Boofest & Peterson’s Pumpkin Patch

Halloween 2011We just got back from Peterson’s Pumpkin Patch (9210 63rd Street, Kenosha, WI) and wow, it’s pretty neat!  Hundreds of carved & lit pumpkins crammed into one frontyard… It’s a pretty cool display, with some great, spooky added decorations as well.  The yard right next-door is also “haunted” and well-decorated, including sound effects, lighting, and fog.  Check it out if you get the chance–it’s only lit October 29th-31st.  The pumpkin patch is done for charity – for the American Diabetes Association.

We also went to Boofest at the Kenosha Museum earlier this afternoon.  All of the photos from both events, as well as a final “lit” photo of our own pumpkin are right here.  The pumpkin patch photos are uploading right now, and there are 140 of them, so they should be done uploading in about an hour (around 10:00pm, 10/29/2011).

Halloween festivities

Our pumpkin for 2011This morning Kevin and I carved our pumpkin for this Halloween.  Sandy had to work (as usual) so we did it ourselves.  We used a carving kit that Kevin won from the Boys & Girls Club, which included a metal star and bat cookie-cutter patterns.  You punch them through the pumpkin with the included mallet.  It made it very easy to carve!  We used a nice pumpkin that our neighbor Michelle gave us, which is actually shown in the middle of my website banner this season.  We used the stars in the carving kit as eyes and 3 bats as the mouth, and carved a triangle for the nose.  Looks pretty neat!  I like how the connections between the bats actually look like teeth for the mouth!

Today we’re attending BooFest @ Kenosha Museum from 1pm-3pm and this evening we’re going to visit the Peterson Pumpkin Patch, which is supposed to be one of the largest carved & lit pumpkin patches in the area.  Maybe a pumpkin farm in-between too, who knows.  Tomorrow is trick-or-treating.  Kevin, Socks and I will be going, Sandy has to work (as usual).  Click here for our all of our 2011 Halloween Photos.

Xoom & Honeycomb Tips

Having had my Motorola Xoom for awhile, I recently sent Jay a bunch of tips and suggestions for his new tablet (also a Xoom).  I thought I’d post those tips here so they might benefit others as well.  Here they are:

  • My Movies Pro is awesome for cataloging your DVDs and Blu-Rays, and it’s designed for Honeycomb!
  • The Xoom takes 48-55 seconds to boot cold, if powered all the way off.
  • Hold the power button down for a couple seconds to power it all the way down or to power it on.
  • To force-reboot instantly, press the Volume-Up and Power buttons together.  Do this only as a last resort when frozen.
  • Download the free app “NVIDIA Tegra Zone”, it includes all the great games designed specifically for your chip.
  • The “Earthquake!” app is great on the Xoom, install it and set a nice, scary, notification sound as the alert.  15-20 times a day it will scare the crap out of you.
  • The Motorola Portfolio case was a let-down for me.  I ended up dropping it and getting a blue gel cover for it.  I use many different apps that are optimized for portrait orientation and others that look best in landscape on the Xoom, and also play several games (like Burn the Rope) that require you to rotate the tablet as you’re playing as part of the gameplay.  The portfolio case (at least Motorola’s version) drove me nuts trying to do all these things.  The prop was nice, but not worth the trouble for me.  It just didn’t feel right in my hands with the case being larger and the lid flopping loosely behind the tablet. So I went with the gel (feels great in the hand!) and also got a Casecrown Suede Xoom Sleeve for storage when I take it with me.  It’s cushioned, zippered, fits the Xoom perfectly, and has an additional zippered pocket for other things.  I keep a microcloth in there to clean the screen and a stylus for notes and drawing apps.
  • “HD Widgets” are a must if you like Weather and Clock widgets.  This one is specifically designed for tablets, and the “HD Tablet Header” widget is my absolute favorite, though there are several others included, all very customizable.
  • Reminder – make sure you’re checking the Amazon Appstore daily on your Xoom for the daily free paid app – now you can install ALL of them and try them out and never have to worry about space issues.
  • Act 1 is a video player that works great on the Xoom, and is the only video player I’ve found that lets you custom Zoom to the size you want when you’re watching any video.
  • Make sure you check out the “Staff Picks for Tablets” section in the Android Market.  You’ll see the edge of the title in the upper right corner of the Market’s home page in the Apps section.  Slide left to bring it on-screen.  They update it frequently, and all of these apps work great on the Xoom.
  • All of the apps by “GLU MOBILE” are a rip.  They’re free, and some of them even look really neat and visually stunning, but they’re the type of games like Zynga’s games that get you hooked, then make you install OTHER apps or “do other tasks” like purchase something from another vendor, to earn “credits” or “Coins” to progress further in the game.  Of course, as an option they always allow you to skip the tasks completely by paying real money for credits or coins!  GAWD what a racket they got going!
  • Beware of scams.  Someone actually recently put up “Angry Birds HD”, “Angry Birds Seasons HD”, and many others, made them look authentic and set the price at 99 cents and made a lot of money.  Turns out they were selling SCREENSHOTS of the actual games!  Just a single screenshot was all you got, but it promoted itself as being the new HD version of the game!  They also had the letters LWP in them, which should have been a clue—this means “Live WallPaper”.  I guess we’re supposed to know that if it says that, it just wallpaper and not a real app. 🙁
  • When you’re ready to try a new launcher on your Xoom, the best one I’ve found for it (so far) is ADW Launcher EX.  They’ve done a lot to it to make it fully compatible with Honeycomb, including adding the top right and left homescreen links (which are changeable  too!) and an awesome scrolling app bar along the bottom (optional)!  I’m always trying out different launchers as well as apps, and this is by far the most Honeycomb-compatible to date.  You gain the following abilities with it, just to name a few:
  • Rearrange your homescreens
  • Add or remove entire homescreens
  • Plenty of effects to choose from for homescreen animations
  • Tons of configuration options, including custom grid sizes for your homescreens
  • Plenty of basic icon options like “rename”, edit, etc., that you’d think would have been built into Android already.
  • If you switch to ADW Launcher EX as your homescreen, before putting a lot of work into redesigning your homescreens, be sure to set the default launcher to ADW, then do a full shutdown and restart.  The first time you use it, if you don’t reboot after setting it as your default launcher, you can lose all of your widgets.
  • Also, switching  between multiple launchers on the fly isn’t a good idea.  I tried it, thinking I could gain the benefit of having double the homescreens that way using 2 launchers, but it doesn’t work that way.  I think it basically uses up all of the system memory and is unable to toggle back and forth quickly.  It resulted in everything just crawling and being very very sluggish.  This is another reason why you need to fully reboot after setting a new launcher as default.
  • There is a small bug in Honeycomb that you might run into occasionally.  I have 3.2.1 and it still happens once in awhile, so they haven’t fixed it yet.  Sometimes when a popup is supposed to appear  on-screen, the screen will dim, but nothing appears, as if it’s frozen.  It was very frustrating when this started happening and I didn’t know what was going on.  I scoured the web though, and eventually learned what was happening:  Sometimes Honeycomb can’t draw the popup properly, so it appears to freeze.  Easy workaround instead of rebooting or panicking: rotate the screen 90 degrees.  Once the screen rotates and redraws itself, the popup will then appear and you can continue normally.  Sheesh.  Yes, it’s annoying, but I guess no OS is 100% perfect.
  • As of last week, Netflix is now available for the Xoom (and all Android 3 tablets) in the market, and it works nicely.  I’ve been waiting for it since I got my Xoom, and even cancelled my Netflix account temporarily until it finally came out for the Xoom.
  • I actually like Google Books a little better than Kindle on the Xoom.  The way the pages turn (like a real book) is neat.  It’s pretty minor I guess, but the experience just seems nicer.  You sure can spend a lot of money on books though–I wish Google or Amazon would switch to the subscription method that Audible uses.  That would be awesome.  With Audible you pay a flat monthly fee and you get 2 credits a month.  A credit is worth 1 book–any book–no matter what the price is.  There’s also a lower-priced plan that gives you 1 credit a month.  You can still buy books at good discount prices as well, but I really like the credit model.  I can budget for it, and 2 books a month is a pretty good pace for me.
  • Netflix finally officially available for Xoom!

    Netflix on XoomNetflix 1.5.0 now officially supports the Android Honeycomb OS.  This means you can install it on any Android tablet.  I have been running version 1.4.1 on my Xoom for a few weeks and haven’t had an issue, so 1.5.0 should be pretty Honeycomb-stable.  I was prompted to update my Xoom yesterday with the new version.  Here’s an article.

    iOS 5

    I finally got iOS5 installed on Kevin’s iPod.  I must say, I’m not impressed.  Very little has changed.  And from what I can see, a bunch of it was lifted from Android!  Clearly Steve Jobs had little, if any, input about the iOS5 updates.  The feature that is most clearly lifted directly from the Android is the “window shade” status bar!  You can now slide down the bar containing the clock and status icons to view your recent notifications.  Is it better?  Of course!  It’s been working great on Android for years!  Apple’s finally getting a little closer to reality.  Now if they could just add something to their interface so users don’t have to stare that those worn-out “Chicklet” icons all the time… Hey, I know!  GADGETS!  WIDGETS! APPLETS!  (hey, that last one might just be a winner–it has the word apple in it…) Whatever, just some interface customization options.  I still think they’re new slogan should be “Apple: Yesterday’s Technology at Tomorrow’s Prices!


    Steve Jobs 1955-2011I recently posted this image on Facebook without posting it here first.  Brilliant.  The story behind it is also posted with the image, but I’ll re-post it here:

    A modified Apple logo has been circulating the web with Steve Jobs as the original bite out of the Apple.  I thought about it, and realized Steve is a loss to Apple, and should therefore be an additional piece removed from it.  So I modified the image, moving Steve to the left side.  My apologies to the original artist.

    Yes, I am guilty of creating this version, I confess.  The original modified version–with Steve on the right side replacing the original bite mark–was on a solid black background.  I cloned that piece into a hi-res version of the logo I found in Google Images and reversed it, placing it on the other side, then I cloned a bit of the background fog into the black Steve Jobs silhouette.  Piece of cake.  Since the original one was posted, I have noticed a lot of the tech people I follow on Twitter are using it as their icon/profile image/avatar.  If I didn’t dislike Apple as much I do, I would use my version as my profile image.  Let me know if you see this version anywhere else.  Just curious.  Or jealous.

    And speaking of my dislike of Apple, I have been trying since yesterday to get Kevin’s iPod updated to iOS 5.  I didn’t know it would wipe the iPod’s contents, and his backup failed, so now I’m trying to restore his last successful backup, which was in September.  Nice.  Hopefully he didn’t lose too much.  We’ll see.

    Sour Apples and other things

    I was preparing a post ranting about all the shortcomings with the new iPhone 4S just released this week, then Steve Jobs died.  I’ll hold off awhile.  Everyone is busy posting their condolences and remembrances, so it’d probably be pretty bad of me to rant right now.  Sure…I post next to nothing on my site for months, and NOW I decide to write something??

    Anyway, I’m back.  Never left, really.  I’ve just been very busy with work (full time), work (side jobs) and family responsibilities.  Like leaving in a hurry so fast (yesterday) that I left my keys on the kitchen counter as I walked out and closed the back door.  A split second after it clicked shut it hit me.  I was in the backyard with a locked house and locked car in the driveway, late for picking up Kevin.  Luckily (on two levels) I hadn’t forgotten my phone!  I was able to call Sandy so she was able to pick up Kevin, and I was able to enjoy my current audiobook while I waited in the backyard for someone to come and let me in.

    Captain Hindsight reminded me later that I should have grabbed my Xoom before walking out the door–then I could have watched a MOVIE while I waited.  (No, Captain Hindsight didn’t bother to remind me that I should have grabbed my KEYS either–he’s not THAT good)  It wasn’t so bad though–I got the backyard cleaned up, built a pyramid of wood in the fire pit, and was even able to find a lighter to start a fire with.  It was in the 50’s last night, so I sat by the fire and listened to my book (Stephen Kings “Bag of Bones”) as I waited.  Sandy came home about an hour and a half later, got their chuckling and razzing of me out of the way, and then opened the back door so I could get back in.

    I’m going to start posting here more, I’ve decided.  Facebook’s posting size is limited, and they’re constantly changing it, adding more and more advertising, games and crap, so I’ll post all my stuff right here and maybe occasionally I’ll even post an article link on my Facebook page.  If no one reads my stuff, no problem.  I’m used to that already.  This is an outlet for my own thoughts.  A more stable page that doesn’t constantly juggle its contents and format.

    Oh, and I was once again forced to disable public comment posting on this site.  You must be a registered user if you want to add comments.  The spammers just start creeping in over time and they don’t stop until they’re fully blocked.  I still have to watch my registered users list now, because eventually they’ll start creating bogus users and creeping in all over again.

    More updates, rants, and daily musings coming soon…