Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I think I accidentally bought a Windows tablet ...

For those that know I'm a Mac user and might wonder why in the world I'd want a Windows tablet, let me start with some computer background about me and the family.

I've been a user of Macs since 2007. I'm fairly heavy into the Apple ecosystem with a MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air, an iPad Pro, an iPhone 6s, an Apple TV, plus hundreds of movies, many TV shows, and thousands of songs from the iTunes store. And that's just me. I've bought many other devices for family members.

Now, I'm not exclusively Mac. I have a fairly decent Windows desktop computer, as well as having virtual Windows computers on my MacBooks. The grandchildren use Windows computers still. All those that are double-digit ages got computers, and I've kept them updated every 3-4 years provided they swap them back to me. That ensures they take care of them. Not all do, but most of them do.

At work, I use a Windows computer. Not my choice, but what they assign me. I would prefer to use a Mac, but I cannot justify the extra expense to the company, so I use the Windows machine. I also log in and work remote regularly. That requires a Windows computer, which normally means my Windows desktop.

I was using a virtual machine on my Mac to log in to work if an emergency came up and I wasn't at home ... and had my MacBook with me, which I often did. However, my virtual machine (using Parallels) has recently encountered an issue with the shift key. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Caps Lock always works, but some characters (! @ # $ % etc) are only possible -- or feasible; I know about ALT-KEYPAD but prefer to not do that -- via the shift key.

Now, considering that in a year or so, I'll be updating at least three of the grandchildren's computers, and that it would be useful to have a reliable Windows laptop for emergency remote log in, I've been looking at getting a Windows laptop. The grandchildren's computers have all been Dell Inspiron laptops, which I've found reliable, and, until recently, easy to work on if necessary. But, as those three are looking to finish high school in another year, I'm thinking a better grade of laptop might be better for college.

Anyway, I've been looking at Dell's XPS line of laptops. I've never had one of those, and wasn't sure if it would be good to get one of those, or a MacBook. Getting an XPS for me would get me familiar with how good they actually are as well as solve my immediate need for a reliable emergency remote work computer. So, I've been looking at the XPS line.

They ain't cheap. But, I looked into the Dell outlet -- that's their discontinued and refurbished store -- and saw some XPS machines with solid state drives at pretty good prices compared to a MacBook. So, I shopped there for a bit. I wanted at least 256 GB drive, 8 GB RAM, and at least a 13-inch screen. However, it came down to "pick two." So, I went with the drive and RAM, and settled for a 12-inch screen, similar to what the MacBook line offers.

It came in last week, and when I opened the box, it was kinda sparse inside. A laptop and a power supply. Truly bare bones. So, I plugged the laptop in (USB-C connection for power) and let it sit for a bit while I took care of other stuff for a few hours. Then, that evening, after supper, I decided to dive in. First thing I did was open the device. That's when the screen came off in my hands.

I sat there for a minute with what I can only figure was a really stupid look on my face until I realized that it was designed to do that. It had connection pins and magnetic alignment to ensure they were touching. It was, in essence, a 12-inch Windows tablet and a full-size hard keyboard attachment.

The touchpad works very well, as good as my MacBook keypads. At least, so far. The screen is a little small (being old sucks), but I knew what I was getting into when I started. Changing the resolution (lowering it) has helped that a little.

So, I'm using a Windows laptop, specifically a Dell XPS 12, which is actually a tablet. (Note: Windows PC and mobile operating systems are the same, unlike Apple's macOS for computers and iOS for mobile.)

So far, so good. But I still feel a little stupid for not realizing what I was buying.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I got better

After a bout with ... well, whatever it was ... I'm much better now. Actually, I've been better for a bit. Only, it was one of those things where I wasn't sure if I'd suddenly relapse or otherwise need to see the inside of a hospital again. But, I'm pretty sure I'm better. I even have the word from a doctor that I'm doing better.

Briefly, I was hospitalized ... twice, or maybe three times ... with the same symptoms but for apparently different reasons.

First time, I passed out at work on a Friday, possibly from food poisoning. The following Monday, a visit to the doctor turned into a visit to the hospital, and a stay for a few days because of an apparent intestinal blockage. After a few days out, and a quick return to a normal diet, I went back in on Christmas Day with the same symptoms, but with no blockage found.

So far, there has been no definite reason found for all this, which means it could be a combination of things, or a thing still not determined. I'm going with a combination: food poisoning, followed by a temporary blockage exacerbated by a hernia, followed by my body not ready to process regular food.

I've continued my soft diet -- mostly stuff that you can either either with a spoon or with no utensils -- and slowly adding items from my normal diet. So far, so good.

Now, all that explanation accomplished one thing: it gave me time to think about what it is I really want to say. I want to say "thank you" to all that expressed concerns and offered prayers, kind words and thoughts, and wished me well.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Monday, January 2, 2017

How I spent my Christmas vacation

In the hospital
I do hope your Christmas and holiday time were joyful and a blessing. I know mine was, despite a couple of things: two hospital stays.

This post isn't to ask for any sympathy or anything, but to explain where I've been. For those that noticed I've not been online much.

On the 15th, I had supper at Atlanta Bread Company in Columbus. I got sick. How sick? The store is now closed. Really. Apparently many Atlanta Bread Company stores have been closing during 2016, if my Google search is an indication.

Anyway, I got sick at work the next day, passed out, and they called EMS to take me to the hospital in Columbus. They released me that night. Unable to eat the entire weekend, I went to the doctor on Monday, and he sent me back to the hospital with specific instructions. They said I had an intestinal blockage. Stayed there for a few days, then was released after it was cleared. After spending Christmas eve with many of the grandchildren, on Christmas morning, I drove to southeast Georgia to spend time with the other grandchildren. And went back into the hospital that night.

After a few days, I was released and have appointments with my doctor and a surgeon this week. We'll see how it goes.

So, despite spending many days in the hospital over the last half of December, I got to see all the grandchildren.

It was a good Christmas holiday.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2

  1. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David
  2. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
  3. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
  4. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
  5. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
  6. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
  7. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
  8. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
  9. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
  10. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
  11. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

-- Clement Clarke Moore, 1822

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Cutting the cord: Live TV

I've been a cord-cutter for nearly six years. I got a Roku and Apple TV in late 2010 and dropped cable in early 2011. Since then, I've streamed my TV content. But, if you've read this blog before, you probably know that. Unless you forgot. But now I've reminded you, so we're good to get to the point.

Well, in a minute. First, more backstory. Or information. Or something.

Once you drop cable, unless you put up an antenna, or don't really drop cable and get a cheap locals-only package, you can't watch any live TV. Services like Hulu let you watch stuff within hours of airing. Purchasing content from iTunes or Amazon or some such service does too. In fact, apart from live content like news/opinion programs and sports, just about everything you want to watch is available from Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, and the like. When I cut cable, I lost live sports and news/opinion shows, but nothing else.

For me, it was cheaper than paying for cable. It might be for you, and there are Websites that help you with that kind of research and decision. Rather than being rare behavior, cutting the cord, as it's called, is becoming more common. It's a new market for companies. So, what can they offer that Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon can't?

Live TV. For people that want to watch live sports -- me, for instance -- or people that can't wait a few hours to watch Game of Thrones, the live TV option has value. And more and more services are starting up. One of the first was Sling TV, which I've tried and like. There's PlayStation Vue, which I've tried, but don't like so much. And there's DirecTV Now, which I'm currently trying out.

The services are similar, but aren't exactly the same.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Making college football great again

I'm a big fan of college football. I suppose that's only natural. Georgia is a football state, and the major universities in the state are football schools. High school football is big in the state. Even ESPN named Valdosta, Georgia as Titletown, USA because of its success at high school football.

So, football matters to me. Not so much the NFL, but college football. And I don't like what's happening to college football. It's still fun to watch, so that's a good thing, but I'm seeing it go down a bad road, and they need to fix it. Start with the bowl games.

The Bowls


To start with, there are too many bowls. There used to be just one: the Rose Bowl. They count the 1902 Tournament East–West football game between Michigan and Stanford as the first Rose Bowl game, but it really started with the second game, in 1916. It's been played every year since.

Other bowls came along later. There were some small bowls that only lasted a single game, and others that lasted less than 10 years. But some stuck around longer. In 1935, the Orange, Sugar, and Sun Bowls debuted. 1937 saw the first Cotton Bowl game.

By 1937, we had the long-time "Big Four" games -- Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Cotton -- plus a minor bowl with staying power, the Sun Bowl. And, of course, several one and done games. But more long-lasting bowls followed.

The Gator Bowl was first played in 1946, while the first Tangerine Bowl (now the Citrus Bowl) kicked off in 1947. The Liberty Bowl was first played in 1959, as was the now-defunct but long-played Bluebonnet Bowl. The Peach Bowl debuted in 1968. 1971 saw the first Fiesta Bowl. The Independence Bowl began in 1976, and the Holiday Bowl in 1978.

In the 60 years after the first regularly-played Rose Bowl, there were 12 regularly played bowls. In the 40 years since then, that number has grown to 40.

There are 128 Division 1-A/FBS teams. With 40 bowl games, that means 62% of the teams go to a bowl. Even the NBA and NHL only have 53% of their teams in post-season.

Once again this year, every .500 team gets a bowl. And, again this year, some teams with losing records (five this year) get to go to a bowl. A bowl game used to be a reward for a great season. Now, it's little more than a participation trophy. The solution is simple: fewer bowls means it's a bigger, more meaningful reward for a successful season. Cut the number of bowls in half, to 20. I'd be happy with only 15 bowls. It would make going to a bowl a big deal, as it should be. But, and you'll see why in a second, I'll settle for 20 bowl games.

Bowl Eligible


Generally speaking, teams should have to win at least 8 games in order to be invited to a bowl. I would have contingency plans for there not being enough qualifying teams, but with an 8-win threshold, the chances of that are small. And, I would make an exception I'll discuss in a minute.

That would be a big deal for some schools. LSU, for instance, wouldn't qualify this year. Bet they'd find a way to make up weather games in the future.

Okay, that exception. If a team won its conference, it's bowl eligible. And, if a team plays in a conference championship game, it's bowl eligible. For conferences that don't have championship games (this year, there are two), the top two teams would be bowl eligible. That would level the field among conferences, give all conferences two automatic bowl bids, not just the ones with championship games. And that alone could create the 8-win exception. This year, the Sun Belt's co-champions are 9-3 Appalachian State and 7-5 Arkansas State. The Red Wolves would get a bowl, while some 8-4 teams wouldn't. Those 8-4 shouldn've won their conference.

Finally, I would could all wins as wins, even if it's against a 1-AA/FCS or Division II school. Leave it up to the bowls to determine the value of those wins.

Playoffs?


How do playoffs figure into all this? Under my 16-team plan, first-round losers would still be able to go to a bowl game. Or, the bowls could sign on to host a playoff game. The quarter-finals could be around Christmas week, where currently, some bowls are already playing. Today, bowls host the semi-finals. Let four bowls host the quarter-finals. And, the first round, if they wish. I don't care.

Under the current 4-team playoff setup, it wouldn't change a thing. Bottom line is, no matter what -- current plan or my better plan -- there's no adverse impact.

Objections?


You may have an objection. I'm willing to listen. But if the objection is "wah wah wah my team doesn't get to go" then I really don't care. Also, "But, but, but, bowls!" Don't care.

Not everybody goes to a bowl. Not everybody deserves to go. It needs to mean something.

Other than the bowls? Well, there are some rule changes I'd like to see. We'll talk about that another time. Let's get rid of the Participation Trophy Bowl games and we'll fix the rules another day.