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Random Thoughts

I’m Gen X… you’re welcome

Is it really that easy to generalize and lump a generation of people into a group with similar traits? A couple of articles caught my attention today in Forbes and Bloomberg that talks about Generation X and Generation Z and I think, for the most part, ring true.

Gen-X comprised of latchkey kids and the children of two working parents. They were the first group to experience living with divorced parents. Gen-Xers bridged the gap between minimal technology and the beginning of the tech boom. They lived through the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

Forbes.com

While the Boomers and the Millennials are changing the culture of the nation for the worse Generation Z may be the firewall that prevents our nation’s total descent into the dustbin of history.

Where the Millennials are easily propagandized Generation Z seem to be more skeptical. Where the Millennials had to be protected and have everything explained to them Generation Z likes to figure it out themselves. Where Millennials continually need to feel appreciated Generation Z doesn’t much seem to care. There is a pragmatism to this new generation that hopefully will permeate for generations to come.

And although Gen X didn’t agree on everything (The Cure or The Smiths? Nirvana or Pearl Jam?), in recent years they’ve rallied around one defining idea: Baby boomers are a bunch of self-indulgent narcissists, and their helicopter parenting transformed their millennial kids into entitled mini-mes. Generation X parents have purposefully tried to raise a different kind of kid, influenced by their own upbringing.
“Boomers really wanted it to be easier for their children, and they succeeded,” said Dorsey, the Gen Z consultant. “When we interview Gen X, they tell us they don’t want our kids to end up like entitled millennials.”

Bloomberg.com

Oh, and who do we have to thank for this? My generation. Generation X. You’re welcome.

Categories
Technology

Dell XPS 13 (2019). A regular user’s review

About a month ago I purchased the latest version of Dell’s XPS 13 laptop. I previously owned the 2016 version and while there isn’t much difference cosmetically there are some improvements that make this laptop much better this time around and one immensely annoying thing that I absolutely hate.

Let me get the hate out of the way early so I can end on a positive note. The power button. The power button is so spongy that it is hard to tell if it’s been pushed down hard enough to turn it on. So I end up really mashing the damn thing. I don’t know if it’s because they built a fingerprint reader into the button or if it’s just a shitty button. Regardless, a $1,500 laptop should have a solid power button.

The rest of the laptop is great. Here are the specs for the model I bought.

  • 8th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-8565U Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.6 GHz, 4 cores)
  • 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz Onboard
  • 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
  • Intel(R) UHD Graphics 620
  • Windows 10 Pro (64bit)

I got a lot more computer for about $700 less than the previous 2016 version. The machine seems fast (probably because it’s still new) and renders video much quicker than the old model. Granted, my impressions are my feelings on how the machine operates because I’m not running benchmark tests here. But the 8th generation Intel Core i7 seems to do the job well. My impression could also be skewed a bit because I’ve been using a Microsoft Surface Go for the last year and while that machine is good in a pinch it’s not a barn burner in performance.

I especially like the keyboard of this machine. I don’t have my old version any longer to compare but the keys seem to have just the right amount of travel and the space between keys are perfect for my hands. It’s also not exceedingly loud like Apple keyboards of late. I’ve also always liked the soft touch, carbon fiber looking, keyboard deck. It breaks up the monotony of the laptop and is quite comfortable for my palms to rest while typing.

The trackpad is the biggest improvement to me. I’m old-school and wish PCs would get rid of the idea of the mouse buttons as part of one smooth trackpad. I don’t like it because there is not tactile feel as to where the button portions begin and end. This laptop suffers from the same problem. But, the area where I would normally rest my thumb on the button seems to recognize that I wish to use that area as a button better than past implementations. I don’t know if it’s Dell’s trackpad design or if it’s an improvement in Windows. Either way it’s an improvement and I have fewer errant mouse movements while my thumb is on what is supposed to be the left mouse button.

Battery life is a little hit and miss to me. If I’m using it heavy it doesn’t seem like the battery lasts much longer than the 2016 version. All the professional reviews say the battery life is better than the old version. Perhaps I’ve just been using it for rendering video too much in the beginning and need to see how the battery lasts under more typical usage. For instance, this morning I’ve been blogging, web browsing and going through e-mails and the battery meter in the system tray hasn’t moved too much and I’ve been on the machine for about an hour. We’ll see. As I get to use the machine more I’ll get a better feel for the battery.

Web cam in the correct place

The screen is big and bright and is virtually edge to edge. This time they put the web cam up into the top bezel where it belongs People made a big stink about the web cam being in the bottom bezel in past versions but it never bothered me because I don’t use the web cam much anyway. Who cares if someone has to look up my nose. It might be a more favorable angle for me anyway.

What would be nice is if the laptop came in a matte black version or the option for a little color. I hate silver because it looks like a Macbook. If I wanted a Macbook I’d buy one. I also don’t like to buy skins. They never stay on right and if you don’t stick it on just right it looks stupid.

In general, this is a solid update to an already great little machine. Fix that power button, give me mouse buttons again, and allow some color into my world and all my complaints will go away… maybe.

Categories
Books Random Thoughts

Back to reading books

It’s been quite some time since I finished a book. The last couple of years had me traveling and doing other work that kept me super busy. I kept reading during those times but it was really hit or miss and a tough slog.

Since I decided to leave the family business I surprisingly still didn’t have a lot of time for reading. Seems there are plenty of things to do even without going into an office 5 days a week.

But, the month of July I made a concerted effort to get back on the reading track. I get a lot of great information from books that I wouldn’t get otherwise. And if I’m not getting information I’m at the very least gaining someone else’s perspective.

So during this month I was able to finish the following books.

The Pioneers by David McCullough

I never knew the history of Ohio and how it was settled. I’m sure I won’t retain all the details in this book but it was interesting to discover the who, what, and why. It’s also so easy to forget that the Midwest was, not all that long ago, the western frontier of the United States.

How to Fake Your Way Into Getting Rich on Instagram by Trey Ratcliff

World famous photographer Trey Ratcliff rips the veil off several “big” influencers on Instagram and illustrates how he believes they were able to amass a large “following” (in quotes because their followers are most likely fake) and how they used that to make themselves money. I believe this book is an attempt to shame Instagram and other social networks like it to better police their users in order to prevent fraud and to stop cheapening the accounts with an actual following. Ratcliff lets you know what services they used and how they used them in order to pump up their numbers. It’s always good to know how the fakery is done.

The Ketogenic Bible

I have already read other books on the science behind low carbohydrate diets. I was keenly interested in this one because it focuses on the Ketogenic Diet in particular. Most people who know me know that I watch what I eat. Meaning that I watch the food as I shovel it into my mouth. But, I’ve never subscribed to a particular diet. I just eat when I’m hungry and I eat whatever I feel like in the moment. The reason this piqued my interest is because for over 2 decades I’ve been living the lifestyle of what people are calling Intermittent Fasting. I stumbled into this all on my own. That combined with my lack of a sweet tooth means that I also tend to eat foods that are low in carbohydrates. So I was curious to know the science behind how these processes work inside the body. It was my belief that I slip in and out of ketosis (not to be confused with ketoacidosis) very easily because of how long I’ve been unknowingly practicing intermittent fasting. And I believe I was correct!

All the links above are Amazon Affiliate links. So thanks if you choose to buy. I do need an income source now you know.

Categories
Technology

I’m off the Brave Browser

I used the Brave Browser for about a year and I really wanted to keep using it because it was great at blocking ads, offered very secure browsing, and it was fast. But, there was one problem that kept creeping up that ultimately made me switch to Firefox.

The problem is sync. I use multiple devices and Brave just was not consistent at syncing bookmarks. There is no account to set up with Brave so there was no intermediary to help facilitate bookmark sync. There was a little rigamarole in setting up sync in Brave where you had to edit the shortcut link and add some instructions. Not the end of the world but still not elegant.

When syncing multiple devices you add each device to a sync chain. The chain is dependent on when you add a device. I had one case early on when I removed one device from the chain because I was reinstalling the Browser. Then after installation I added it back to the chain thinking it would just sync my bookmarks. What ended up happening is that all my bookmarks were removed from all my synced browsers because the one I just reinstalled was the newest. Each browser in the chain used the newest information and wiped it all out.

But, that wasn’t the final straw. I’m able to deal with the problem of prioritization sync. I can remember that I have to import bookmarks whenever I reinstall. The final straw was that when I made changes to one browser the changes didn’t consistently sync across all my devices. That I can’t deal with because then I don’t know which changes are sticky and which changes are not. I would shut down the browser on each device hoping that when relaunching it would check with the browser where I made the change and then sync but it just didn’t work. Some bookmarks would change and others would not. That kind of guesswork makes using the browser untenable.

So I switched to Firefox and made that my default. It is also based on Chromium, like Brave and now Microsoft’s new Edge Browser, so it works just like Chrome without feeding everything into the Google beast. They get enough of my information through the use of Gmail.

When Microsoft puts the finishing touches on the Edge Browser I may look into that because maybe it will work well with some of the Microsoft services I use. I think it’s good to spread your eggs around all the baskets.

Categories
Technology

Green Energy seems to be an “Exercise in magical thinking”

The entire thing is a long read but read it you must. Here’s some of what you’ll learn and this is just from the executive summary.

  • $1 million invested in green energy only produces 50 million kWh over 30 years while $1 million invested in fossil fuel produces 300 million kWh over 30 years.
  • Solar and wind are approaching their limits of efficiency and the gains made in the coming years won’t be enough to make a difference.
  • 1,000 years of production from Tesla’s Gigafactory (at its current capacity) could only make enough batteries for 2 days worth of U.S. electricity demand.

This is enlightening to know how efficient our current systems are as compared to “green” technologies. So-called “green” technologies are not really green to begin with. All the energy, chemicals, and heavy metals that are required for the technology are likely more harmful than the environment the technology is supposed to save.

This “new energy economy” rests on the belief—a centerpiece of the Green New Deal and other similar proposals both here and in Europe—that the technologies of wind and solar power and battery storage are undergoing the kind of disruption experienced in computing and communications, dramatically lowering costs and increasing efficiency. But this core analogy glosses over profound differences, grounded in physics, between systems that produce energy and those that produce information.
In the world of people, cars, planes, and factories, increases in consumption, speed, or carrying capacity cause hardware to expand, not shrink. The energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, mass, and thermodynamics—not clever software.

Manhattan Institute
Categories
Cool Stuff

Today you can call me Grampy!

Today you can call me Grampy! Happy birthday Lucille.

Categories
Technology

Switching to the Brave Browser

There’s a new web browser in town and it’s name is Brave. I discovered this relatively new web browser listening to some podcasts and decided to try it out. It’s fantastic. It’s light, it’s fast, and it blocks ads and tracking natively. The picture shows how many trackers and ads that were blocked just from the normal sites I visit.

Watch this video and give it a try.

It’s about time something provided some competition to Google’s Chrome.

Categories
Technology

Hyperloop technology should be for freight not people

By Camilo Sanchez – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43739482

Hyperloop technology should be for freight not people and the reason is that a hyperloop is really nothing more than an oversized enormous pneumatic tube kind of like the one you use at a bank to make your deposits at the drive through. It’s a point to point technology and once constructed not flexible. Think freight trains but underground and super super fast.

An article in the Wall Street Journal today talks about the increase in airfreight because of all the stuff that’s getting shipped world wide. The speed and flexibility of air cargo outweighs the added cost of the lack of capacity per shipment. Shipping things over the ocean is simply too slow and subject to many issues such as labor problems and weather. Shipping cargo by plane is also subject to the same issues that could slow shipments.

As online shoppers come to expect faster home delivery, passenger jets and dedicated cargo planes are picking up more kinds of cargo traditionally carried by container ships, trains and trucks. Global airfreight traffic climbed almost 9% year-over-year in November as a jump in e-commerce orders supercharged the holiday rush, according to cargo data provider WorldACD. Rates for airfreight were up 17% annually that month.

Strong global economic growth also is spurring demand for goods long ferried by air, such as automotive and manufacturing parts. The dual surge is creating some of the stiffest competition for air-cargo space in years, and prompting companies to search for older, idle jets to convert into freighters.

“You’re literally begging and pleading to get on airplanes, leveraging any contact you can,” said Neel Jones Shah, global head of airfreight for Flexport Inc., a San Francisco-based firm that helps customers arrange freight shipments online.

Just think if a hyperloop was constructed between major shipping ports. The cargo containers would be loaded on one end and at extremely high speeds get shot underground to their arrival point. No people even need to be inside the cargo vehicle underground. It wouldn’t take weeks or months as it does now to ship something overseas in fact it would be as quick or quicker as a cargo plane with the capacity of a freight train or several cargo ocean ships. There are no weather issues under ground and there are fewer labor issues as long as you can load and unload containers from either side.

This could also be installed between major cities in every country. This would remove trains and trucks from the nation’s highways and rails. This would serve to reduce traffic both on the ground and in the sky making life a little better for leisure travel.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal

Hyperloop technology on Wikipedia

Categories
Technology

I miss the old Microsoft and the old days of computing

Everybody DOS now!

Categories
Technology

A regular person’s Pixel 2 Review

I purchased a Pixel 2 and not the Pixel 2 XL because the Pixel 2 is cheaper and has the same internals, with the exception of the screen. Same power and capabilities for less money. Win win. Note: all the pictures of the Pixel 2 were shot using my original Pixel.

I’ve been using the Pixel 2 every day since October 20 and I’m extremely happy with the phone. The two things that stand out to me most are the battery life and the camera. These also happen to be the two most important things to me in a smartphone and why I chose to upgrade from the Pixel.

The battery life, in my opinion, is phenomenal. I charge it at night and the phone lasts me all day. Even on my heaviest usage days I still have at least 30% remaining by 10 pm. I’ve never had a phone that lasted me all day like this. The original Pixel had to be charged multiple times per day and I always worried that if I didn’t pay close attention that my phone would be dead when I need it. This is not the case with the Pixel 2 so far. Huge thumbs up.

The camera is also fantastic and I believe I will now stop carrying a DSLR on vacations or trips. The camera is fast and mostly accurate and I find myself not having to think too much before taking a picture. In addition, the portrait mode is a nice little touch and I really have no complaints about it. I won’t be nit picky either about some of the things that get smudged around the edges of a subject because it’s not really noticeable unless you zoom in really close and the Pixel 2 is doing it all in software, unlike the iPhone which doesn’t do as good a job and is doing it with hardware and software for a much higher price.

Continuing on with the camera, I found out about these add-on lenses called Moment Lenses. It requires the phone being in a case (which I don’t like but I’m doing it for the superior pictures) and you simply twist a lens over the camera lens and instantly you have a wide-angle, telephoto, or macro lens that enhances the quality of your pictures. Forgive my crappy photo gallery below but it shows the Moment case and the two lenses I purchased.

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To give you an example of the pictures the phone takes here is another gallery of photos I took with the Pixel 2 of my dogs. Some of the pictures are with good lighting some not but all of them are as taken straight from the phone and, as the kids say these days, no filter.

If you want to see some of these pics or others from this phone go look at my dog Godfrey’s Instagram account or at my Instagram account. On Instagram I do try to spruce them up a bit by enhancing the color, contrast, and brightness.

The rest of the phone is not all that important to me. The screen is fine and the Google Pixel skin of Android is fine. The phone seems fast and smooth. Apps and such mostly work exactly the same as in my previous Pixel and Nexus 5X. I’m hoping that Android has improved enough with these current versions that the phone won’t suffer the Android lag and bloat over time that I’ve experienced with every Android phone I’ve ever used.

My bottom line is that if you want great battery life and the camera is important to you then the Pixel 2 is a good purchase.