPod Touch).

Steve Jobs showed that he has a sense of humor about the reports of his death (photo by Gizmodo.com).

What did we not see at this event? I did not expect a new tablet or new laptop. The time of year is wrong. Apple telegraphed that this was an iPod announcement and delivered what they promised –despite the negative Wall Street reaction (AAPL down 3%). To add MacBooks would have confused the message. I would not be surprised if there was another event between now and January but the bet now is that we will see a new MacBook in January.

I am disappointed that we did not get iLife ’09 like I had previously posted. That too would have confused the message. I’m not sure what is needed in the iLife package. I think iDVD is going extinct or at least vestigial. I do have a wish for how Apple can improve iPhoto but I’ll save that for another post.

The only other product that would make sense to rev would be AppleTV. They could fix the UI and add some of the new Genius features. Perhaps simply getting HD TV shows are enough of a big deal. I know that I would consider buying Battlestar Galactica episodes in HD.

Playing with the Twitter Drupal Module

I’m having a bit of fun playing with the Twitter Module for Drupal. The project has not been updated since July but there is a lot of discussion about how to patch it. For the uninitiated, this module posts a ‘tweet’ on Twitter whenever you post something to your web site. What this module does not do it show your tweets from Twitter on your site. If you want to do that, then create an RSS feed and use New Aggregator.

I really like the direction that the patches are going and I hope that these patches get melded back into the main project. The basic module just posts to Twitter. The patched version adds the ability to post for all users, more post settings, and the ability to use TinyURL.

New Microsoft Ad is Cute and About Nothing

Jerry Seinfeld was know for his show about nothing. Now he and Bill Gates have their first commercial about nothing. While only a minute and a half it has all the elements of a classic Seinfeld episode. There are several elements which seem out of place but recur for comedic effect.

Here’s what we learned.

* Jerry Seinfeld is spending his retirement from TV trolling the malls and eating churros.
* Bill Gates has been buying his shoes at Shoe Circus for the last 30 years. We are not sure what he does with all those points.
* The spanish speaking family is more impressed with the leather shoe than with the two celebrities in the shoe store
* Microsoft is apparently working on an edible computer.

So Jerry is acting like any other technophile would do if they ran into Bill Gates in the mall, trying to pump him for secrets.

I would expect the Conquistador, the Churros, and Bill Gate’s Shoe size to recur at the end of this string of ads. Soon after that Netflix will release a collectors DVD set containing all the episodes and a cast reunion show.

Don’t Buy a Mac (This Week)

I had a friend ask me for some advice on buying a mac for the home. They had already bought a Mac Book and Mac Book Pro and now it seems time to replace that old generic PC in the kitchen with a new Mac Mini. My advice was pretty simple — Wait.

Apple recently announced a special event next Tuesday. At the time of this conversation all we had was a rumor from Kevin Rose but that was good enough for me. The special event has now been confirmed by Apple with an invitation. The event seems to be focused on the iPod and will probably have no affect on the rest of the product line, especially the iPod. So why wait?

I suspect that we may see iLIfe ’09 announced/released on Tuesday. This would mean that a computer bought next week would come with iLife ’09 for free — a $79 savings.

So if you want to buy a new Mac, wait until Tuesday. Don’t wait much longer than that. The iPod rebate for College Students and teachers ends soon.