May 31, 2013

Xfinity ComcastSequestration - Political Paralysis in America and a self imposed recession:
<rant>If you're an American (Citizen of the United States) and you haven't at least heard of Sequestration... Have you been living under a rock? Perhaps you're independently wealthy (like the 1%) and don't give a damn what happens to the rest of the wage slaves in America? Perhaps you're a Senator or Representative, and your pay and benefits are protected from the effects of sequestration? Perhaps you're the CEO of a large corporation, and you see this as the final blow to the middle class, and end to unions and worker oriented labor. An end to middle income wages? If on the other hand, you happen to be a federal worker, a middle income American, an unemployed worker, a student, a retiree, a teacher, a cop, a fireman, a wage earner; you're on the front line of sequestration imposed depression.

At this point, I'm going to assume that you know what the basics of sequestration are. If you don't, please educate yourself. Help America rise above the propaganda of the press and pundits. The politicians responsible for this fiscal crisis know exactly what they're doing. They're intentionally inducing this crisis so that they can point their fingers at their political opponents and say 'They did it, it's their fault!'. 'I didn't cut your pay check, I didn't cut your medicare, I didn't cut your social security, I didn't cut your health care for infants, I didn't cut the headstart program - it was them!, I didn't cut the [name your politically sensitive/federal program here]'... Since no one in congress was strong enough, brave enough or courageous enough to come up with some specific cuts, they're all going to stand back and point fingers as these unmanaged, unprogrammed, automatic cuts take place.

Will sequestration happen? Well, it's a little late to ask that question. The automatic budget sequestration of 2013 has already begun. No one stopped it (the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (which resulted in a tax increase (eliminated a payroll taxation cut) for everyone I know) delayed it for two months) and the sequestration measures went into effect on the 1st of March, 2013. The federal government is now mandated to cut appx $1.1 Trillion dollars over the 2013-2021 period. $85.4 billion will be cut (from Defense only) during fiscal year 2013. There are several round of billion dollar cuts scheduled to take effect at various times throughout the time period noted above. These cuts are automatic and very little can be done to 'reprogram' these cuts to minimize impact upon critical programs or personnel. These cuts slash across all departments of the federal government. This year (2013) it's only affecting the Department of Defense, but that's not the limit. Additional cuts will affect every department of the government. Every program including social security, education, defense, etc. Discretionary and mandatory spending will be cut.

Will it put us back into recession? Absolutely! Will it help reduce our deficit? Probably, but the amount of lost revenue from taxes (due to layoffs, furloughs and cancelled federal contracts) might actually make the deficit worse! It's certainly going to hurt every sector of our economy - Unless you're selling cynicism, doom, gloom or disdain for our elected leaders - That's going to skyrocket! So, now that Sequestration is a FACT; how is it going to affect me? Well, the rumors, fear, confusion, concern and consternation are running rampant. At all time highs, the mood in the federal work force is the worst that I've ever seen it. Even the cuts in the 90s (during the cold-war drawdown) didn't affect our work force in the way that this sequestration has. The perpetual gloom of furloughs (days without pay) looms over all our heads (in DoD federal service) and no one seems to know what's going to happen next. We're continually told to expect furloughs, but we haven't received any official notifications. The heads of each agency and department are doing all they can to avoid furloughs, but it seems like we're going to end up losing some of our pay through furloughs.

The latest 'fact' - and getting those has been quite difficult - I will not be furloughed. A recent announcement by DoD leadership has laid out many of the Furlough/Sequestration facts. DoD employees working in a couple of key areas (areas protected by DoD fund reprogramming or by law) will not be cut. There are only two types of funding that won't be affected, and I'm employed in one of the programs who's funding has been protected. I really don't know how they managed to do it, but DoD financial managers have moved the funding around in such a way that personnel programs in two specific/key areas have been protected from furloughs - So I'm safe. Unfortunately, not everyone is spared. The latest 'rumor' is that several others in the government will be/in 'fact' have been notified that they will be furloughed. The latest rumor is 11 days without pay (in fiscal year 2013). So, now that the waiting is over, DoD has begun notifying personnel that they will be furloughed.

So how would you feel if you worked hard day in and day out. Then, at the end of the year the boss told you that you did great. But, we're not going to give you any kind of pay raise. The board of directors has decided that you aren't going to get a pay raise. Oh yeah, that same board has also dictated that all the workers will have to take pay cuts. Oh, just in case you were wondering, congress (all elected, appointed and active duty military members) is exempt from any pay cuts. So, I see congress unwilling to suffer any pay cuts; and the stock market is realizing gains? That's confusing... Why are deficits; caused by ineffective legislators (unwilling to close tax loop holes or cut ineffective budgetary items) and the greed of the wealthy allowed to continue, while the working class once again has to carry the burden of their ineffective governance? So get ready America - Buckle down and bend over! Double down on your anti-anxiety medication; Sequestration is here to stay! Let your elected leaders know how you feel about the sequestration.</rant>

My Opinion: The article/blog posting above (on my website: http://www.robsworld.org) contains reported facts, observations, and some of my personal opinion(s). It does not represent any official government position, and it is not meant to imply a suggested course of action, or advocacy of any specific action(s). These are my personal opinions, and the last time I checked I was still entitled to have those. If you have your own opinions on the matter of 'Sequestration' that's great. You may disagree with my personal opinion(s), and you may email me regarding 'Sequestration' and/or my opinions, but please don't bother telling me that my personal opinions are 'wrong', because opinions can't be 'wrong'. (Note: The unclassified FurloughMemo.pdf document (linked above and below) was originally released by/posted on the defense.gov website. Reported to my personal website for convenience archival purposes. Used here iaw 'Fair Use' Copyright provisions.) My 'Rant' Article/editorial/commentary is Copyright: Robert L. Vaessen (2013)
<http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/guidance-for-administrative-furloughs.pdf>
<http://www.stripes.com/news/dod-civilian-furloughs-planned-what-it-means-for-you-1.208813>
<http://capitalgainsandgames.com/blog/stan-collender/2597/yes-cr-can-be-used-stop-sequester>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_fiscal_cliff#Effects_of_sequestration>
<http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DOLA-Main/CBON/1251594680280>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Taxpayer_Relief_Act_of_2012>
<http://act.secondtonone.org/6059/stop-sequestration/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_sequestration>
<http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm>
<http://www.robsworld.org/FurloughMemo.pdf>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furlough>

Tollgate CrossingUpdates to the Tollgate Crossing website:
I participate in some community focused events, but haven't found the time to serve on any boards, so I do what I can to help the people who live in my neighborhood. Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, and supporting our community by maintaining the Tollgate Crossing website, mailing lists and online bulletin boards. The Tollgate Crossing website is focused on the Tollgate Crossing community, with a few links to the Neighborhood Watch website. I recently made a few updates to our community website:

  • Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to our community website. Here you'll find all the latest news and announcements.
    • I rearranged the banners on the front page - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and Metro District meetings. Our next HOA meeting is 19 Jun, 2013.
    • I removed the 'Dumpster Disposal Days' announcement. According to the HOA board, the turn out was huge. As a matter of fact, next year they'll get two dumpsters, because we filled the one dumpster in the first day of this event.
    • I updated the community Garage Sale banner to remove the first of our community garage sales. The next one comes up at the beginning of August.
    • I posted an announcement about our pool opening. The community pool house opens on the 25th of May.
  • Events: A detailed listing of upcoming and recurring events in and around Tollgate Crossing. Here is more detailed information regarding some of the events you may have read about on the 'Welcome' page. It's also a place to look for long term/recurring events.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA meeting. Our next HOA meeting is 19 Jun, 2013.
    • Removed the announcement regarding our community's 'Dumpster Disposal Days'.
    • I updated our 'Garage Sales' announcement. We've got one more planned garage sale coming up.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I updated links to Meeting Minutes from HOA and MD meetings. I added an agenda for an upcoming Metro District meeting on the 26th of May, 2013. Meeting minutes from the current month aren't released until the board approves them; during the month that follows. As a result, my posting of meeting minutes are always a month or more behind. If you'd like to read meeting minutes from further back (further back than those available on the website), please let me know.

If you are a resident of 'Tollgate Crossing' (in Aurora, Colorado), you might want to check out the website, mailing lists or bulletin boards. They're loaded with information about our community, provide multiple venues for communications, community interaction and interactive ways to stay connected in Tollgate Crossing. If you'd like to help out by being a moderator, provide feedback, or help me with my coding efforts, please let me know. I'm open to your suggestions.
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Welcome.html>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphic editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor, and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a couple updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.6.1 (b1222). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox. The full release version: 8.6 (b1200) finally introduces layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop at a fraction of the price. A priceless application with all the bells and whistles of the top end editors.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/key-features/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.org/files/graphicconverter/notes/1200.html>

With this software update, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

GPGMailEncryption and digital signatures on my Mac:
In the past spammers used to target my digital identity by forging messages to look like they came from me. While I'm still fighting spammers and scammers, I don't spend as much time doing that as I used to, but I've learned a lot about protecting my identity. One way I do that is by using pgp signed messages (whenever possible) with my email correspondence. Thankfully, there's an open source, free and reliable way to make that happen. There's a group of software developers who devote their time and effort in development of a product called 'GPGTools' (for the Mac) it's a series of applications which enable digital signatures and encryption inside the Mac OS X environment. One of the primary components is GPGMail.

GPGMail (recently (06 Oct 2012) updated for Mountain Lion compatibility) is an open source plugin for Apple Mail. It brings the functionality to sign, verify, encrypt and decrypt messages/documents (including email messages) using the OpenPGP standard. The GPGTools package (all the Mac GPG tools in one download) version 2013.05.20, contains the following software (w/versions numbers): MacGPG2 (version 2.0.19); GPGMail plugin (version 2.0b6); GPG Keychain Access v1.0; GPG Services v1.8; and GPG Preferences v0.9.2. I use this software in conjunction with with Apple's Mail.app for encryption, decryption, and message authentication. If you would like to correspond in secret, please take note of my Public Keys.

Why do I use digital signatures or encryption? Well, I don't use the encryption very often, but I have been known to send myself encrypted email containing passwords or private information (banking and medical information). I use pgp signatures quite often, as a way of ensuring message authenticity. I'm tired of spammers pretending to be me; even my web hosting company has 'accused' me of being a spammer. By using these signatures (which uses the message content (upon signing) and a private key to create a signature which can be verified by using my public key) I can assure recipients that the message(s) they received were actually sent be me, and it hasn't been tampered with in transit. In addition to my self published keys, my public keys are also available on various keyservers.

One of the best parts of this software? The developers! They're fantastic. Whenever I have a problem or question, they're eager and willing to help with a patch, troubleshooting or detailed instructions. The project/developers aren't working for a profit, they do it because they believe in the open availability of secure email.
<http://www.gpgtools.org/gpgmail/index.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/encryption.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/feedback.html>
<http://www.gpgtools.org/macgpg2.html>
<http://www.gpgtools.org/projects.html>
<http://www.gpgtools.org/>

May 19, 2013

Xfinity ComcastSequestration - Political Paralysis in America and a self imposed recession:
<rant>If you're an American (Citizen of the United States) and you haven't at least heard of Sequestration... Have you been living under a rock? Perhaps you're independently wealthy (like the 1%) and don't give a damn what happens to the rest of the wage slaves in America? Perhaps you're a Senator or Representative, and your pay and benefits are protected from the effects of sequestration? Perhaps you're the CEO of a large corporation, and you see this as the final blow to the middle class, and end to unions and worker oriented labor. An end to middle income wages? If on the other hand, you happen to be a federal worker, a middle income American, an unemployed worker, a student, a retiree, a teacher, a cop, a fireman, a wage earner; you're on the front line of sequestration imposed depression.

At this point, I'm going to assume that you know what the basics of sequestration are. If you don't, please educate yourself. Help America rise above the propaganda of the press and pundits. The politicians responsible for this fiscal crisis know exactly what they're doing. They're intentionally inducing this crisis so that they can point their fingers at their political opponents and say 'They did it, it's their fault!'. 'I didn't cut your pay check, I didn't cut your medicare, I didn't cut your social security, I didn't cut your health care for infants, I didn't cut the headstart program - it was them!, I didn't cut the [name your politically sensitive/federal program here]'... Since no one in congress was strong enough, brave enough or courageous enough to come up with some specific cuts, they're all going to stand back and point fingers as these unmanaged, unprogrammed, automatic cuts take place.

Will sequestration happen? Well, it's a little late to ask that question. The automatic budget sequestration of 2013 has already begun. No one stopped it (the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (which resulted in a tax increase (eliminated a payroll taxation cut) for everyone I know) delayed it for two months) and the sequestration measures went into effect on the 1st of March, 2013. The federal government is now mandated to cut appx $1.1 Trillion dollars over the 2013-2021 period. $85.4 billion will be cut (from Defense only) during fiscal year 2013. There are several round of billion dollar cuts scheduled to take effect at various times throughout the time period noted above. These cuts are automatic and very little can be done to 'reprogram' these cuts to minimize impact upon critical programs or personnel. These cuts slash across all departments of the federal government. This year (2013) it's only affecting the Department of Defense, but that's not the limit. Additional cuts will affect every department of the government. Every program including social security, education, defense, etc. Discretionary and mandatory spending will be cut.

Will it put us back into recession? Absolutely! Will it help reduce our deficit? Probably, but the amount of lost revenue from taxes (due to layoffs, furloughs and cancelled federal contracts) might actually make the deficit worse! It's certainly going to hurt every sector of our economy - Unless you're selling cynicism, doom, gloom or disdain for our elected leaders - That's going to skyrocket! So, now that Sequestration is a FACT; how is it going to affect me? Well, the rumors, fear, confusion, concern and consternation are running rampant. At all time highs, the mood in the federal work force is the worst that I've ever seen it. Even the cuts in the 90s (during the cold-war drawdown) didn't affect our work force in the way that this sequestration has. The perpetual gloom of furloughs (days without pay) looms over all our heads (in DoD federal service) and no one seems to know what's going to happen next. We're continually told to expect furloughs, but we haven't received any official notifications. The heads of each agency and department are doing all they can to avoid furloughs, but it seems like we're going to end up losing some of our pay through furloughs.

The latest 'rumor' (because we can't get government officials to make an affirmative statement one way or the other) is that our furloughs will be reduced from 14 days without pay (during fiscal year 2013) to 11 days without pay (in fiscal year 2013). In my last blog posting about the sequestration, I mentioned the rumor that our furlough days might be reduced from 30 days to 14. Surprisingly, that actually happened, but no one seems to know exactly how we (the DoD agencies) managed to do it? It seems to me that the DoD is capable of working within the budget limitations by shifting money around in more ways than they're willing to admit. A recent announcement by the SECDEF (Chuck Hagel) indicated that all DoD agencies and components should prepare for furloughs. Many/most DoD agencies and components will have to notify personnel very soon. The cuts are coming, but my agency (the one that I work for) isn't providing any specifics. Everyone is still in 'Hurry up and Wait' mode.

A minor glimmer of hope. On the 6th of March, the House of Representatives managed to pass a bipartisan continuing resolution (the vote was 267 to 151). This bill funded continuing funding (at 2012 levels) from March 27th through September 30th of 2013. While this bill averted a complete shut down of the federal government, it didn't do much of anything with regard to the sequestration cuts. It did manage to provided the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs some flexibility to reprogram the coming cuts. It allowed the Department of Defense to reduce furloughs from 30 to a maximum of 22 days. Unfortunately, the continuing resolution signed by the President did not end the three year freeze on federal employee wages (Thanks congress - They pulled a proposed 0.5% pay raise out of the bill). The last time that federal workers got a Cost of Living pay raise was 2010. We've had our pay frozen at 2010 levels. At the same time the cost of living has gone up 6.5% (nationwide average) in that same amount of time. In the Denver-Boulder-Greely area (where I live), the cost of living has risen 7.5% since 2010.

So how would you feel if you worked hard day in and day out. Then, at the end of the year the boss told you that you did great. But, we're not going to give you any kind of pay raise. The board of directors has decided that you aren't going to get a pay raise. Oh yeah, that same board has also dictated that all the workers will have to take pay cuts. Oh, just in case you were wondering, congress (all elected, appointed and active duty military members) is exempt from any pay cuts. So, I see congress unwilling to suffer any pay cuts, the stock market gaining, and I'm confused... Why are deficits; caused by ineffective legislators (unwilling to close tax loop holes or cut ineffective budgetary items) and the greed of the wealthy allowed to continue, while the working class once again has to carry the burden of their ineffective governance? So get ready America - Buckle down and bend over! Double down on your anti-anxiety medication; Sequestration is here to stay! Let your elected leaders know how you feel about the sequestration.</rant>

My Opinion: The article/blog posting above (on my website: http://www.robsworld.org) contains reported facts, observations, and some of my personal opinion(s). It does not represent any official government position, and it is not meant to imply a suggested course of action, or advocacy of any specific action(s). These are my personal opinions, and the last time I checked I was still entitled to have those. If you have your own opinions on the matter of 'Sequestration' that's great. You may disagree with my personal opinion(s), and you may email me regarding 'Sequestration' and/or my opinions, but please don't bother telling me that my personal opinions are 'wrong', because opinions can't be 'wrong'. Copyright: Robert L. Vaessen (2013)
<http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/guidance-for-administrative-furloughs.pdf>
<http://www.stripes.com/news/dod-civilian-furloughs-planned-what-it-means-for-you-1.208813>
<http://capitalgainsandgames.com/blog/stan-collender/2597/yes-cr-can-be-used-stop-sequester>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_fiscal_cliff#Effects_of_sequestration>
<http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DOLA-Main/CBON/1251594680280>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Taxpayer_Relief_Act_of_2012>
<http://act.secondtonone.org/6059/stop-sequestration/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_sequestration>
<http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furlough>

Tachyon Ops HD CameraTachyon Ops HD Camera:
Recently (May of 2013) I decided to buy a small camera for use outdoors when I'm biking, hiking or looking for geocaches. A camera I can use in order to record any incidents or memorable parts of any outdoor trek. A friend showed me the camera they use (during mud runs, endurance races and shooting at the range). I took a look and liked what I saw. I compared the Tachyon Ops HD camera to a few of its competitors. It's comparable in price (at ~$150.00), smaller than the others, doesn't have a viewing screen - which is something I don't want, comes with a variety of mounts - which is something I want, lasts hours on a charge (more than four hours with the built in rechargeable battery), is easy to operate, and produces HD footage in H.264 format - Another must have feature.

My order was missing parts when it arrived (some kind of mix-up regarding a newer model being shipped in packaging for an older model), so I immediately wrote them via email with a solid explanation of what the problem was. The company didn't argue with me over what I ordered, they shipped me the parts that appeared to be missing based upon the packaging the camera arrived in. They sent me the parts the same day that II found the clip-on mount to be extremely secure, and it keeps the camera firmly in place on the bill of a ball-cap. No worries about it falling off. Along with the camera, I purchased a class 6 (higher numbers are faster cards - Class 4 and 6 are needed for HD (or Full HD) video recording) MicroSDHC card to save the video. An hours worth of footage fills ~4gb of a memory. A 32gb card should be good for an entire 4 hour session. So far I haven't run out of charge on the battery or space on the card before I quit the field.

I've been using it for a few months now, and I'm very happy. It works quite well in all outdoor lighting conditions (from dawn to dusk), has a good focus length (it's made for hiking, biking and such) and a fairly good field of view. It's meant to be a hands-off capture-cam and it does a pretty good job capturing audio and video within a POV field. The footage is quite stable and despite a the fact that I dropped the camera a few times, it's rugged design seems to withstand normal shakes and bumps with no problem. My friend (the one who runs in Mud Runs and obstacle courses) said he's dropped it and immersed it on several occasions. While it doesn't claim to be 'waterproof', he's given it quite a beating and his is still ticking. This particular camera shoots continuous motion video or time lapse stills (one photo every two seconds) at 30fps. The video produced isn't quite as good as I had hoped, but it's more than adequate for POV outdoor video and sports motion footage.
<http://www.robsworld.org/tachyonopshd_partsmissing.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/tachyonopshd.png>
<http://www.tachyoninc.com/opshd.php>

D&D BooksD&D Books - Premium Reprints:
I recently (17 May, 2013) purchased another premium reprint. WotC has released reprints of the core rule books for the 3.5 version of the game. Not only did they release the core rule books (Player's Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeonmaster's Guide), they've continued the series by releasing more of the original (3.5 edition) rule books. This month (First printing in April of 2013) it's the Spell Compendium. Who know's which book will be released next? It seems that the sales of these books is quite good. Hmmm, I wonder whether 3.5 is still more popular than the 4th Edition of the game? While these reprints retail for $49.95, I've been able to pick them up for less through Amazon.com (~ $35.00). I'd like to thank WotC for finally waking up and realizing that they don't need to completely abandon an old line when they release a new version of the game. FYI: They also released reprints of many 1st and 2nd Edition books.

The 3.5 Edition Premium Spell Compendium collects the most popular spells in the D&D game and presents them in one easy-to-reference tome. This premium reprint also features an attractive new cover and includes errata. With the purchase of this new book, I've updated my 'D&D Books' page. Hopefully they'll keep selling these premium reprints. Hopefully they'll continue to support the 3.5 version of the game?! Wouldn't that be awesome.
<http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/02420000>
<http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/02430000>
<http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/02440000>
<http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/35spell>
<http://www.robsworld.org/dndbooks.html>

iTunesiTunes updated to version 11.0.3:
Recently (May 16th, 2013), Apple updated iTunes to version 11.0. This update was touted as a major update. It certainly shook up the interface. As a matter of fact, the interface update was the major update. The biggest change? The CoverFlow interface is gone! Why? I loved that CoverFlow interface. It was form and function. Not only did it look good (showing off your cover art collection); it was also functional. I was able to locate albums easily by scrolling through the covers. I can recognize visual patterns quicker than I can read. So, without typing (just swiping my finger), I could very quickly locate an album and start the music. Now I'll have to remember the 'Name' of the album or 'Artist' when I'm looking for my favorite artist. After the major update on the 30th of November, Apple released a series of minor updates.

The 11.0.1 update addressed an issue where new purchases in iCloud didn't appear in your library if iTunes Match was turned on. It also made iTunes more responsive when searching a large library, fixed a problem where the AirPlay button didn't appear as expected, and added the ability to display duplicate items within your library. As usual, that update also included other important stability and performance improvements. The 11.0.2 update was delivered on the 22nd of Feb, 2013. This particular update added a new Composers view for music (great news for fans of classical music), improves responsiveness when syncing playlists with a large number of songs, and fixes an issue where purchases may not show up in your iTunes library (again!). Like most iTunes updates, this update also includes other stability and performance improvements. The latest (11.0.3) update was delivered on the 16th of May, 2013. The 11.0.3 update brings us a few new tweaks (improved miniplayer, multiple disc display), returns album art to the 'Songs' view - Thank you! (although this doesn't really make up for the loss of 'CoverFlow'), and a bunch of security updates.
<http://www.macworld.com/article/2038908/itunes-11-0-3-enhances-miniplayer-tweaks-album-options.html>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5766>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>
<http://www.apple.com/itunes/>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphic editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor, and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a few updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.6.1 (b1220). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox. The full release version: 8.6 (b1200) finally introduces layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop at a fraction of the price. A priceless application with all the bells and whistles of the top end editors.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/key-features/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.org/files/graphicconverter/notes/1200.html>

With this software update, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

AppleTVProblems with the Apple TV:
I first noticed this problem on the 7th of May, 2013. I noticed the problem on the AppleTV in my basement. I use the AppleTV on an almost daily basis. I watch news podcasts while I'm working out, and that's when I first encountered the problem. I didn't have time to deal with the problem at the time, so I just watched something else. The problem? Since the 7th of May, my Apple TVs have stopped updating any podcasts. Crap! I watch and listen to a lot of podcasts. Nearly half of all my news and entertainment comes from podcasts. On the 7th, I didn't realize the scope of the problem, and I didn't have any time to investigate the issue. As the week progressed, I realized that the problem was deeper than a single podcast that was having problems. A systemic problem was affecting my AppleTV. After some initial investigating, I confirmed the fact that this problem was affecting all my AppleTVs. By the 13th of May, I knew that I wasn't the only one having the problem. According to some forum posts, the same problem also occurred back in February - Just after an AppleTV update.

I didn't update my AppleTV, and I haven't hacked any of my AppleTVs. All my AppleTVs are on the same network (in my house), and I'm signed in to all of them. On the 13th of May, 2013, I finally reported the problem to Apple. I'm not sure what is causing the problem, which persists on all my AppleTVs. By the 15th of May, my podcasts have started working again... I'm not absolutely sure what I did to fix the problem, as I tried many things - power cycles, resets (not factory restore), checked cables, etc... My last troubleshooting step was a disconnect from the iTunes store. I signed out of the iTunes store, via the AppleTV in the basement. I then signed back in. That seemed to fix the issue (for me). I don't know why the podcasts stopped updating. I wish I had checked to see if my store purchased content was available... In either case, signing out and signing back in, on the basement Apple TV seems to have fixed the issue. Apple never logged any official explanation for this issue, and I never saw anything else posted on the forums. I don't like it when Apple appears unresponsive to an issue affecting numerous individuals. Apparently there weren't enough online complaints to elicit a response?
<https://discussions.apple.com/message/21187471#21187471>
<https://discussions.apple.com/message/21187249#21187249>

May 12, 2013

Colorado WeatherHooray for more Rain!
It's officially spring, and I think we've seen the last of the snow for this season. on the 7th of May we saw some rain - a light spattering. Today? Today was a full-blown downpour. Well, a downpour for this area means more than ten minutes of rain! We don't get a lot of precipitation around here, so any amount is appreciated. On the 8th of may we had thunderstorms and a considerable amount of precipitation. Something that called 'measurable'! According to some websites, we actually got 0.2 inches! Hopefully we'll get more precipitation than these brief showers brought. Thank goodness for the precipitation - Our state is still in a drought and we can use all we can get.

Software favorites:
More updates to some of my favorite software applications. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. over the last week or so, Thorsten released a handful of updates for the product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed. In addition to the GC update, Transmit a top notch file transfer tool has been updated.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on quite a few updates over the last week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.6.1 (b1208), 8.6.1(b1209), 8.6.1(b1211), 8.6.1(b1215). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox. The full release version: 8.6 (b1200) finally introduces layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop at a fraction of the price. A priceless application with all the bells and whistles of the top end editors.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/key-features/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.org/files/graphicconverter/notes/1200.html>

TransmitTransmit:
An FTP tool that does it all. Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit (updated to version 4.4 on the 12th of May, 2013) has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, advanced site synchronization capabilities (with simulation mode and reporting capabilities), Amazon S3 integration, Sync your favorites using Dropbox, drag-to-dock sending, creation / use of transfer droplets, column views, quick navigation side-bar, multi-connection transfers, built in compression, a built in text editor, remote file editing using local editors, and secure transfer (in various different flavors) capabilities. Check out the Panic.com Release Notes for all the changes made (by version) to Transmit.

This particular update solved a rather annoying problem that I've been struggling with for some time now (yes I reported it). Back on the 16th of Mar, 2013. I reported consistent kernal panics (that's really bad - forced reboot of computer) whenever I attempted to mount an ftp share to a webdav server. I sent the developers some error logs, and it seems that they've finally fixed this 'sharepoint' issue.
<http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html>

With these software updates, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

May 5, 2013

Dale's Visit - A Mini-VacationDale's Visit - Spartan Race - Geocaching:
During the month of May, Kim and I enjoyed the company of a friend of our from Texas. From the 3rd through the 5th of May Dale Marshall (a friend of ours since 1995) paid a visit to our humble abode. Dale flew in to Colorado from Texas on the 3rd of May (a Friday night). Dale came to visit Kim and I, and run in a Spartan Race. After he arrived, he took some time to unpack before we headed out to eat at one of our favorite spots - Jim 'N Nick's. It's a chain, but the food is good. I especially like the catfish and baby-back ribs. We took the time to get reacquainted. I saw Dale in early March, so it didn't take too long to get caught up. After dinner we moved the conversation back to our house where we watched a movie and talked some more before retiring for the evening.

As I mentioned earlier, Dale's visit was planned to coincide with a race that he was running - Dale (slightly younger than me) is doing a great job of staying fit. He puts me to shame in that regard. He arrived in our area in order to participate in a grueling event known as a 'Spartan Race'. The race took place on the 4th of May. We all piled into the rental and drove down to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, CO. Kim and I came along for moral support. What a gruelling race. It's a Military Sprint similar to the Spartan Sprint with additional obstacles designed by the 4th Infantry and Specials Forces units. Dale took approximately 2 hours to finish the race, broke no bones and earned himself a 'Trifecta' medal. I took plenty of pictures... Check out the photos on my 'Gallery' page.

After the race, we drove back to Aurora - I offered to drive, but Dale's a glutton for punishment. After a long race like that I certainly wouldn't want to drive anywhere. On Sunday Dale and took some time to participate in an activity that I've always wanted to try, but never seemed to find time to do. Geocaching - An outdoor activity that combines elements of a Scavenger Hunt with Hiking and Puzzle Solving. An excellent combination that I heartily endorse. We searched for caches (hidden items) within a mile of my home. Out of the three caches, I found two, and Dale found the last. The first was ingeniously hidden inside a bolt head - Yes 'Inside' the head of a bolt. This activity left me hungry for more. Dale left that afternoon, but I'm sure that this visit won't be our last. I hope he had a good time torturing himself on that Spartan Race, and introducing me to geocaching.
<http://www.geocaching.com/profile/?guid=b605d4e5-e68b-4ace-bcdc-53c9de1db22c>
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Spartan-Race-2013>

Software favorites:
More updates to some of my favorite software applications. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. over the last week or so, Thorsten released a handful of updates for the product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed. In addition to the GC update, Transmit a top notch file transfer tool has been updated.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a few updates over the last week. I recently saw/downloaded the following update: 8.6.1 (b1204). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox. The full release version: 8.6 (b1200) finally introduces layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop at a fraction of the price. A priceless application with all the bells and whistles of the top end editors.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/key-features/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.org/files/graphicconverter/notes/1200.html>

TransmitTransmit:
An FTP tool that does it all. Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit (updated to version 4.3.4 on the 2nd of May, 2013) has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, advanced site synchronization capabilities (with simulation mode and reporting capabilities), Amazon S3 integration, Sync your favorites using Dropbox, drag-to-dock sending, creation / use of transfer droplets, column views, quick navigation side-bar, multi-connection transfers, built in compression, a built in text editor, remote file editing using local editors, and secure transfer (in various different flavors) capabilities. Check out the Panic.com Release Notes for all the changes made (by version) to Transmit.
<http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html>

With these software updates, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

Colorado WeatherNo Way - Snow in May?!
It's officially spring now, but Colorado's Crazy Weather continues. We recently (on the 1st of May, 2013) survived another one of those crazy weather fronts as it moved through our area (the Front Range of Colorado) - It's headed east, so you may see it soon. This time we got Snow! Yes, Snow in May... It happens, and when it does we all act astonished as if this has never happened before. During the day our temperatures dropped from 28 degrees to 24 degrees then finally down to 17 degrees Fahrenheit. That's right down into the subfreezing category, and it stayed there. Guess what happened next? - You got it; it precipitate! We started out with fog, then rain, then snow - Of course! The silly snow (appx 2" of heavy wet snow) stuck around for a brief period of time. By the 2nd it was all gone, melted away as temps rose back up into the normal range of 45 degrees. The temperature is historically 58 degrees by this time of year - According to my sources, this is a record. O.k. maybe it was just as weird as it seemed.

Thank goodness for the precipitation - Our state is still in a drought and we can use all we can get. All the snow was gone by the end of the next day. This freeze thaw cycle really doesn't seem all that odd if you've lived through the last few years of crazy Colorado weather. So, the crazy weather swings have become the new normal. Stay tuned for more crazy weather in the days ahead.

Music CollectionMusic in May:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? Well, I used to find/discover a lot of free (actually free) music by visiting several of the new music web sites (Pandora, 3hive.com, musicalfamilytree.org) and several other music blogs (Analog Giant, Brooklyn Vegan, Fluxblog, Gorilla vs. Bear, etc) out there, and listening to a few different music podcasts. Used to... Now? Now (As of Oct of 2010) I subscribe to an online music streaming service called MOG, and I've recently (as of Sep 2011) started using eMusic 'Radio' stations for music discovery. Combined together, these two services provide full-play access to more than 34 million tracks! (16m on MOG (as of Sep, 2012), 18m on eMusic (as of May 2013)) Two fantastic ways to discover music, and no need for illegal downloads or pirated tracks. I occasionally use a few of the other methods (music blogs and podcasts), but MOG now serves as my Primary Music Discovery source.

Artists want you to hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it, or maybe you'll buy some concert tickets. The major labels want you to pay for their product - letting you hear it for free is contrary to their business model. Well, guess what? I won't buy it unless I can listen to it first. The major labels are killing themselves with their restrictive distribution and dissemination policies. If you like new music, you can do a web search to find your favorite artists web site, a new music web site, or an archive of free music. Free music is available - Legally! Don't believe the major labels propaganda - Not all free music is illegal. You can legally download or listen to all sorts of music for free (Have you heard of Pandora, Audiolizer, Presto, Jango or GrooveShark?). I download most of my music from a couple of commercial sources (eMusic and iTunes), but I occasionally download tracks (legally) from various websites, newsgroups and blogs in order to satisfy my craving for music.

Here's a listing of some of the music I legally downloaded - and paid for!

eMusic monthly downloads:
Every month I download ~50 tracks from eMusic.com. This month (May of 2013) I downloaded 46 tracks at the low cost of $23.05. I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.43 / track). Unlike some music outlets, eMusic doesn't have any DRM and they don't insert unique track id's into the ID3 tags. Their terms of service are consumer friendly; eMusic allows you to burn as many CDs as you like and copy downloads to an unlimited number of your computers and portable MP3 players. At less than $.50 a track (I'm currently paying $19.99 for $22.99 worth of downloads per month (Note: As of Feb, 2013, you no longer have to be a member/subscriber to access the site or buy music). eMusic offers a really good value for your download dollar. iTunes and Amazon still charge more. eMusic offers more music for your money, and the variable bit rate recordings make for exceptionally high quality recordings. Since being purchased from VU (Vivendi Universal) Net in 2004, the prices on eMusic have been slowly creeping ever upward, and they're approaching the cost of Amazon tracks. If that happens, I'll probably switch to Amazon for my music acquisition needs.

* Cold Facts - Rodriquez: (12 songs) Discovered by watching the movie "Searching for Sugarman". An outstanding example of 70s music. Acoustic, almost folk, yet telling a tale of the 70s and the urban struggles of that age. The music is moving, melodic and socially poignant. A clear picture of the 70s emerges as you embrace the lyrics of this urban legend.
* Empire - Kasabian: (11 songs) My second download from a favorite band. Why it took me so long to download this album defies explanation. The blend of progressive rock and electronic beats just can't be beat. The percussive, pulsing energy is mixed with psychedelic instrumentals and some excellent electronic in the mix.
* Sound Affects - The Jam: (11 songs) Honestly I can't imagine why this is only my second album by the Jam. I know that I've been listening to them for a long time. I first discovered them back in the 80s. This favorite band is one of the great bands to emerge from Britain's early punk movement of the late 70's. The Jam proved the 3 minute hook-driven guitar rock formula. This album is a great introduction to the band (as is 'The Greatest Hits').
* My Head is an Animal - Of Monsters and Men: (12 tracks) An excellent discovery. I just can't remember where I first heard this band. I like the syrupy sweet summer sounds of this group, the upbeat pacing and the catchy tempo. It may not last beyond this one album, but it certainly hit the sweet spot as summer started breaking in May of 2013.

Starbucks gives away free iTunes Tracks:
Kim and I occasionally visit Starbucks to pick up some java juice. While we're there, we grab the most recent Starbucks Pick of the Week card. Starbucks and iTunes have teamed up to reward loyal customers with these handpicked downloads. Just visit your local Starbucks every Tuesday to pick up the latest free Pick of the Week card. Here are a few of the tracks I downloaded recently.
* Where Not To Look For Freedom - The Belle Brigade: (Single) Yes, I had this song on a 'Starbucks' download card, but the card had expired - Bummer! After listening to the song I knew I had to have a copy that I could listen to over and over. The band reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac with their sweet 70s influenced Pop, breezy hooks and acoustic finish.
* Sweet Louise - The Belle Brigade: (Single) Here's another song from the band's self-titled debut album - Which I have since added to my eMusic 'must have' queue. The Belle Brigade is a brother and sister pop duo. The vocal harmonies are tightly woven with elements of folk and a fair share of personal investment. While this single wasn't offered by Starbucks, I liked 'Where Not To Look For Freedom' so much that I had to find more samples of this outstanding new band.
* Bye Bye Love - Madeleine Peyroux: (Single) Smoking hot, sultry, blue Jazz. Vocals that make you want to cry. While I downloaded this track as a Single using a Starbucks/iTunes card, I also found the entire album to be just as enjoyable as the single. This woman is a fantastic Jazz Singer. She belts out the blues like no one else can. The musical accompaniment is uncomplicated, simple, and properly timed. The perfect accompaniment to her voice.

Web site downloads:
I occasionally download music from various websites. The websites of the artists, the artists label, music festival websites, music review sites, etc, etc. Their are gobs of places where you can find free music. We're in a whole new era now. Gone are the monopolistic controls of the music industry. Music is becoming free - Free to anyone who takes the time to look for it. If you can't find free, legal, music - you're not looking very hard.
* Down in the Dirt - Black Flag: (Single) Here's a new release from a band that's undergone a lot of change, controversy and commercial resurrection. This particular track is the first release from a reformed 'Black Flag'. Carrying an original guitarist (Gregg Ginn) and vocalist (Ron Reyes), the music is more focused on the later rock oriented tracks than the band's earlier politically tainted anthems (bummer - I loved those tracks). Here's to hoping that they can find some of the spark that made Black Flag more than a Rock band. This new single marks a resurgence in Black Flag; under more than one name, the music is making a come back. There are currently two bands 'Flag' and 'Black Flag' vying for the crown that once belonged to America's premier punk band. I hope one or more of the former members can pick up where the band left off back in the late 80s.

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during this month. Since revamping my music collection back in September of 2005, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. If you have a comment, question or correction regarding my music collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_online_music_databases#On-demand_streaming_music_services>
<http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2008/07/emusic-lets-the.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emusic>