The “All-in-one”

I like to write.  Next to programming & gadgets, writing is one of the main things on my generic “to do” for life.  Whether it’s step-by-step procedures at work or just writing in general.  So, for the record, there is an ongoing journal I’ve been writing for many years, as it occurs to me.  It’s a diary, I guess you’d call it.  I prefer “Life Journal” myself.  I’ve tried to include all of the old memories I could remember, which, in itself, has taken a long long time, as things have occurred to me, or as I’ve recalled them as a result of other things happening in my life.  This document contains very personal feelings and details of mine, so it won’t be published any time soon, but I would really like it to be published “eventually”, if you know what I mean.  I have included, at times, many of my blog entries and other things posted on the web, so it’s also sort of a “complete story”, of sorts.

My wife knows where this document is, what it contains, and how to access it, so maybe someone else technical enough can assist her with bringing it to the next level and getting it out there when the time comes.  I don’t know if that’s just posting it on the web or actually “publishing” it somehow, I’d just like others to know everything I’ve learned and experienced so maybe, even after I’m gone, I can still help someone somehow.  I’m not going anywhere, don’t take this post the wrong way.  There’s much left for me to do here.  I’m just sayin’, with this post, that it’s there, so someone can remind whomever is going to be responsible for “closing out the books” when that time comes.  Now back to the show…

DSub opens my eyes

Today I discovered a weird convergence of the two big issues I posted previously.  It started when I discovered DSub, an Android Subsonic client that ROCKS!  The regular Android Subsonic client–called simply “Subsonic” was decent, but lacked some crucial features and functionality that made me lean more toward Audiogalaxy when they were both excellent streaming music server options.  DSub is (and looks a lot like) the Subsonic client on steroids!  It’s open-source, so I’m guessing it’s the same client at it’s base, just customized to be much better.  It’s like the “full version” of the Android Subsonic client!  It costs $1.99, but it’s well worth it!  Anyway, one of the big features of this app that just punched me in the face and woke me up today, is an option in its settings called “Temporary loss of focus”.  It has 4 options under it: “Always Pause”, “Pause and lower volume when requested”, “Always lower volume”, and “Do Nothing”.  I didn’t realize what this weird function was until I clicked on it and saw these 4 options…. then it hit me–THIS is the feature than an audio-heavy app needs, to know what to do when another sound plays on the Android device!

So now I was on a mission.  I set it to “Always Pause”, threw on my winter coat, and hopped in the car for a ride around the neighborhood.  I turned setup Google Navigation to take me to work, started up my DSub music, then drove around the neighborhood while Google Navigation kept interrupting my song to give me directions.  It was FLAWLESS!  DSub paused every time when the Navigation started talking, and all is right with my (Android) world again!  So next I started up an Audible book and drove around some more… Bummer.  Audible isn’t working that way, and keeps playing now, blending the two voices of the book and the navigation into something very confusing (and potentially dangerous if I were relying on actual directions while driving).  So I came back home and send a support e-mail to Audible.  They responded very quickly to another question I had previously, so I am anxiously awaiting their response to this one.  Here’s what I wrote:

I listen to my audible books heavily on my Android phone during my daily commute, along with Google Navigation. I’ve been having a problem recently, however: The audible application no longer pauses when Google Navigation speaks–they both talk at once, which can sometimes make me miss a turn or direction unless I’m constantly watching the GPS directions on the screen.

After some research on the web, and finding other apps that still work ok and pause for the navigation, I have realized that it might be something that has changed in the Audible app.

I also found this explanation on Audible regarding a slightly different issue:

“We have received reports from users of the Audible for Android application, that the Audible application pauses at random. Upon further investigation, we have found that other applications may ‘steal’ the audio focus for no apparent reason when running in the background. The Audible for Android application respects audio focus requests to pause or stop playback. At the current time, the only means of resolution is to uninstall the offending application from your phone.”

To me, it seems like the Audible application used to respect the audio focus change, but now it no longer does. Can I get this ability back? Maybe if I uninstall and reinstall the app?? Or was something actually removed in the app so that it will no longer auto-pause like it used to?

Please let me know if there’s anything I, or Audible, can do to resolve this issue. I’m afraid I would no longer be able to safely listen to audiobooks in my car (with Audible) if this can’t be fixed, and I’d have to seek another alternative.

Thank you.

That’s it.  I’m pretty sure they took this ability out of their app, but we’ll see if there might be a way to correct it’s behavior and make it work.  It worked properly ever since I first subscribed to Audible and started listening to books in the car.  I’ll post the response I get.

UPDATE: 

Wow, Audible is quick. About an hour after sending that support message to them this evening, they responded. They gave me a $10 coupon for my trouble, apologized, and said there’s an update for the app, and I need to completely uninstall, delete the Audible folder, then install the updated version. So I did all of this, but was unable to completely remove the application, since it came pre-installed on my phone. I could only uninstall the updates. So I did that much and deleted the folder. Then ran Audible, signed in and downloaded a book. I played the book, then started Google Navigation. Sure enough, it worked great by pausing the book when driving directions were spoken, then resumed the book again right after. Next I installed the latest update from the app store and did it again. Crap! It went back to having the issue again by completely ignoring the driving directions and playing the book right through them. Back to the drawing board!

This definitely proves it’s something in the updated versions though, so it helps. I e-mailed support again, as a reply, so they have the entire history of the issue. I asked that, if they don’t want to have the auto-pause feature due to a lot of users having the “random pausing issue” they talk about on their help page, why not add it as an option that the user can toggle in the app’s settings? I’ll let you know what they say.

For now though, I’m back to listening to my books in the car–I just can’t update my Audible App beyond the version that came with my phone.

Movies & Books

As an update to my last post, now that the Oscars have come and gone, as far as the nominees go, I’ve seen Hugo, The Help, and Moneyball.  I thought all three were very good.  Kevin was a little disappointed in Hugo, saying it was kind of boring in parts, and I can see that for a little kid I guess, growing up with blockbuster robot movies like Terminator and Transformers.  A simple automaton didn’t cut it for him.  For me, however, I thought it was fascinating, especially the artful way the entire movie looked overall.  It was fascinating to watch, especially in Blu-Ray.  I also saw Tower Heist.  I don’t think it was nominated, but I liked it.

In other media, I finished Stephen King’s “Duma Key” audiobook recently, and I just started The Hunger Games, at Kevin’s request.  Kevin has the real book (yup, the old tree-killing paper type) and asked me to get the audiobook so he can read along with it.  He’s reading it in school too, for one of his classes.  They’re going to compare the movie to the book, once the movie comes out, which should be very interesting–and enlightening for Kevin.  It’s amazing how so much gets dropped and rearranged when books become movies.  I hope he goes to see the movie with his class though–I’d hate to have to take him to see it myself before finishing the audiobook.  It takes me awhile to read a complete audiobook, and seeing the movie tends to deflate my interest in completing the same titled audiobook, since it kinda spoils the story and totally changes the self-imagined images you create in your head when you read a book, once you see the movie.  I’d rather completely finish the audiobook, then see the movie….even if that means missing the theatrical release and waiting for the Blu-Ray release.

Book Quandary

I just got a new credit for an audiobook at Audible.com, and I’m stuck.  I currently have 17 books on my wishlist and I can’t decide which book to get next.  I always figure each month I’ll get one of them until my wishlist is empty, then I’ll have everything I want.  Nope, it doesn’t work that way.  Throughout the month I get regular e-mails about new releases, specials, etc., and it never fails that every month there’s at least one or two books that look really good that I want to read (listen to).  So here you go.  Below is my wishlist.  If you can suggest one, perhaps that you liked yourself, I’d really appreciate your input.  Or if you can suggest something that ISN’T on my wishlist, go for it.  I can always add it to the list if it sounds good to me (which would actually defeat the purpose of this post, but what the heck–I’d hate to miss a good book).  The top one–Physics of the Future–I just added recently.  It sounds fascinating, based on the preview listen.  But then again, so do many of the others.  Help!

Audible Wishlist 03-20-2011

 

Bugs

We went to a great Fish Boil today, an annual event held by a friend of Sandy’s. We’ve gone for the past few years and the food is just great every time. It was just as great this year. The only problem we had, which seems to be getting worse, is Kevin’s fear of every little bug he sees and even plenty of those he DOESN’T see! Anything moving around him small enough to maybe be a bug frightens him.

In thinking about it, it explains a lot now. Kevin never wants to go outside and play with his friends any more. We figured maybe he just doesn’t feel like it whenever his friends are outside, but now I think it’s actually his fear of bugs. He just can’t concentrate outside at all without whipping around, back and forth, constantly checking his surroundings for any sign of a bug. We continue to explain that most bugs are totally harmless, try to get him to look at them more on the computer and in books, etc. Hopefully he’ll just outgrow this problem, but it’s pretty disturbing at the moment. ParentCenter.com had this to say on the subject:

For now, your job is to acknowledge his anxiety and help him feel more comfortable with creepy crawlies. Encourage him to talk about what scares him and reassure him that you understand why he’s frightened. Resist the urge to laugh even if his fear of flies seems a bit silly. If he has had an unfortunate encounter with a bee, he’s got ample ammunition for his aversion. Recognize that contact with some critters can indeed hurt, but do so in a calm, matter-of-fact fashion.

Be sure to point out examples, such as fireflies and butterflies, which are beautiful and harmless. Check out bug books from your local library, then sit down together to read about the wonders of the insect world. The more he understands about spiders and their habits, the less fearful he’s likely to be. Taking a trip to an insect exhibit at a natural history museum is another “safe” way to expose your child to beetles and bugs. You can also casually introduce him to insects on your walks together — just don’t overreact when you encounter something that stings. Say, “Look at that lovely blue dragonfly.” And, “Watch out for the wasp.” In their own time, most kids combat this angst and go on to become fascinated with everything six-legged and small. Your child may wind up keeping worms or collecting cocoons for pets. So if a moth lands near him now, go ahead and help him shoo it out a window. Eventually he’ll learn to appreciate these creatures of nature.

So there you go. It sounds like good advice. We’ve taken him to the museum many times and focused on bugs, looked at their parts under the microscope, etc., so we’re doing what we can. We’ll see how it goes I guess.

The Circus

Last night we went to the Circus in Union Grove. We had ticket for a free child admission and another one for a free adult admission with a paid adult, so with Kevin, Sandy and I we only had to pay for one adult ($20). Before the circus, however, they had pony and elephant rides ($4 and $6 respectively), so Kevin took a ride on a pony named “Blackey.” He was an all-black pony, and I told Kevin he looked just like Socks. Then he noticed a tan-colored one and said it looked just like Peanut. I had to walk with my arm around him around the circle as he rode, and I think we did about 10 laps–quite the workout for me. After that we were in line for the main event.

Is it me, or does the circus seem more and more like just a money scam each year? This year the tent seemed smaller than last year, much less seating, and less equipment-intensive acts. This year even the human cannonball act was moved outside the tent and performed after the show as sort of a grand finale as everyone stood around the parking lot and watched before leaving. There also seemed like many more “money schemes”– a “official” circus coloring book sale for $1, in which several coloring books contained “hidden surprises” with coupons for either a free balloon, popcorn, or cotton candy (Kevin won the cotton candy) which was offered during the first 15 minutes of the show and not even during intermission, a photo op with either a giant snake or baby tigers, and even a peanut sale in which a tiny bag of peanuts sold for $1, again with many of them contain coupons for prizes (Sandy won nothing). The latter, of course, was no-doubt also a tool used to sell more drinks!

In addition to the tent being much smaller this year, the acts were much smaller as well. The trapeze artist/hoola hooper/stunt girl was a small child, maybe 9 or 10 years old! She exhibited some neat skills for a girl her age, no doubt. The balance of the show included two elephant acts (not sure even these were the same elephants in both acts though), a couple dog acts, a monkey act, some “clowning around” in-between acts, a lady doing rope-climbing tricks, and the human cannonball finale.

We enjoyed the dog and elephant acts the most I think. The dogs appeared to all be either Jack Russell Terriers or something similar. The appeared to be slightly larger than Chihuahuas. They looked like they were all from the same family too, having very similar appearance. I think there were 6 or 7 of them in the largest act. They’d jump through hoops, walk on their hind legs, slide down a slide, etc., and return right to their stand afterward. One of them even walked on his front legs! The other dog act was much simpler, and consisted of several dogs of completely different breeds with various stunt skills.

The elephants were fun to watch too, especially in the much smaller tent–they appeared to be that much more enormous! They did some dancing, handstands, and various other tricks that seemed next to impossible to do within the small ring they were in, but they performed flawlessly.

It all seemed smaller and shorter than the year before though, but I don’t think Kevin noticed one bit. He got a toy–a cool spinning ball ($10) with various LEDs of different colors inside that flashed at different times while spinning, which creates a very neat effect! I’ll have to try to snap a night-shot of it to post on the site, and he got his cotton candy, popcorn, and sno-cone, so he was very happy. As we were leaving the parking lot he was asking when the next one was, so he’s ready to come again, as usual.

One ticket to the circus…. $20
A toy…. $10
A ride on “Blackey”…. $4
Box of popcorn…. $3
Sno-Cone… $3
Bottle of water…. $2
Circus coloring book…. $1
Bag of Peanuts…. $1

The look of joy on Kevin’s face as he watched the performance…. PRICELESS

Psycho Chihuahuas

Our two Chihuahuas, Peanut and Socks, have been developing some bad behavior lately.  Socks, and recently Peanut too, has been shredding many household items when we’re not at home.  They both also shred Kleenex, but they do this even when we ARE home, and sometimes right in front of us!  But we’ve come home and found many things, including photos, magazines, books, game controllers, Matt’s X-Box Live headset, CDs, and most-recently several DVDs, shredded to pieces!  This last incident pushed us to take immediate action, so I cleaned out the small bathroom in the basement we rarely used, put in a food and water dish and a pad, and now when we leave the house the dogs stay in there.  That was last Friday.  So far they’ve already pulled up most of the carpet in the bathroom, shredded the foam padding under it, and scratched the bottom of the door to shreds.  They haven’t gotten out though, so we’re not too concerned.  We expected some damage though, so that’s not a shock.

They’ve also taken to “marking” everything in the house! Chairs, couches, doors, etc. etc., leaving us to have to clean, scrub, mop and sanitize everything over and over again.  We tried some Hartz “Stay-off” spray on many areas, but it doesn’t phase them except for a few sneezes.

If anyone has any ideas about how to make the behavior stop (without a huge cash outlay) we’d really appreciate it.  We plan on getting both of them neutered eventually, and we’ve heard this can help with the behavior problems, but we’ve also heard other people that say it didn’t help with anything when they had it done to their dogs.  If you have any ideas please add a comment to this posting or e-mail jim@jimtrottier.com.