Google Pixel

This is my first impression/early review of my experience with the new Google Pixel Android phone after a little more than one week of heavy usage. Finally got my Otterbox Defender case in the mail on Saturday so I feel much safer using the phone.

Things I enjoy:

    • It’s so fast. My 3.5 year old Samsung Galaxy S4 was at times completely unresponsive, so this is a huge change.
    • I know that this is just in my head, but having a new highly responsive phone makes my interactions with my home and work computers feel faster as well. I wonder if anyone has studied this effect before.
    • It has a headphone jack.
    • Slow motion footage is fun to play with and the interface is easy to use. The stabilization is also extremely convenient and works surprisingly well. This was taken at the dog park right after sunset:

  • The camera experience is truly impressive. Low light (places where it’s hard for humans to see) photography has become easy. HDR, focus lock, exposure, and white balance settings are all easy to access and to change quickly in the stock camera app. Creating a panorama or creating a “photo sphere” are extremely easy because the app shows you circular guides that you just need to align in order for the software to process the image.
  • The fingerprint sensor makes security so easy and swiping down on it for notifications is such an innovative feature.
  • The feel in hand – they got the proportions right (for me at least). Great screen size and when I hold it in my right hand, I can easily hit the power button, volume buttons, and fingerprint sensor all without shifting my grip.
  • Near-stock Android is amazing. No more Verizon bloatware.
  • USB type-C connectors – no more sticking a cable in the wrong way.
  • Long holding on app shortcuts for specific actions is really convenient.
  • Verizon LTE cell coverage & speed are noticeable better and faster than with previous devices.
  • “Moves” – double tap power to open your choice of camera app from anywhere, double twist in camera to switch between main and front facing cameras, and swiping down on the fingerprint sensor to see notifications. They all work and are a great use of the phone’s buttons and sensors.
  • Google Photos – I’ve held off from using this service until I got this phone. Now I need to figure out how to upload 10 years of digital photos from my NAS to my Google account.
  • Pokémon Go now loads in 8 seconds instead of 2 minutes (yes I still play occasionally).

Things I don’t love:

  • The fingerprint sensor is on the back, so you have to pick up the phone if you want to use that unlock method.
  • Single speaker on the bottom. Sometimes I accidentally cover this mono source and wonder why there is no sound playing.
  • The price. Yeah. Hopefully I’m able to use this for at least 3-4 years or sell it for a decent amount.
  • The feel. It’s slightly slippery without a case (my case took over a week to arrive), which makes Michael anxious.
  • No official waterproofing. Although, these videos make me feel a lot better about that. (Pixel is only rated IP53. “5” = protected from limited dust ingress & “3” = protected from water spray less than 60 degrees from vertical.) My case should also help with this somewhat.
  • Screen lock stopped working – fixed on reboot. Don’t know if this had something to do with “safe spaces” or just with running without reboot for a week.
  • Home screen default weather/temperature widget doesn’t update – fixed on reboot. Don’t know what caused this.

Things I’m Missing:

  • Expandable Storage – I had to buy the 128GB version of the phone since there is no SD slot. I like to travel with lots of podcasts, audiobooks, music, and video content and have limited data so can’t store it all on the cloud.
  • Infrared Port – IrDA was a predecessor to Bluetooth, but is still commonly used in television remote controls. My past three phones (Palm Centro, HTC Droid Incredible, & Samsung Galaxy S4) all had this and it was useful for controlling televisions (at home or at a bar) when I occasionally had to do that.
  • Waiting for my frozen phone to respond or crash or overheat or just shut off entirely (jk)

Obviously none of these are deal breakers. I also still haven’t figured out exactly how good the battery is. If I’m running heavy screen-on & GPS tracking apps (Runkeeper or Pokémon Go) then it seems to be somewhere in the 4-6 hour range. When I just use is casually, it seems like it will easily last 10-12 hours without the battery saving mode enabled. With battery saver enabled, it would definitely last more than 12 hours with casual use.

A potato would probably be more useful than my old Galaxy S4, which shut off every time I used the flash and which also didn’t have a working power button -.-

Some photos casually taken with the Google Pixel:

Motion blur and quickly focusing seem to be an issue in low light situations (this is normal/expected/acceptable), but I wasn’t focused on taking great photos in these scenarios. I was just trying to get a shot and move on. The last shot of that beer can was taken at a dark beer garden bar in Philly – you can see the digital noise in the black areas from high auto ISO, but it is definitely usable and not an image that I could have gotten from my old phone or from typical consumer cameras. I’ll try to set up some pretty shots and take my time with getting focus correct and post an update soon hopefully.

Podcasts, May 2016

TL;DR: Here is a list of podcasts that I like right now.

I used to listen to podcasts in high school and early college, around 2006-2008 (TWiT, Engadget, FLOSS, other tech podcasts, random podcasts about soccer reffing, etc.). At that point in time, podcasts were obscure and nerdy and nobody in real life knew what you were talking about if you mentioned them. Also, a lot of the tech podcasts focused on the Apple ecosystem and I didn’t get my first Macbook until 2011 so they didn’t seem relevant. I eventually got busy with college and with performing music and I stopped listening as often. I also didn’t have a mobile solution for listening since I didn’t have a smart phone until later in life. My cousin always tried to get me to listen to You Look Nice Today and my brother told me to listen to Welcome to Nightvale and finally I did (they’re both awesome). In the past couple of years my job has started to require more travel, so I have again started to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I drive. Also, a lot of musicians and YouTubers that I love have started creating excellent podcast content recently, now that podcasting has become more mainstream and is easy to create and to listen to. I research and subscribe to a few new ones every week but also unsubscribe to series that start to bore or offend me. Here are some of my recent and all time favorites, along with some notes.

My favorite podcasts to listen to, May 2016:

  1. Dear Hank & John – a comedy podcast about death, from the Vlogbrothers.
  2. Making It – Jimmy Diresta, Bob Clagett, & David Picciuto discuss making things and the thinking behind their projects and videos.
  3. Judge John Hodgman (Maximum Fun) – Passing judgment on obscure disputes.
  4. Good Beer Hunting – Michael Kiser interviews beer industry brewers, marketers, salespeople, and drinkers around the country. Inside perspective into the beer industry.
  5. Fuhmentaboudit! (Heritage Radio Network) – Discussion on Brooklyn/NYC breweries and fermentations. Beer, cider, mead, wine, cheese, kombucha, kimchi, etc.
  6. RAWtalk – FroKnowsPhoto/Jared Polin. Philly based photographer and his motley crew discuss photography news, gear, and techniques. Funny even for people who aren’t pro photographers.
  7. Trying Not To Be HumanTyler Clarensau tells a intriguing story with an original song per episode. I wish there were more episodes. Found this one recently when I got an email from him, I think because of a prior book I had downloaded from him on Noisetrade.
  8. Wait What Really Okay – incredibly useful (and free) insight from Loren Wisemen on how to succeed in the music industry. This should cost money.
  9. Still Untitled – Tested / Adam Savage discuss making, movies, books, & other awesome things.
  10. Hi, I’m in Delaware – Ryan Cormier & Sarika Jagtiani discuss television shows, news, local events, music, and food from The News Journal offices.
  11. The #AskGaryVee Show – business and entrepreneurship, social media marketing. If you have any interest in business, marketing, entrepreneurship, or leadership, you need to be listening to all of Gary Vaynerchuk’s content
  12. Cloverfeels (Headgum) – Steve Zaragoza & Mike Falzone discuss theories and talk about the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) from Cloverfield and the new 10 Cloverfield Lane. Most of the the content ended in March/April, but it was funny.
  13. Dorks and Forks – Dan Sanchez and Brian Wild talk nerdy things while drinking delicious beers and eating amazing food made by local Delaware chefs and listening to live performances from local musicians.
  14. The Way I Heard It – Mike Rowe tells unique back stories of famous figures who persevered, all in less than 10 minutes.
  15. Nerdist – Too many good interviews to listen to. Chris Hardwick is magical.

I currently listen using an Android app called Podcast Addict. It’s awesome.

I also wanted to make a list of my least favorite podcasts to listen to, but that would probably be a waste of time. There are a few that I place at the bottom of my queue and still subscribe and tolerate them because occasionally they mention something either local or somewhat interesting/obscure. There are a lot of bad podcasts out there. Most of the time I just un-subscribe.

Over the past few months I’ve had a few different ideas about what to do our own Honey Badger podcast about, but it takes a lot of time and commitment. Maybe some day soon. We already have most of the gear needed in our home studio.

the search for a new RSS reader

“Since January 17, 2006, you have read a total of 26,180 items.”

Finding a replacement for Google Reader

I read a lot of blogs. Friends’ blogs, web comics, science-y news, computing and tech and geek blogs, power industry blogs, independent music industry insight, my favorite bands, local news, and many others. Google Reader was the most convenient way to keep track of all of my 163 RSS feed subscriptions, but it is now scheduled to retire on 7/1/13. This means that I need a replacement web-based free RSS reader that isn’t awful and can conveniently import my existing subscriptions.

Andrew suggested possibly using NewsBlur, but that is restricted to 64 subscriptions with a free account. His other option that we’ll both probably try out for now is The Old Reader, which has no mobile app yet because it is so new (and is currently overloaded from new users flocking to it, so it cannot import subscriptions from Google at the moment). Other recommendations that I saw on Reddit and Slashdot and other forums were MsgBoyFeedly, and Bloglines. Here is “Top 10 Alternatives to Google Reader and “State of RSS Readers.”

Technology is weird. I don’t blame Google for taking away a free service; it’s just an annoyance. Forbes has this post which I also liked “Google Reader Shutdown a Sobering Reminder That ‘Our’ Technology Isn’t Ours.”

picking an acoustic guitar pickup

“Picking a pickup” sounds funny. Here is advice that I just gave to a friend. He recently bought an awesome new used acoustic guitar, but it didn’t come with any pickups installed. Typically newer acoustics come with electronics built in, but to upgrade a vintage model or an acoustic-only model is not that difficult. This is only my opinion ^_^

The LR Baggs M1

I don’t have any experience buying acoustic pickups. Fishman and LR Baggs are the best options based on the reviews that I have read. Seymour Duncan and Dean Markley are other cheaper removable models. I bought a Barcus Berry clamp-on bridge pickup for Erin‘s violin and I like that one, but I don’t know anyone that uses the Barcus Berry “Maplebar” acoustic guitar pickup.

You can either get a removable pickup that has the cable coming out of the sound hole, or have one professionally installed and mounted through your tail block. Getting it professionally done isn’t the cheapest option, but it does look a lot better and will last longer since you won’t be pulling it in and out of the guitar all the time. “Passive pickup” means that the output is lower in volume and generally needs to run through a pre-amp or active DI (like my BBE Acoustimax or the LR Baggs Para DI), but doesn’t require installing a battery. “Active” pickups sometimes mean there is a preamp with EQ and battery installed in the guitar, which could require taping electronics inside the guitar body since you typically wouldn’t want to cut a hole in the side of an already-built guitar for the electronics. Other active pickups don’t require a preamp to be mounted, they just use a battery.

Anyway. Read reviews. Make sure that your sound hole is the right size for these. I would go with either:

  • Fishman Rare Earth Pro-Rep-102 Humbucking Soundhole Pickup ($160)(Musician’s Friend Link) – I think that they might have copied the LR Baggs M1A but did it well, lots of pros use this.
  • LR Baggs M1 Soundhole Pickup ($140)(Musician’s Friend Link) – Passive so no batteries to worry about. You would just have to install the strapjack that it comes with. This might involve drilling a larger hole in your tail block using a step drill.
  • LR Baggs M1A Active Soundhole Magnetic Pickup ($170)(Musician’s Friend Link) – This is the active version of the M1. Mitchell (of Battleshy Youths fame) put this in his vintage Martin and likes it a lot as far as I know. I would recommend this if you want to spend that much. On a nice guitar, it is worth it to install nice electronics. Like the passive version, you have to install the strapjack in the tail block. A professional can do this pretty easily if you don’t want to risk it. The battery is at the bottom of the pickup, so you don’t have to worry about wiring a battery or taping anything inside the body of the guitar.

If I had to choose something that would last and sound good, I would pick the LR Baggs M1A. It looks like all three of these come with cables so that you don’t have to permanently install anything at first, you can just run the cable out of the sound hole until you drill the tail block and mount the strapjack. Make sure that the pickup fits the sound hole before you do anything though!

Let me know if you have any questions ^_^