How did I miss this?

There’s another geared-for-adults Transformers show! It’s called Combiner Wars, it’s been out since August of last year, and it’s made up of five minute episodes.

Two sequel short series are planned: Titans Return and Power of the Primes. Just look at the voice actors!

Even though it’s on Verizon’s Go90 network, and is animated terribly (just… it’s bad), go watch it. Because Transformers, that’s why.

I work with my hands.

Much like my headphones, I’m super particular about my keyboard and pointing device. Yes, I said pointing device. Up until recently, I’ve foregone mice in favor of the trackball. If I had the option of a bluetooth version of that, in fact, I’d probably still have one. That’s neither here nor there. Tangent, begone!

I’ve got a Logitech K811 keyboard and a Logitech MX Master mouse, and I’m quite pleased with them. They both do their jobs quickly and smoothly, unless they’re low on charge. The feel of the keyboard is great; it’s a dream to type on.

That was enough while I had one primary computer, but now that I’ve got a laptop for work and a desktop for personal stuff, I dig these devices even more. Each can connect to up to three different devices over bluetooth, and can switch between them with the press of a button.

Done with work? Change my monitor input, mouse setting, and keyboard setting. Playing games like a champ. Forgot to tie something up? Same process, and I’m back to a full work environment. All at the same desk.

And though my last Logitech trackball was of questionable toughness, I don’t regret sticking with the brand for a second. Hell, I’ve been with them since forever. I highly recommend both the K811 (or its PC counterpart, the K810) and the MX Master.

First Generation iPad Love

My family and I love our first generation iPad, and why wouldn’t we?

Another piece of old tech looking for a good home sent by the mysterious benefactor, I felt that making this iPad 1 useful would be quite the challenge. After all, Apple’s known for cutting devices off completely when they determine that backwards compatibility is no longer worth the effort. I didn’t even think it would connect to the app store.

My first step was to charge it. I’m not sure how long it had sat, but the battery charge was still at 25% (or thereabouts) when I got it. I had honestly forgotten about how awesome iPad batteries were. After I’d topped off the charge, I wiped it and started from scratch. I installed any available updates – the newest compatible iOS is 5.1.1. I tested all of the buttons and the touch screen, all working great despite some casing damage near the volume button.

The screens on these things are still freaking beautiful.

I pulled up the app store and entered my Apple ID, and… it worked! Up-to-date listing of all of the available apps, updates, everything. Even search worked! I threw caution to the wind and tried to download a free app. The download started, and then came the error box. Okay, expecting otherwise had been a bit unrealistic. Wait, what was this? “This app requires at least iOS 7.1 or later. Would you like to install an older version that is compatible with your iOS?”

WHAT WHAT WHAT?

Yes, app store, I most certainly would. And did. It should be noted that a good half of the apps I’ve tried to install haven’t had compatible older versions. BUT, I’ve found more than enough to make the tablet well-loved by the kids (thanks Toca Boca and Netflix), the wife (Diamond Quest), and me (SSH app, Pocket, Facebook).

So, yeah. I didn’t have to jailbreak it or load anything custom on it or jump through obscure hoops to turn an aged tablet into a used-daily family computing device. Now I just need to find a case for it. Who knows how long I can get it to last?

Linux and a MacBook Pro

A few months ago, I received a package in the mail from a mysterious benefactor. It contained two pieces of tech that were old, outdated, and abandoned. The first was a 17″ MacBook Pro, part of the first generation released with Intel processors.

It was missing a battery, but otherwise worked. An old (and now known to be insecure) version of Mac OS X booted up and hummed along. The screen, once cleaned, was magnificent, even without being “retina.” I had plenty of uses for this – a computer for Cian, a computer to work on or putz around with when I was in the living room, a school computer for my brother-in-law… in the end, I decided on making it a kid/guest computer for the living room. Aidan had lost the privilege of having a computer in his room, Cian wasn’t ready for his own yet, and many guests have borrowed Nikki’s or my laptop when they were over.

This laptop just missed the compatibility cut-off for OS X Yosemite, and I wasn’t going to leave a known insecure OS on it. The same incompatibility ruled out 64-bit operating systems in general, but its max of 3GB of RAM made that a moot point. So, I installed 32-bit Edubuntu on it, and it ran fairly well, as long as I avoided the Unity desktop. Still sometimes Firefox would chug or Minecraft would stutter – forget trying to play it in full screen.

I still felt like the OS was doing injustice to the machine, so I kept looking. My memory upgrade (to the full 3GB) came in, and improved things, but I was still dissatisfied. I had much better memories of this class of machine. there’s not a whole lot of info out there about old Macs and Linux shacking up together, but I stumbled on two distros that I hadn’t played with in a while: Bodhi and Xubuntu. (Xubuntu is really just XFCE on top of Ubuntu, so not really its own distro, but whatever.)

While I dug Bodhi’s goal and vision, it felt clunky and counter-intuitive. The laptop’s graphics capability seemed ignored, and I just didn’t like it. Xubuntu was the exact opposite. It was smooth, though long to boot, and had a simple and straightforward implementation of XFCE. Things were intuitive; they just worked. Firefox flew when compared to running in Edubuntu, as did Minecraft.

Full screen runs like a dream!

So, I settled on Xubuntu, and I haven’t been sorry. The younger boys play Minecraft on it (and Acelyn is already asking to try), browsing is fully-functional and quick (even on YouTube and Facebook), and it stores nicely under the couch, to be set on the coffee table when in use. No battery needed!

Thanks again to the mysterious benefactor, and wherever/whoever he got this from. It’s got a good home.

Ouya as a Set-Top Box, part 2

I really appreciate that this last hotel had a media box hooked up, so that external devices could be connected to the room TV. It had composite, S-video, and HDMI, as well as a 3.5mm audio in jack.

I hooked up the Ouya, which survived another trip as carry-on in my backpack, and the video came right up. The audio was the obnoxious guy from the menu channel, and I couldn’t get it to go away. After a bit of fiddling, I double-checked the labels on the media box ports.

HDMI was labeled as “Digital Video.”

A quick call to the front desk confirmed that it was video only. There was always the audio in jack, but the Ouya doesn’t have a matching output. That left specialized cables or adapters and now I was moving into “too much work” territory.

I did have a work-around. The speakers on my laptop are excellent, and it has an HDMI out port. I hooked the laptop up to the TV, muted the TV, cranked the volume on the laptop, and used my trackball as a remote for Netflix and YouTube goodness.

Conclusion – Leave the Ouya at home as the really cool Android gaming console that it is.

To Do – Figure out how to avoid Laptop Neck while traveling. Maybe something like this?