Life’s Little Kicks…

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

There come times in one’s life, where you realize that you have been colossally stupid. Today is one of those days.

When I was 18, I received around $3,000, which I spent quickly on a car and stuff I didn’t need. The car was a good investment, because it worked, which the one I had before didn’t have going for it. I had also considered entering the stock market, and one of the companies I was looking at was none-other than Apple.

This may sound strange, but it’s true. I understood what Steve Jobs was capable of. He was the first person to make computers a thing girls thought was cool. The iMac changed everything. I know, it sounds cliche now, especially since companies now use that line for everything they do. I knew that if he could make computers cute, he could do anything, and I wanted a piece of it. I was enough of a geek to know these things, but “normal” enough to completely ignore them. I ended up buying things like clothes, a stereo system, TV, etc… Things any 18 year old thinks are really important.

Looking back today, I want to go back in time and punch myself in the face.

Had I invested $1500 in October of 2000, I would now have over $90,000 worth of Apple, without ever investing another dime in it. The stock was at $9.78/share then, and is now at $601.10/share as of close yesterday (Mar-19-2012).

Steve Jobs shows off the white iPhone 4 at the...

$1500 / $9.78 = 153 full shares, plus some change.

153 * $601.10 = $91,968.30 today.

God am I stupid!

I guess the lesson is: trust your instincts, because you never know which one could pay off in the end. If anyone has a time-machine, I’ll deal you in if you take me back so I can invest in Apple, Google, and a few others.

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Triumphant Return…

Or not.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew recently…

The problem I am having is the complete lack of experience when it comes to Adobe anything, other than Photoshop and Illustrator. I opened After Effects to check it out, and discovered what was obviously a video editing powerhouse; a powerhouse that I had absolutely no clue how to use.

I know that I could search for some tutorials for the After Effects basics, but I find those annoying. It’s always some James May type, blithering on about some mundane little thing like I am an idiot. I don’t need someone to guide me through as if I am a child who’s never seen a mouse. This means I will need to do this the same way I have done everything else in the computer graphics world… Trial and error. If you were to see this program you would understand how someone could feel a bit overwhelmed when first looking at it.

I wouldn’t even bother except that once I have it figured out, I can generate some pretty spectacular graphical effects and import them for use in Photoshop projects. It will also be handy for making future videos to go with this blog. This is one of the distractions things that caused me to not make a proper blog entry in a while.

Simple vs Complex.

One thing you learn from Photoshop is that sometimes the “simple” ideas are the ones that take forever, while very complex things can be accomplished with a few clicks of the mouse. Mind you, I’m a bit of a perfectionist so what I consider simple, may not be. The Modern Warfare 3 logo is simple. Yet, accomplishing a similar effect in a way that looks polished, with different letters, is a painstaking process involving two programs (Photoshop and Illustrator) and lots of caffeine.

Official MW3 logo:

“My” version: 

Mine looks more subdued than theirs, but mine was designed almost entirely from scratch, and theirs’ appears to be a screenshot of a sequence out of a game trailer. I’m still not quite happy with mine, but it looks pretty cool. Using After Effects, I will be able to create that audio-wave effect in the background in a matter of minutes.

And with that I have an announcement to make!

I have been in contact with someone from this KickStarter campaign. I have been invited to go take a look, and I will be taking pictures and asking a lot of questions. It will be my first “reporting” style entry. I feel it’s a very interesting project… Do you have any questions you would like me to ask?

Cars in the Cloud!

Mercedes ©

Mercedes “mbrace 2”

Mercedes-Benz Apps

Creating a truly networked vehicle, mbrace2 offers not only open internet access, but special versions of popular apps — including Facebook, Yelp and Google Local Search — designed specifically for in-vehicle use. And because it connects the car and the “cloud”, the system can be upgraded whenever new software and applications become available.

Do we really need this? A “nag-screen” popping up about some advertised food-chain, while we’re trying to navigate 6 lanes of traffic… In the snow…. While we’re talking on the cell phone… And arguing with the kid in the back seat!!

Have we taken this whole cloud idea and gone too far? I say yes. We can no longer escape it. With government bills that could potentially censor the internet (S.O.P.A.) coming at us faster than we can keep up, and the constant need to have some kind of a screen in front of our faces 24/7. No, the robots aren’t going to ever rise up and take the planet from us, because we will die of boredom, and stupidity long before that can happen.

English: UK flagship McDonald's restaurant.

Those of us who don’t die in a fireball will get so sick of seeing the same 10 “targeted” Google ads EVERYWHERE we go, that we’ll destroy our electronics and opt for a life living off what’s left of nature. When the screen pops up to tell you about a restaurant, it won’t be for some new Chinese place, it’ll be for the McDonald’s that you know was there since 1973. Why? Because McDonald’s will pay to make sure you see their nag screen before Sho’s China Wok.

Google’s ads don’t work the way they’re supposed to anyway. Back in October, all I saw were ads for games I already owned, or had already pre-ordered. Can you guess what I see now? Sony Vaio ads. Not just any Vaio though, but the very same model I bought. The same laptop I did a review on. Does Google think I need two of them?

Combine that with a smaller internet experience due to YouTube and Flickr being shut down over copyright crap with the usual suspects, and we will ALWAYS see the same results in our searches. Search for laptops, get info on the one you already bought, from the manufacturer’s website. No independent reviews, because that could be construed as infringement, or at least called as such because the company didn’t like what you had to say.

Person using cell phone while driving.

We are driving ourselves off the electronic cliff people. Wake up and smell the real roses. There are times when you SHOULDN’T have internet access, and one of those times is when you’re driving down the road!

Picture all the rich teenage girls; driving down the road, and one of their friends makes a Facebook post to the tune of: “OMG!!! Bobby kissed Tina!!” How do you think that is going to end when she’s driving 80-mph on the loop?

Sony Vaio F-Series Laptop (VPCF236F/MB)

I would have done a video-review of this laptop to go with my blog-review, but there are many to see on YouTube already. Here’s one that was well-presented, for the most part.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtyCOLUFjmo

I bought this laptop back in early November (2nd or 3rd I think) for $1,200 from BestBuy, and my experiences pretty much mirror Mitlovz’s. Gaming isn’t going to be the best experience you can have, but when you consider the speed and functionality of every-day tasks rather than just gaming, it shines far brighter than other laptops currently on the market. Don’t let that turn you away, because the target audience for this machine is not gamers.

This is marketed very much as a “desktop replacement” which means that it has the power to handle most desktop funtions, ALONG with the portability of a laptop. This is something that has kept Apple at the top of the notebook heap for a very long time. They don’t cater to gamers, they cater to industry-people, and artists. the sort of individual who prizes solid design and functionality with cutting edge technology. Below is a table comparing my Vaio F (as equipped) with a MacBook Pro 17″ (equipped comparably for fairness) and the costs.

My Vaio F Series MacBook Pro 17″ Winner
Material Plastic Aluminum Mac
Display 16.4″ LED 1920×1080
(anti-glare 1080p)
17″ 1920×1200 LED
(anti-glare)
Vaio
Processor Intel® Core™ i7 quad-core
(2.20GHz w/ Turbo Boost)
Can opt for 2.50GHZ
Intel® Core™ i7 quad-core
(2.40GHZ w/ Turbo Boost)
Can opt for 2.50GHZ
Mac
Graphics NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 540M
(1GB dedicated VRAM)
AMD Radeon HD 6770M
(1GB GDDR5 dedicated VRAM)
Mac
RAM 8GB 8GB
Hard Drive 750GB (7200rpm) 750GB (7200rpm)
Optical Drive Blu-ray Disc player
Dual-Layer DVD Burner (combo drive)
Dual-Layer DVD Burner
(No option for Blu-Ray)
Vaio
Keyboard Back-lit QWERTY 103 key
With number-pad
Back-lit QWERTY 78 Key
(no number-pad)
Vaio
Battery Life Estimates with standard battery
(5000mAh, included)
Up to 4 hours 30 minutes
Up to 7 hours
(assuming light-work/web surfing)
Mac
Ports Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
4-pin i.LINK® port (IEEE 1394)
USB 2.0 x1
USB 3.0 x2
VGA output
Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
FireWire 800 port (IEEE 1394)
USB 2.0 x3
Thunderbolt port
ExpressCard/34 slot
Vaio
HDMI® output Standard With adapter only
(not included)
Vaio

I’m not going to start a USB 3.0 vs Thunderbolt argument, the cost and lack of device support make it almost useless right now anyway. This will change in the future, but for now it’s a moot point. Obviously, Mac would win the above category if you need an ExpressCard slot.

Mac 4 / Vaio 5

That may seem like a very close competition, considering two category ties, until you factor in the costs:

Vaio Mac
Cost $1,349.99
before tax & shipping
$2,799.00
before tax & shipping

I can see some value in not needing to worry about anti-virus software and the likes, but that doesn’t jusify an additional cost of over $1,400. If you consider that argument (which is the most popular one from Mac-Fans) then you must consider the costs of such “protective” software. Assuming that you use your laptop for even 5 years (far more than the average, especially if you’re rough on your equipment) the average anti-virus/internet protection program costs around $60 a year, which is a total of $300. This still leaves $1,100 unaccounted for. Assume that the Vaio would cost an additional $200 for an aluminum case, and it’s still a difference of over $900. I love Apple products, and the Mac OS. I own a MacMini, and have had every iPhone except the 3GS. I just can’t justify the added cost when it comes to my every-day work equipment.

The bottom line here is that you’re getting a MacBook Pro, only better in many ways, for less money. This means that even for a business-minded individual the Vaio F series is a very tempting choice. The only exception I can conceive of right at the moment, is someone who’s work environment is almost exclusively dependent on Mac software; in which case, you would obviously want the MacBook.

Vaio Pros:

  1. The screen is AMAZING!
  2. The processor and RAM provide plenty of speed for just about anything
  3. The back-lighting on the keyboard is very nice when working in lower-light conditions
  4. Blu-Ray player combined with the full-HD screen and decent speakers make this a multimedia powerhouse

Vaio Cons:

  1. Screen-back plastic flexes under pressure: I’d like to see an aluminum cover even if the rest of the laptop is plastic
  2. Touch-Pad leaves a LOT to be desired. the surface has a strange texture-pattern on it that inhibits smooth finger movement: They should have left it the same texture as the rest of the laptop surface, and gave it defined edges, because the normal laptop surface feels like a touch-pad should.
  3. The graphics card could be a bit better: It’s a shame when you can watch 1080p Blu-Ray movies, but you can’t play most newer games in HD. This is the one flaw that prevents me from recommending this as a gaming laptop.
  4. Weight: This laptop is heavy, and I would highly recommend a backpack style carrying bag.

In the video review I linked to, the reviewer had mentioned a small issue with the back-lit keyboard on his Vaio. The back-lit keyboard has settings that you can adjust; as with windows power management options you can set it to behave differently depending on battery or plug: Always On, Turn on in Low-Light (with an option to change how long the back-light stays on), or always off. You have to have the “Vaio Control Center” app installed though, which he did not get with his because he chose the clean install option.

The nice thing about having a native 1080p resolution, is that when connected to my Vizio 42″ HD-TV, I don’t experience a loss of detail, like I did with my old laptop.

In short: If you want it for anything other than gaming, this is the machine for you.