Geek Chic

November: a month of purchasing nothing?

At the start of this month I told Marisa that I wasn't going to buy anything that we didn't need.

newgraphicscard.jpegI'm lucky enough to have a little bit of disposable income, and I enjoy being able to buy whatever bauble might catch my fancy at any given time (within reason). This isn't a problem, but as I looked around the apartment I realized I didn't really need any more stuff.

My resolve didn't last long, though. As you know I bought a fancy vacuum (which really sucks... get it?), but I thought that would be it!

Fast forward to today and I made a couple more purchases. To the right you can see the new graphics card for my Mac Pro I purchased today. I know what you're thinking, "Scott, why do you need a new graphics card?" So I can power this fancy new monitor
I also bought today:

newmonitor.jpeg

Clearly, I have a problem.


Scott Explains - This time with feeling

I mentioned back in April that I was starting a new blog called Scott Explains. And then I didn't really post to it. I was in the midst of putting the final touches on my new book (which I will blog about once it is available), so I neglected my new baby.

Now I'm once again posting to Scott Explains, so you should check out how to delete email from your Gmail account using iOS 4 and how to add a folder of apps to your iPhone's Dock (I even shot a quick video for that last one).


Conspicuous Consumption Friday: iPad pre-order edition

Note: I wrote this last Friday, but neglected to hit the 'Send to Weblog' button in MarsEdit. Travel back in time with me, won't you? All the way to March 12, 2010!

ipad-1.jpgTo say that I enjoy Apple products might be a slight understatement. I'm a fan.

You probably have heard of the iPad, thanks to Apple's truly remarkable marketing power (so powerful, it is, that it doesn't even APPEAR to be marketing to most people... even those in the press. I recall earlier this year a former Apple PR person wrote a post, which I can't find, describing how Apple sometimes leaks stories to the press itself. The scandal!). Anyway, you might not have known that iPads are now available for pre-order. In fact, they became available to pre-order this morning at 8:30am.

Here's my order confirmation:

ipadforscott.jpg

Notice the time, 05:35 AM PST. Yep, I was on my computer at exactly 8:30am pre-ordering a silly gadget. My order would have gone through a few minutes earlier but Apple's store was having a little trouble, so I had to reload the page.

Clearly, I need help but at least I don't live on the West Coast so I didn't have to wake up at 5am to order a device I've never even touched. That would just be silly.

I know what you're thinking, "Scott, why didn't you get the iPad with 3G wireless access and more memory?" Because I ALWAYS have my iPhone with me, so my iPad doesn't need to have 3G (plus WiFi is plentiful in the places that I find myself most often) and I don't think I'll putting much music or movies on my iPad. 16 GB is good enough for now (and I'll eventually replace this iPad with the newer, shiner one that Apple is almost certainly already planning to release).

bitmonster.jpgFrom the high tech to the low tech, My orgy of buying continued! I also nabbed myself one of 200 Bit Monsters Letterpress Prints from Simple Bits.

I did this without consulting Marisa, though when I showed it to her she said, "That's totally you." Which, I suppose, is a good thing. I am fairly certain that she would never have purchased something like that herself, but marriage is all about compromise (and we haven't yet had the discussion as to where we will be displaying this... especially since I'll need to get it framed first and I have about 8 other odds and ends that I need to get framed that I've had for varying lengths of time. The placement discussion might take awhile to get to).

Anyway, it is letterpressed which I think is cool and it features some pixalated creatures (monsters, I suppose) which I also enjoy. You can watch the process that went into make this by checking out this movie (maybe they were making my print during the filming!).


Are you an XLX?

xlx.jpgI'm a big guy, we all know this (assuming you have ever met me or seen a fairly recent picture of me). Sure, I'm not as big as I once was, but I'm a solid XXL when it comes to shirt size.

And speaking of shirts, one of my favorite shirt suppliers is Tommy Bahama (shocking, I know). Their XXL shirts fit me nicely (generally speaking) but it would seem that some people find the XXL too big, but the XL too small. The obvious solution is the XLX.

That's right, a size right between the two! I can't decide if this is genius or idiotcy, but I suppose if it sells a few more shirts Mr. Bahama is happy.


The brave new world of adult furniture

I recently celebrated my 33rd birthday with my usual gathering of friends and well-wishers (and made sure that party goers damn well drank all my beer) when I realized something: I'm too old to buy cheap furniture.

Sure, Ikea has served me well but darn it, I deserve more! And it doesn't hurt that I can actually afford some pricier pieces of furniture now (hey, don't hate me because I am mildly successful!).

Now, shopping for furniture as a single person is easy: just buy whatever the heck you like. For whatever reason I've always had a fond place in my heart for Stickley furniture, their Mission collection to be specific (Nerd Alert: My Adobe loving friends will be happy to see that the Stickley Web site runs on ColdFusion). Now, say what you will about Mission style furniture but one thing is certain: it ain't everyone's cup of tea.

Since I'm no longer single I can't just go out and buy furniture willy nilly. Nope, I have to consult with Marisa, which is fair I suppose. As luck would have it, we had been in the market for a new bookcase for awhile. Sadly, when I showed Marisa Stickley's catalogs she wasn't feeling it. It probably doesn't help that it is nearly impossible to find prices for new Stickley furniture on the Internet (always a sign that something is more expensive than you think).

I managed to find Sheffield Furniture in Malvern. They have a showroom full of Stickley stuff, in addition to a bunch of other furniture makers. Since it is only about a 40 minute drive from our house Marisa and I piled into the station wagon to check it out.

We wandered about the massive showroom for awhile checking out the furniture and nothing was doing it for us... but we hadn't made it to the Stickley section yet!

Venturing upstairs we entered a wonder land of wood and leather. As soon as Marisa saw the Stickley pieces she turned to me and said, "We should get one of each." Success!

One of the designers (that's what they call their salespeople) told us that we should keep an eye on their Web site since they have Stickley sales fairly often. We left furniture-less but with a plan in mind.

The weekend before last I noticed that Sheffield was having a 45% off sale on all Stickley stuff, so we made our way to Malvern and bought the bookcase you see to the right.

burlyworker.jpgSince this was the first piece of 'adult furniture' I've ever bought I wasn't prepared for what the salesperson said next, "OK, well we should have that in our warehouse in about 3 months." I was all like, "Huh?" She then kindly explained to me that the good people at Stickley (who I imagine all look like the burly fellow to the left) will start making the bookcase for us as soon as they get this order.

Think about that for a moment: the bookcase we bought didn't exist yet. Right now some craftsperson in New York is working on our bookcase. That's pretty darned cool.

We went home happily knowing that in 3 months we would be the proud owners of our very first Stickley piece.

roycroftchafeA few days later what should come in the mail but a notice for one of Sheffield's Stickley Truck sales. Basically, Stickley trucks in a few loads of furniture to one of Sheffield's warehouses and they slash the prices (OMG! A sale!).

Since I'm avoiding working on my book (don't tell my editor) I was up for a little jaunt to the warehouse just to browse... and I'm sure you can tell where this is going.

We had this crappy old cart near our kitchen which held a variety of bowls and such. I've never liked it, and Marisa wanted to replace it so we were on the lookout for something to replace it with. That's when we saw the Roycroft Chafing Dish Cabinet sitting there, just waiting for us to buy it. I don't know what a chafing dish is, but I liked this little cabinet so we bought it for 50% off (another bargain!).

The best part of the warehouse sale is that you get to take whatever you bought home with you right then and there. We loaded it into the station wagon and off we went with our prize.

And that's the story of how our second Stickley purchase has become the first Stickley object in our house! Now I'm plotting a plan to replace all the furniture in our apartment with Stickley stuff (but don't tell Marisa!).

Oh, and here is a picture of the new cabinet actually in our apartment:

Our new cabinet



In Praise of the Unitasker

Later today Apple is expected to announce a tablet computer that will CHANGE THE WORLD! It’ll play videos, it’ll play music, you’ll be able to read magazines on it. Plus it is going to save the publishing industry, the TV business, and maybe… just maybe… the human race.

I have no idea what Apple will or won’t announce today, but a lot of smart people who I respect are predicting an Apple tablet. And some of them think that tablet spells doom for Amazon’s Kindle (and one supposes Barnes and Noble’s nook, the Sony line of Readers, and the host of off brand eReaders announced at CES this year). Why? Because the Kindle, and its ilk, are examples of what geeky types call unitaskers.

What the heck is a unitasker? A device, or object, that is designed primarily to do one thing, and one thing alone, is a unitasker. Examples of common unitaskers include:

  • Books
  • Glasses
  • DVD Players (well, at least they used to be unitaskers)
  • Blackberries (come on, no one does anything on their Blackberry other than email)

Those are just a few I thought of off the top of my head. The tablet, and computers in general, are not unitaskers… they are Swiss Army Knives; one device that can do lots of stuff pretty well.

image from www.flickr.comI say the Kindle’s death knell isn’t upon us. Sure, the tablet (or whatever the heck it will be) is going to be able to do more than a Kindle (despite Amazon’s slightly odd SDK announcement). Keep in mind that I really like the Kindle. I wrote a book about them, I own three of them, and over the last year I’ve probably done about 85% of my book reading on an eReading device of one sort or another. I am not the typical user.

I am a typical reader (ok, that’s not true since I am pretty sure I read more than most folks… but I am a typical book lover. Read ‘em. Buy ‘em. Love ‘em.). I’m a voracious reader, and I am crazy about books. I’ve been reading for a long time (my mother tells me she taught me to read when I was around 4 years olds by reading the street signs to me as we drove around, and I haven’t stopped reading since) and what I really love about a good book (or even a bad book, frankly) is getting lost in the prose. The only thing I want to concentrate on when reading a book are the words on the page or, in this case, on the screen. I don’t want to know that I have a new email waiting, I don’t need a popup to tell me that my newsreader has been updated… I just want to READ.

When I’m reading on my Kindle the Kindle just sort of disappears. It fades into the background and allows the book to be the star.

An Apple tablet will offer me up infinite distractions from reading, and if you ask me that’s a bug, not a feature.


Get a Kindle as a Christmas present? Buy my book!

kindlepocketguide.jpgYou know what makes the best accompaniment to that Kindle you just got for Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate)? That's right, the Kindle Pocket Guide. This book is chockfull of tips, tricks, and ways to get stuff you already own onto your Kindle, and load your Kindle up with lots of free content.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Scott, you only think this book is so great because you wrote it!" That might be true, but would I ever steer you wrong? And for only $10 what could possibly go wrong?

As a measure of good faith I'm going to share a couple of tips from the book with you in this post (for free!):

Kindle DX optimized books

If you found a Kindle DX (my current favorite eBook reader) under the tree you'll want to check out the Featured Books for Kindle DX section of the Kindle Store. All the books listed will work with the smaller Kindle, but the DX's bigger screen makes them shine.

Downloading books without a wireless connection

One of the whizbang features of the Kindle is that it is always connected to the cloud (that's geek for the servers that Amazon runs the Kindle Store on)... but what about when you're in a remote location and you can't get any wireless service? Are you stuck with whatever books are already loaded up on your Kindle? Nope!

If you point your browser to http://www.amazon.com/myk you'll be able to Manage Your Kindle on the web. On that webpage you have a number of options, but we're interested in the section called "Your Orders":

yourorders.jpg

As you can see this lists all the eBooks that you've purchased from the Kindle store. If you click on the little plus sign (plussign.jpg ) next to one of the books you'll see the following options:

kindlebookdetails.jpg

I think you can tell where this is going now. Click on the "Download to computer" button and you can save the .AZW file that is your eBook (in this case Jasper FForde's latest novel) onto your computer.

Once you have the .AZW saved onto your computer you need to attach your Kindle to the same computer using the included USB cable. This puts your Kindle into USB Drive mode (you can also charge your Kindle using this method). Now your computer thinks your Kindle is a removable USB drive onto which you can copy any sort of files you like. Hmm, I wonder what kind of file we should copy to the Kindle... ah, right! The .AZW you just downloaded!

Double click the new drive called 'Kindle' that appears either on your desktop or in 'My Computer' and you'll see four folders listed: Audible, Documents, Music, and System. The Documents folder is where all the, well, documents are stored on your Kindle, including books. Drag the .AZW file into the documents folder and you've just placed a new book onto your Kindle without a wireless connection (this method can also be used to add PDFs and other e-book files onto your Kindle, but remember that the Kindle can only display PDFs, AZW files (Amazon's file format), plain text files (TXT), and unprotected MOBI/PRCs.

That's all you get for free

You'll find all that information, and more, in the book. So why not buy it right now? And remember you don't need to own a Kindle to buy/read books from the Kindle store. You can read Kindle books using the Kindle app for the iPhone/iPod touch and the Kindle for PC app.


Red and black 993s

I'm a New Balance man. The only sneakers that I wear are New Balances (I started with the 991s, and then the 992's and now the 993's are the new hotness). Since I'm going to be running again (and I think come spring time I might sign up for another 5K, shocking I know) I decided that today was the day to buy a new pair of sneakers.

My current 993's aren't really good for running at this point (I assume since I'm a heavy guy the sneaker cushioning just doesn't last long with all the pounding I give it) so a new pair had to be acquired. I scoped out what City Sports had in stock and I saw the red/black pair above. I was going to nab 'em but they were $140! I was pretty sure I could find 'em for cheaper and Amazon did not let me down. $104 later, I'll have a swanky new pair of running shoes by the end of the week (Amazon Prime wasn't available for this particular pair because Amazon was selling them directly).

Who's excited?


Who says I have an eReader problem?

5ereaders

I can stop buying them at any time, honest!

Here they are, starting with the silver one in front:

  • Sony PRS-505 - This is the first eBook reader I bought (at Borders!). I bought a week before the Kindle was announced. Thanks, Amazon.
  • Kindle 1: I ordered this the moment it was available to order, and once I got it I promptly stopped using my Sony Reader.
  • nook: My newest eBook reader, from Barnes and Noble. I gave serious thought to putting this one up on eBay, making a quick buck, and then buying one later... but I'm too lazy.
  • Kindle 2: I ordered this one as soon as it was available as well. It is so much better than the Kindle 1 it ain't funny.
  • Kindle DX: I was intrigued by the Kindle DX (basically a larger version of the Kindle 2) but I wasn't going to buy one, that is until I ended up writing a book about the Kindle. Then I HAD to buy it (yeah, that's the ticket). You can feel free to buy my Kindle book and read it on your Kindle.

Clearly, I really like eBook readers... and I'll never recoup all the money I've spent on them but life is too short NOT to have 5 eBook readers (we actually have 6 in the house since Marisa has a Kindle 2 of her own).


Phantom glasses

I have my glasses back, finally, which is a good thing (oh, the colors I can see! Well, I can't see all the colors since I am color blind... but I can see most of them). I did notice an odd thing over the course of the week I was glassless. Despite the fact that I was not, in fact, wearing glasses I would frequently motion to adjust them. The motion, I can only assume, was interpreted as some sort of odd salute to passersby.


I have no glasses and yet I must see

No glasses ScottThe lens in my frames were pretty scratched up, and since I just started a new job I thought I would take my benefits for a spin and get some new lens (not new frames though, since I totally heart my frames).

Off I went to Eye Candy which has a god awful Web site, but a lovely staff. Since I only have one pair of frames I called ahead and asked how long they would need to keep them to install the new lens. They said it would take a day, which didn't seem too shabby to me. Off I went to get my eyes examined (which always freaks me out because they put things far too close to your eyes for my liking), and take a look at their sunglasses (my future is pretty bright after all).

I was pursuing the sunglasses with fully dilated pupils when the guy behind the counter came over to help me. He looked at my old glasses and said, "So you like the retro look, huh?" Since I do, in fact, like the retro look (though in a non-ironic fashion) I nodded and commented that all their frames were pretty modern looking. I did, however, try on a couple of pairs but it seems I'm an ocular Goldilocks: the frames were either too big or too small.

I wasn't worried, though, since I have frames that I are totally my bffs. Once my eye exam was done (OK, sidebar here: Whenever I am looking through one of those machines with the different lens in it and the eye doc flips one and says, 'Better or worse?' I always feel like they know the RIGHT answer... and they are just testing me to make sure I'm not pretending to need glasses. Am I the only one who thinks this?) I returned to the clerk and said, "So, I guess I'll be back to tomorrow to get my glasses!" To which he replied, "Your insurance requires that we send all frames to their lab so they can make the lens. They'll be ready in a week."

rendering.jpgWhat was I to do? I needed new lens, and I had gotten this far... so I left the store without my glasses and immediately walked onto a girder that was swinging from a nearby crane. How I survived that hilarious walk through that construction site I'll never know.

I should have my glasses back tomorrow though, which is a good thing since I've been hunching over all week so I can actually read stuff on my computer screen. My back is killing me!

Also, I'm thinking about buying these sunglasses. What say you, gentle reader? To the right you can see a very badly done rendering of what I might look like wearing said glasses. Pretty sexy, huh?


New job, new duds

Scott McNulty, author

It is no secret that I am a fan of the Hawaiian shirt. I was lucky enough to work in an environment, for a while at least, that tolerated such garb. Sadly, now that I've entered a more corporate setting I must adjust my wardrobe.

Good bye, Hawaiian shirts (at work) and hello new blazer! That's right, I just bought a fancy pants blazer (from Boyds, where all of Philadelphia's fashionable fat men get their clothes) for work. Worry not, friends, I won't be wearing this every day but from time to time it is a good idea to have a nice jacket on hand in case I need to go from looking really good to looking super good.


Star Trek trailer is online

newenterprise.jpg

Marisa and I went to see Quantum of Solace Friday night (opening night) for one reason only: I wanted to see the new trailer for J.J. Abram's forthcoming Star Trek movie called, simply, 'Star Trek.'

The Bond flick was pretty good (I have it on good authority that Daniel Craig is 'dreamy') but the Star Trek trailer was frickin' awesome. Sadly, it made me want to see the Trek movie immediately, and it isn't coming out until May 8th, 2009.

Until then I'll just watch the trailers in glorious QuickTime here on Apple's trailer site.


I was on Attack of the Show for some reason

Above is the video from my appearance on last night's Attack of the Show. They had me on the Loop to talk Apple rumors before Apple's WWDC event that starts on Monday.

Luckily for me my segment was only a couple of minutes long since I seemed to have lost the ability to form coherent thoughts. I even called OS X 'the OS X,' like some sort of crazy old man ('Isn't your Apple MAC running the OS X or something? Where's my soup?').

Having seen Attack of the Show before I figured I was going to be one person on a panel during the Loop, which they often do. Imagine my surprise when I was on air, live mind you, and I figured out that it was just little old me and Kevin Pereira chatting about Apple rumors. Kevin did say he was a big fan of TUAW, which is always good to hear.

Thanks to the wonders of technology I didn't have to board a transcontinental jet to appear on AotS, but I did have to walk 5 blocks from my apartment to VideoLink, which has a satellite uplink thingie. I then sat in a green room for a few minutes (there was free candy, but I didn't have any) while I waited for my close up. One of the VideoLink dudes let me know I was ready to go, and I walked into another room with some bright lights, a camera, a table and chair, and a screen on which they would magically show Philadelphia's skyline. I even got to wear one of those in ear mics things, so I that the people on the west coast to talk to me.

A few minutes later and my second television appearance was over. (Note to John Gruber: I was wearing a Daring Fireball T-shirt under my 'ready for TV' shirt.)

When I was all done I walked into the green room to retrieve my umbrella and I was greeted by an older gentleman who was wearing a suit, though his coat was off. He was very busy looking into a mirror and applying makeup to himself. Looking up at me, with a sponge full of makeup in his hand, he said, 'How'd it go? You didn't shoot a booger out your noise or scream fuck, did you?' I acknowledged that I had not, in fact, yelled any profanities and anything that was in my nose at the start of my segment remained solidly in place until the end. He explained that he was a lawyer in Philly and he often appears on CNN to talk about legal stuff. I asked about the makeup and he said, 'I learned long ago if you don't do this you end up looking like a vampire on TV.' Since I hadn't applied any makeup to myself before my appearance I can only imagine I looked like a vampire (though vampires don't have reflections, so they can't be caught on film, right? Take that, Mr. Lawyerman!).

All in all, I had fun and I don't think I came off too badly. Here's to being on TV more often!


Apple Security

Apple Security patchOne of my friends, who shall remain nameless, got me this Apple Security patch for my birthday. This is an official (though old, since Apple doesn't use that logo anymore) patch, my friends. Can you say collectors' item? I thought you could!

I am thinking about getting someone to sew it onto my laptop bag because I'm a geek like that.

Thanks, mystery gift giver!