tech thoughts

January 17, 2016
by Ben
Comments Off on Games I’m Playing – January 2016

Games I’m Playing – January 2016

This monthly post highlights the board and card games I’m currently playing.

In January 2016, I’m pretty much only playing two games.

My solo board game has been entirely Lord Of The Rings: The Card Game. I borrowed the core set and a few expansions from a friend and started getting into it over the holiday break. The mechanics took me a while to learn, but after a few play throughs, the gameplay is quite smooth. This is my first deck builder of this style where half of the game is building decks to take on the next quest. I’m not sure how much I like that aspect but after finding a good starter deck on Board Game Geek, I’m enjoying going through the quests. The variety is really impressive and each quest feels really different from the last. I also really like how hard it is. Somehow getting beaten down is suprisingly fun, making me want to jump back in and try again. Since I’ve never played an LCG or CCG before, I’m not sure how it compares to others, but so far it’s been fun. I’ve recently ordered Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and I can’t wait to give it a try and see how it compares.

Playing Marvel LegendaryThe other game I’m playing is Marvel Legendary. My wife and I play this together and she may even like it more than me. Picking through the various heroes, villains, masterminds and schemes and making unique combinations to play through is half the fun. Some combinations we’ve created work well, others don’t, and learning the combinations that really work together just makes us want to play again. We added the Dark City Expansion which gives us even more variety. If you like Marvel, definitely give it a look.

Finally, we always seem to put out No Thanks! as a filler game whenever we’re in a larger group. It’s a simple to learn card game where you try to get the least amount of points. I love teaching it to new people because after they play it once, they immediately want to play again to try out a different strategy. It’s also become my go-to game gift. I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t like it. It’s definitely worth adding to every game collection.

October 27, 2013
by Ben
Comments Off on To Air or Pro?

To Air or Pro?

When choosing a MacBook in recent years, users have had to choose between the portability of the MacBook Air and the power of the MacBook Pro. Apple’s new pricing on the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display makes this decision harder than it’s ever been.

In the past, many power users have gone with the 13-inch MacBook Air for the great portability and battery life. But we never choose the default configuration. At a minimum, we max out the RAM at 8 GB and often bump up the CPU to get another year of life out of it down the road. In the US, that creates a $1,349 computer when choosing the 128 GB SSD.

The 13-inch MacBook Air configuration one should get

The 13-inch MacBook Air configuration one should get

But now, the lower prices on the MacBook Pro line allows us to configure a 13-inch with the same amount of RAM and same sized SSD but with the glorious Retina display and faster CPU with integrated Iris Graphics. The MacBook Pro also gives us additional expandability options with dual Thunderbolt 2 and built-in HDMI, all for only $1399, only $50 more than the MacBook Air.

The equivalent 13-inch MacBook Pro for only $50 more.

The equivalent 13-inch MacBook Pro for only $50 more.

This makes a very interesting decision. Do you need the ultimate in portability or do you want an awesome screen and more features? The weight difference is now only half a pound so while a month ago I would have probably decided on the MacBook Air (I have an iMac for video editing and development) now I don’t think the I can resist the MacBook Pro.

Either way, it’s a good time to buy a Mac laptop.

July 27, 2013
by Ben
Comments Off on ticketmaster is the worst

ticketmaster is the worst

I just tried to buy Pearl Jam tickets from ticketmaster. It was one of the worst online experiences I’ve had in a long time.

Tickets for the Seattle show went on sale at 10:00 am. I was ready at my laptop at 9:59. After refreshing a few times, the screen changed to show me buying options and I thought I was in. After selecting the quantity of tickets and using the default type and price options, I clicked search.

Search Options

I then saw the most unreadable captcha ever.

Worst Captcha Ever?


I refreshed again and again but continued to see the same illegible images.

Any idea?

Any idea?

No idea here either.

Me neither.

Finally I ended up with something I could guess correctly.

I think I got it.

I think I got it.

And that should have been it..but no. I was shown this error.

What does that even mean?


I have no idea what that error is trying to tell me or what I am supposed to do now. What does High Demand mean? Is it sold out? I had picked the only option for Ticket Type and I was searching all Prices and Sections. So I tried searching again with same settings. Same results over and over again. Maybe they only had singles left? I tried changing the quantity to one and searched again. Same error again and again.

If they have no single tickets at any price or section, doesn’t that mean it is sold out? I never saw any communication that said, “that’s it, you can stop trying”. I basically just gave up because I didn’t know what to do next. An hour later I tried again; still the same non-results.

It’s not like ticketmaster is new at this. They’ve been trying to sell tickets online for years. They should have figured it out by now. If Apple can sell millions of iPhones in a day or thousands of WWDC tickets in a minute, ticketmaster, a company thats sole purpose is to sells tickets should be able to get this right.

Anyone got an extra ticket to Pearl Jam in Seattle?

May 7, 2013
by Ben
Comments Off on Best Setting Ever

Best Setting Ever

I just bought the Party Monster app after seeing John Gruber link to it.

It’s a great app that solves some annoyances I’ve always had with the built in iOS Music apps. I love being able to cue the next song without stopping playback of the current one. But my favorite thing about it is this setting.

No Nickelback

April 6, 2013
by Ben
Comments Off on Don’t hesitate to buy an App

Don’t hesitate to buy an App

I’ve always struggled with convincing others that they should pay for their apps. This peice by Lex Friedman at Macworld gives some great reasons.

a $5 game could bring me hours of fun and a $10 app could boost my productivity in all sorts of ways. I’ll also spend $9 per month on Netflix for the promise of a few hours of entertainment each month, and many will spend $40 to $60 for a console video game. It’s worth spending money on things that can improve your life—even if they don’t come shipped to your home in a cardboard box.

This nails my decision making. If I think there is a chance I will use it for more than a few hours, I’m definitely willing to pay for more than the price of a movie ticket. And a 99 cent app I’ll buy if the any bit of looks interesting.

January 9, 2013
by Ben
Comments Off on Bring on Office for iOS

Bring on Office for iOS

In his article for Macworld, john Moltz talks about Office on iPad.

I’m not claiming that office applications are going to die out—that would be a stupid argument to make. But I do find them to be an anachronism. Mobile platforms and the Web have taught us the flip side of that old saw: If you hate something, let it go. If it doesn’t come back, good riddance.

John’s moved on. While many small offices and single person shops can easily move to alternative document and spreadsheet creation applications, large businesses still run on Microsoft Office. Windows and Office. That’s what I see all day. Believe me, Office for iOS will be a massive addition to the platform.

While iPad has sold millions and has been integrated into many enterprise environments, many of these users wish they had Office on their iPad. I’m one of those. I bring my iPad to meetings, take notes in Evernote and track my todos in Ita. But when I get a Word document, Excel spreadsheet or Powerpoint presentation sent to me, I dread what will happen when I open it. Sometimes, it’s fine. But not usually. Complex spreadsheets (and some not so complex ones) are especially bad.

I hear it from many others as well. From my father who wants to read an attachment. From my boss who wants to work on a spreadsheet. From the sales manager with a Powerpoint deck to show. They love everything else about their iPad so they make due with Pages, Numbers and Keynote. These work great for creation (I’ll bet they will be far more pleasant to use then Office will be), but are not perfect solutions. They don’t “just work” when you are trying to share to and from an Office using coworker.

In fact, users are so hungry for a solution that they are spending $19.99 on one of the top grossing apps, Quick Office Pro HD (it’s at number 12 today). Every one of these users will buy Office as will many others.

It will also remove one of the key reasons many people still hold against iPad. Remember back when Mac Office couldn’t open Windows Office files properly? That is still an argument many in enterprise use today against iPad.

For some, the iWork apps are great. But a real version of Microsoft Office will provide a better solution for many, assuming it’s any good.

September 17, 2012
by Ben
Comments Off on Apple Likes Wires

Apple Likes Wires

In watching the Apple September 2012 music event, I noticed that Jeff Robin gave the iTunes demo on a Mac with wired keyboard and mouse.
While Apple still sells their wired keyboard and mouse, and you can configure a new Mac with these options, I was surprised they weren’t using a Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad. Maybe this is just another example of Apple trying to think of everything for the presentation. With so much wireless in the room, I think they were worried about reliability issues caused by interference from other bluetooth devices. Just to be safe, a wired keyboard and mouse ensured there were no problems.

Bye to Spotify

I’ve also said goodbye to Spotify, but I didn’t get to even experience half the issues Brett did. I joined Spotify to listen at my desk at work and the PC application was so horendous, that I could usually never got as far as listening to a song. The app would hang or say it was playing, without outputting any audio.

Brett also points out hard it was to actually find music:

Trying to navigate this app was less than pleasant. While “serendipitous discovery” was possible using the Similar Artists” feature, the only way to add new tracks to your Library—as near as I can tell—is to star tracks you don’t own or add them to playlists. Whenever I found myself wanting to check out a new band or album, I’d have to create a playlist. I don’t usually like playlists and I’m the kind of guy who enjoys listening to whole albums, front to back. Spotify made this, well, cumbersome.

I often tried to see if my favorite band had something new I wasn’t aware of. This was definitely not easily done. In fact, discovering anything beyond the Top lists was very difficult. After a few separate attempts, I was done.

Finally, I can’t stand services that don’t have an easy way to unsubscribe through the admin panel. The email to support was answered quickly and they promptly removed my account, but it should be a one click action I can do myself.

Updated Smart Covers

Apple updated the iPad 2 Smart Covers with some minor changes today but one thing doesn’t sit well with me:

The interior side of the Smart Cover facing the iPad screen had previously been a uniform gray color on all models with the exception of the (PRODUCT) RED version. All Smart Covers are now a consistent color inside and out.

I love that the inside color is different than the outside. I think this helps me flip the cover in the right direction when making it into a stand. When I’ve used the original gray version which previously had the same inside and outside cover, I’ve often flipped it around the wrong way or tried to attach it backwards. This doesn’t work because the magnets prevent the cover from locking in the incorrect orientation. The different colors guide me to use it properly.