Sunday, November 30, 2014

Planning your day at the LA Auto Show

After going to the LA Auto Show for a few years, here's some tips I picked up.

1. The best days to go are weekdays. 

These days are the least crowded.  That means there's less waiting for you.  For 2014, the Auto Show ran from November 21-30.  I went on Monday the 24 and waited no more than 10 minutes for anything.

2. Prepare to spend all day there.

To get the most out of the Auto Show, be prepared to spend all day there.  If you scored free tickets, go multiple days.  Bring a backpack for snacks or medication.  Thick socks and gel soles for your feet.

3. Get there early.

The best part of the Auto Show is getting to test drive cars.  I arrived at the Auto Show this year around 2PM and missed a few brands.  In order to test drive at least once from every car manufacturer, you probably need to get there when the show opens at 10am.

Start at the main entrance at Pico and Figueroa and walk south towards Venice.  Find Figueroa Drive and there will be some test drives there.  When you finish, walk back to the entrance and then towards the overpass on Pico, there will be more test drives.  Next walk towards Staples Center.  You will find a lot of cars to test drive here.  For the last test drive, walk between the Convention Center and Staples Center.  Walk down Chick Hearn Court a bit for the last test drive from Ford.

My favorite drives from this year's show were the Fiat 500e electric and the Ford F150.  The F150 has massaging seats that blew my mind.
Test drives end at 5PM.  With a break for lunch, you should be able to finish all the test drives by sundown. Go have dinner and then buy your tickets to go inside.  That's right, you've had a full day and haven't bought tickets yet.  Test drives do not require admission, just your license.  You could go home and come back another day to go check out what's inside.

4.  Enjoy the show.

At this point of the show, I walk around and take pictures of cars.  Depending on the car and if there's a large crowd, I'll hop in a car to try the seats.  I love the interactive exhibits.  My favorite for 2014 were the booths that had an Occulus Rift setup. Don't forget to pick up free bags from Toyota and Hyundai for your groceries.  If you have any time left, go downstairs for the customs and exotics. 

Here are my photos from this year's show.

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's almost 2015 and I'm still using a Symbian phone

Well, not as my main phone.  For now, that's a Nokia Lumia 925.  However, my Nokia 808 Pureview is still raking up mileage.

Obviously, the camera is still its main use.  Most of the photos and videos on this blog were shot with it.  I found the Lumia 1020 too much of a lateral move from the 808 to purchase it.  Looking forward to the 1020 successor.

I prefer to use twitter on my 808.  Gravity is (thankfully) still being updated and I find it the easiest way to browse my multiple accounts and lists.  Windows Phone still has no app that can match its ease of use, speed and features.

The 808 is still amazing when it comes to GPS.  I drove for an hour yesterday with no cable plugged in and my battery was only down to 75% .  If I use my Lumia 925, the battery would have drained in 30 minutes.  Even plugged in with my old 1amp car charger, it still ends up dead after 3 hours.  Never had a problem with the 4-5 hour drive to Vegas with my 808.

GPS on Symbian works great.  Route commands come through the phone's speaker.  This is great on the 808, since the speaker is quite loud.  Route commands will only use the car stereo if I am connected in BT Audio mode and have music streaming from the phone.

Car navigation on Windows Phone sucks in my car.  It connects over bluetooth to my car stereo very strangely.  Route commands break the audio and use my car stereo's BT Phone mode.  This means the audio quality takes a major nosedive.  It is a really jarring experience because route instructions are delayed about 2 seconds.  Half the time, the route instruction doesn't even play because of that delay.  Even connected in BT Audio with music streaming, the route instructions still come over BT Phone mode.  Maybe it's my car stereo's fault this experience sucks.

If I only have the 925 on me when driving, I shut down its bluetooth connection and just use the phone's speaker.  This isn't too bad.  I can use Cortana and get directions to where I want to go easier.  Cortana over my car's bluetooth can never hear me.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Depeche Mode - live at Staples Center

September 29, 2013.  My second depeche mode show in a week after seeing them a couple of days earlier in Chula Vista.

I got downtown early enough to look for Seven Grand.  I had heard that this bar serves a proper Mint Julep, my favorite cocktail.  After a bit of walking around, I found the bar's upstairs entrance.  I had gotten there a bit early and had to wait for it to open.  I was happy to see it was prepared in a metal cup and packed with ice.  However, the cup was a bit small compared to the last one I had had and it left me disappointment. 

I walked over to Staples Center and checked out the merchandise table.  I bought a really nice and comfortable hoodie, but you could barely tell it was branded.  What I really like about the hoodie is that the pockets are really deep.  My keys or phone never fall out.

I went to find my seats and was pleased to find that two rows in front of me were empty.  For a short person like myself, I was in heaven.  No shoulders to look over or heads in the way.

Here's some videos from the show recorded with my Nokia 808 Pureview.

Walking In My Shoes


Behind the Wheel

Sooth My Soul

A Pain That I'm Used To

Enjoy the Silence

Just Can't Get Enough

This last video is interesting.  One of the band members fucked up and they had to start the song over.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Proposed Lumia naming scheme

I don't like the current Lumia naming scheme.  Right now, there's a mix of three digit and four digit names that make no sense.  I propose a new name scheme for 2015.  The four digit name scheme from Nokia's early days needs to return. 

Let's start with the Lumia 1000.  This would be the equivalent to the current Lumia 520.  It should cost $50-$70 and have the basic needs for your parents or a kid or anyone on a tight budget.  Next would be the Lumia 2000.  This would be the equivalent to the current Lumia 635.  Same as the Lumia 1000 but with LTE.

Next would be the mid-range series.  The Lumia 3000 would be equivalent to the current Lumia 735.  Skip the 4000's because that's bad luck. The Lumia 5000 would be like the Lumia 830, minor spec bumps from the 3000 series.  The Lumia 6000 would a mid end phone with a giant screen like the current Lumia 1320. 

Next would be the Lumia 7000.  This would be equivalent to the Lumia 930.  Top end specs with a normal size screen.  The Lumia 8000 would be like the Lumia 1020.  Throw in whatever huge camera or other new technology from the Microsoft Mobile labs.  Finally, the Lumia 9000 would be the top end Lumia with a giant screen like the Lumia 1520.

Simple and logical.  Please steal my ideas, Microsoft.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

I built a PC

The day before I left for San Diego Comic-Con, my PC died. 

Back at the Comic-Con in 2012, I scored an AMD A8 3870 K APU at a Geek and Sundry Felicia Day signing.  I remember it rained that day.  It's been sitting in the box with a bunch of other SDCC swag.  I decided to build a new PC around this APU.

My old PC was an HP M9400f.  It was heavily damaged in shipping, so I got it a new case.  Here's a list of upgrades I made to it:

Rosewill mid tower
Mushkin 128GB SSD
Seagate 3TB hard drive
DVDR drive
Thermaltake 500W power supply
Coolermaster Hyper 212 fan
Asus GeForce 210 GPU

I bought the fan to help quiet the PC down, which it did immensely.  The old fan was caked in dust.  The HP power supply needed replacing.   I bought the graffics card because the original had sound issues.

I figured the motherboard was dead, so I took it apart.  I had planned to upgrade my PC eventually and had already made a list of parts I would need.

Asus F1 A55-M motherboard
Crucial 8GBx2 DDR3 PC1866 ram
Asus Radeon HD6450

It took me about 2 hours to take apart my old motherboard and install the new parts.  I made two mistakes here.  At the time of purchase, my budget was tight.  The motherboard I got doesn't have HDMI out.  For a second mistake, the ram I bought have heatsinks that get in the way of the CPU fan. 

This is an optimal configuration for the fan, going from right to left:
Exhaust <--- CPU Cooler <--- Fan <--- Air
My set up works like this:
Exhaust <--- fan <--- CPU Cooler <--- Air
The cooler is still cool to touch, so I'm not worried.

I changed the GPU from GeForce to Radeon just to keep the drivers all lined up.  The A8 APU comes with a feature called Crossfire.  So with the Radeon I got that feature and HDMI out.  The Crossfire feature is kind of lost on me, since I don't play video games much.  The drivers took a few days to get stable, but I eventually found the right settings.  Only problem is that my computer gets cranky when it comes back from sleep and the Windows taskbar stops working right.  Reboot takes like 30 seconds so not a big deal to me.  I remember when computers took 5 minutes to reboot.

CPU performance has been stellar.  Moving from 8GB to 16GB of ram has been nice.  No slowdown at all.

Note: This post was drafted in July of 2014.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

November backlog

It's November.  Which means I should attempt to write something every day.  I have barely touched this blog all year, as I've been on tumblr posting junk there all the time.  This will be hard, since I'm in the middle of a move.  There's a ton of stuff in my draft folder from product reviews to event recaps I'll be posting.

Enjoy these ducks and stay tuned.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Soundgarden X nine inch nails X Hollywood Bowl: August 25, 2014

Lumia 925 - Hollywood Bowl marquee

Got free parking at the Metro in North Hollywood.  Paid less than a dollar for in Metro fares to get to Hollywood and Highland.  Broke a bit of a sweat getting up to the Bowl.  Stopped halfway at a cowboy sports bar for an Adios.  Wait a second, why is there a cowboy sports bar in the middle of Hollywood?  Stopped again at a small park next to the Hollywood Bowl entrance to empty my backpack of alcohol. In hindsight, I probably could have left my single serve alcohol bottles in my bag.

Lumia 925 - Hollywood Bowl at sunset

It was about 7:20 when I got to the gates, so I missed the opener Cold Cave.
It was really crowded trying to get in.  Lines for everything and people just standing in the middle of a crowd made navigation difficult.

Nokia 808 - Soundgarden

I decided to buy a tour shirt and hope I'd be done before Soundgarden started up.  The credit card machines were malfunctioning but I got lucky when it was my turn to pay. 
I went to find my seats and found I was in a 4 seated box.  This was really cool.  The last two times I was at the Bowl, I was stuck on a bench.  I didn't find out until afterwards I had a table to use as well.  The Bowl has hi-def monitors on each side of the stage and a few more for people in the middle and nosebleed sections.  I think those were new since my last visit.  One more note about the Bowl, the men's bathroom is stacked with urinals.  The line may seem long but it moves fast.

Nokia 808 - Soundgarden - Spoonman

Soundgarden played a shorter set compared to when I saw them in Vegas.  They started about 10 minutes later than the set times I saw posted on twitter.  Chris Cornell said it had been a lifelong dream to play the Bowl since he saw it on the Brady Bunch.  He also talked about how nice it must be for the people who lived at the top of the hill to get to watch shows all the time.  He then complained about how the whole show needed to be finished by 11PM.

Nokia 808 - Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun

The band's show was a bit different from Vegas.  Aside from being shorter, they didn't have a curtain drop to kick off the show.  At the end of the show, the band left one by one.  Guitarist Kim Thayil walked to the left side of the stage, picked up a beer, raised it to the crowd and walked to the other side of the stage.  When he got to the other side, he poured it out on the stage.  That was strange.

Nokia 808 - nine inch nails - 1000000

Nokia 808 - nine inch nails

nine inch nails put on a great show as usual.  The setlist was almost the same as the last time I saw them.  Sanctified sounded a little different from recent past performances, but that's about it.  Although my distance from the stage was the same, it seemed smaller due to the band shells.  Unlike Vegas, the show went down without a hitch and finished with 1 minute to spare before the 11PM curfew.   

Nokia 808 - nine inch nails - Closer

Nokia 808 - nine inch nails

I was really surprised with how many bootleg t-shirt salesmen there were.  I think it was because of my path back to the Metro station that I ran into nearly everyone salesmen.  Other big shows I've been to probably had more that I never saw. 

Nokia 808 - nine inch nails - head like a hole

Nokia 808 - nine inch nails

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Las Vegas: Soundgarden X nine inch nails at The Axis at Planet Hollywood powered by Monster, July 19, 2014

Okay, first let's talk about about that ridiculous venue name.  The first time I went there, it was the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts where I saw Boingo.  A few years ago, I saw nine inch nails play there and it was called the Planet Hollywood Theater for the Performing Arts.  Now it has a fully corporate sponsored name.  Blah.

So anyway, this was a fun weekend, but mediocre show.  Had a nice dinner at Gordon Ramsey's BurGR before the show.  The line to pick up tickets was a bit long, but no big deal.

Oneohtrix Point Never was a strange opener.  There was one guy behind a DJ station.  The performance felt like something out of an abstract art gallery.  Lots of slow build up to nothing.

Nokia 808 - Oneohtrix Point Never

I went to the merch booth to pick up a new keychain.  Soundgarden started up before I could get back to my seat.  It was a bit strange, since their bassist was in the crowd for the first song and slowly made his way to the stage.  I guessed right that they would play Spoonman as their second song and tried to record it, but the girl in front of me was both too tall and liked to dance so I never had a good shot.  Because it's the 20th anniversary of Superunknown, their set was heavy in songs from that album.  I enjoyed the simple imagery of an eclipse used for those songs.  At one point, lead singer Chris Cornell stopped to talk about how when they formed the band, the world was bleak and things sucked.  He said pop and modern music is fine and all, but the world aint any different.  I really enjoyed their performance, even though they didn't play one song I wanted to hear, Been Away Too Long.

Nokia 808 - Soundgarden

I probably would have enjoyed the show more if I wasn't stuck in a shit sandwich.  I had to manuever a lot to look around dancing of the tall girl in front of me. It got worse when she switched with her even taller boyfriend.  Behind me were an incredibly obnoxious couple.  Every time a singer would say thank you, she would yell "NO THANK YOU!" or "I LOVE YOU!" Her boyfriend was dancing a lot as well and often bumped into my friend.  Vegas being what it is, I noticed a group of four leave halfway into Soundgarden's set two rows up.  It wasn't until halfway into nine inch nails' set that me and my friend moved up to their empty seats.  The show was much nicer at that point.

Nokia 808 - Trent Reznor

  I was pretty impressed with the stage crew.  They tore down and removed Soundgarden's stage in about 5 minutes.  After about 20 minutes, a stagehand put out a lamp on the stage and a small music device on a podium.  5 minutes later, with the house lights still on, Trent Reznor casually walked out on stage and started the show.  Eventually the three other members of the band made their way on stage and the lights went down and the stage formed.  

Nokia 808 - nine inch nails

The performance was riddled with faults. Lots of the stage effects were malfunctioning. Robin Finck's guitar would crap out and he threw it away in disgust.  Trent would later say, "Hey its the first show, things are bound to go wrong."  In the past, he would have thrown a tantrum and broken instruments or parts of the stage.  Musically, it was very interesting to me since a few songs were done without live drums or different instrumentation than past shows.

Nokia 808 - nine inch nails

After the show I went to the Cosmopolitan in search of a proper Mint Julep.  I was told to go to, the Chandelier Bar, but they didn't have the cups to serve one in.  I walked down to Caesar's Palace to visit the Forum Shops, but it was closed.  With that, the night ended.

Sunday I returned to the Forum Shops to find Max Brenners had closed.  Afterwards I headed to the pinball museum and blew some quarters.  The day concluded with playing my DC Deck Builder game.  Here's a tip, if you're driving from LA to Vegas, stay until Monday morning.  The Sunday afternoon drive is always a nightmare.  The Monday morning drive back was a breeze.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Upgrading at&t U-Verse

Nokia N8 - at&t logo - (I must have been drunk when I took this photo)

I am subscribed to at&t U-Verse internet. My rate was $36 per month for 6Mbps down / .5 up.  That pricing expired in July, so my August bill went up to $46.  Last week, I called 1-800-ATT-2020 and asked for a better deal.  They offered nothing.

I called again, this time asking to cancel my bill.  I was offered $41 for 12Mbps down/ 1 up.  I mulled it over and said I would call back after shopping around.  I was then offered $34 for said speed and with homewire protection.  This would be great, since my current set up has a phone wire connected from my modem to the box outside.  The line between my wall jack and the box outside mysteriously went out years ago.  As soon as the weather gets better, I'll call up at&t an have them fix the wiring.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Backblog: nine inch nails at Jimmy Kimmel Live 11/7/2014

This post has been sitting in draft as I have been attending my tumblr blog.  Since I am seeing nine inch nails tonight in Las Vegas, I thought it would be a good time to push this out.

Nokia 808 Pureview

It was November 7, 2014.  I got off the subway in Hollywood around 1:30PM and was 8th in line.  I was expecting cooler weather and wore black but it was very sunny and warm.  Spent the next few hours chatting with people in line while waiting for my friends to show up.  Learned a lot of info that would come in handy for tomorrow's show at Staples Center.

Nokia 808 Pureview

After they showed up, sound check started.  They played a small bit of 1000000.  They played All The Love In The World, which they had just debuted a couple of days ago.  I would have shot some video, but a trailer truck was in the way.  It sounded great with the back up singers.  They did Various Methods of Escape multiple times, which ended up being broadcasted.

Nokia 808 Pureview

By now wristbands were being given out and now there were 20-30 people in front of me.  After moving to the priority line, All Time Low was sound checked.  I recorded this, but there's so much talking going on I didn't bother to upload.

Nokia 808 Pureview

After being let in, everyone took a spot behind a yellow tape.  After the security guy gave the signal, he dropped the line and everyone moved to the front of the stage.  While my friend made it to the front and secured a spot on the rail for me, some girl ran across from my left to my right and got a spot as well.  The security guy yelled at my friend for getting in front of him.  Nothing made any sense and I was incredibly worried she was going to get thrown out.  She got off with just a warning.  Right before the show she scored a poster so everything balanced out for her.  The girl who cut me off decided to give up her spot and my other friend took her place.

For her troubles, my friend scored a nice poster for the night's show.  nine inch nails opened with Various Methods of Escape and followed with All Time Low.  I took a bunch of photos.  These songs used to be up on youtube, but they're private now. Then the cameras went away and I switched to video mode as they played Sanctified, Came Back Haunted and The Hand That Feeds.  Enjoy my videos from the show.

Nokia 808 Pureview

Nokia 808 Pureview

Nokia 808 Pureview

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kraftwerk: The Man-Machine at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles City Hall from the lobby at the Walt Disney Concert Hall
Lumia 925- View of LA City Hall from the lobby at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

It's been so long since my last concert, I forgot to take any pictures.  There was a rule not to take pictures anyway, so there's not much I can post.

Nokia 808 -Kraftwerk goodies

So anyway, my first concert of the year was seeing the German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk. Late last year, they announced they would be playing each of their albums in their entirety.  I signed up for a mailing list in order to get tickets.  On a whim, I picked The Man-Machine.  I had forgotten to check my calendar and got lucky as a friend got me tickets for The Book of Mormon the next night.

This was my first visit to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  It is conveniently located off the Hollywood Freeway.  If the show hadn't run so late, I would have taken the subway.  I bought a shirt and received my 3D glasses as I found my way to my seat.  Kraftwerk started at roughly 10:35.  I was surprised by all the late comers.  I think too many people in LA were used to bands starting late. 

The show was amazing.  Kraftwerk were stationed behind 4 platforms.  They were wearing black unitards and helmets with white grids like something out of Tron.  They stood there playing music on their knobs and keyboards without much motion.  The real show was up on the screen.  Kraftwerk's simplistic beats were often matched with simplistic video.  Some songs looked like animation from the early 80s, others from the early 90s.  What made the videos awesome was the 3D.  A few songs had lyrics on screen that looked great in 3D.  The second song, Spacelab, featured flybys of a space station before a UFO descended on Los Angeles and onto the Walt Disney Concert Hall itself. At the end of the show, each member did a solo, took a bow and left the stage. 

Normally, I would shoot video or take pictures, but I followed the rules since I didn't want to be disturbed by an usher.  Turns out I would be distracted anyway.  A girl in front of me recorded a lot of the show on her iPhone.  I kept wondering why.  The show was in 3D and it the video only filled up half the screen.  So futile.