Block game requests on Facebook

If you are like me, you really hate being notified by Facebook when a friend of yours decides to let whatever app they are playing send you a request to play too.

Luckily, this is pretty easy to silence.

First, log in to Facebook and load this URL:

Then, on the the right hand side navigation, select ‘Blocking’.

Facebook Settings Page

On this page, about midway down, you will see ‘Block App Invites’. Start typing the name of the person who keeps sending you invites and click enter. Enter as many of these annoying people as you like.

Facebook Blocking Page

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t currently allow you to block these requests without blocking them from a specific person. Perhaps in the future there will be a blanket ‘Block all app invites’ option. But in my experience, it’s usually only a few of your friends who keep bugging you with these things.

30 Years of Macintosh

I came relatively late to the Macintosh party. I had been into computers since 1980. My parents, perhaps noticing that I wasn’t super athletic or interested in sports, purchased me a Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer. I mostly played games with it, but I also tinkered around with it’s version of BASIC, typing out programs for hours at a time, going over each line of code again and again looking for the one typo (or multiple) that prevented it from running. Nearly a year after the TRS-80, I graduated to an Atari 800 (and later, an Atari 1200XL). I wanted an Apple IIe, but the price was prohibitive for my parents at that time.

As I grew in to my teen years, I shifted my interests to girls and music. I didn’t touch a computer again until I was 18, when I got a job at Lechmere, a department store. I worked in the computer department selling 286s and Amstrad PCs. Lechmere had just gotten out of the business of selling Apple computers, and I missed my chance to experience the Macintosh first hand for a few more years.

In 1990 I moved to Georgia and found a job utilizing the one marketable skill I had developed – I could type. The job was with a small company that printed business cards, rubber stamps and other small printing items. I started out doing data entry, but was quickly enticed with the small beige boxes that the graphic designers used to create business cards and rubber stamps.

After a few months of badgering my boss, I was able to get some time on the Mac, and I was instantly hooked.

Within a year I was working 50 hours a week laying out business cards, rubber stamps and catalogs using MacDraw, Freehand and PageMaker. While I loved the Mac, I’m pretty confident that my eyesight’s rapid deterioration during those years can be traced to staring at the Mac SE’s 9 inch monochrome screen for 10 hours a day.

As I gained typesetting and layout skills, I moved to another printing company in 1994. This time I was responsible for launching their entry in to the electronic prepress age. I advised them on what to purchase in hardware and software. The company bought a top end Mac (a Quadra 840A/V, I believe), all the necessary software, and a Scitex postscript RIP and film printer. For two years I ran their electronic prepress department and output thousands of customers files to film. It was a fun job, but I really wanted to move in to the field of creation and not production.

In 1996 I found my way in to a company called Racer Wholesale. I was hired as their Graphic Designer. I had very little actual graphic design experience, but I was an expert at the software used, since I had spent the last 2 years using it to output other designer’s files.

I spent the next 3 years using various Macs to create full color catalogs, magazine ads, and eventually, websites. In 1999, I decided I had enough of designing with checkered flags, and wanted to focus solely on the web aspect of my skillset. The internet was in full on boom mode, and I found a job with Bellsouth creating websites. It was a great opportunity, expect for one detail. I had to use a Dell PC at work.

Now, in 1999, things were a bit different. If you wanted a rock solid OS that could stay up for days (or even weeks) without crashing, Apple did not have a product to sell you. Mac OS X Server had just been released, but it wasn’t meant as a replacement for the original Mac OS just yet. Even though I had to use the Windows NT 4 at work, I would use my Mac at home for personal work. I still did layout on the side, and took the occasional freelance job designing websites. I was (still) a diehard Mac fanboi, having been to multiple Macworld Expos.

I went to the Macworld Expo in January of 2000, and witnessed first hand the public unveiling of Mac OS X. When OS X was released, I used it as much as anyone could for real work. It was stable, but man, was it slow. Things improved somewhat when 10.1 was released in Sept. of 2001. At that stage I was working in OS X full time, though I was still using many apps that ran in the Classic environment (usually Dreamweaver and Photoshop).

One of the best things OS X afforded me was an introduction to UNIX. It seemed intimidating at the time, but now these days I use the Terminal more than the Finder. With it’s UNIX backbone, OS X became the perfect platform for a web developer. You had a full native Apache, PHP and MySQL environment available to you, and rock solid stability. The app situation got better in 2003 with the release of Photoshop 7. Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar was also a watershed release, in that the OS finally felt ‘snappy’ and filled in some of the holes (DVD burning for instance) that were present in 10.1.

In 2003 I jumped to a company called Interland, again doing web development. They too required you to use a PC. But they had a lax ‘bring your own device’ policy. I started bringing my Powerbook to work and used it more and more for my day to day tasks.

By 2003, the entire Macromedia Suite was available as Carbon apps. Even though I was given a PC to use, I did 95% of my daily work on my Powerbook. Others in the company started to take notice, and pretty soon, many were following suit.

Since then, I’ve been pretty much Mac only in my professional life. I still own and purchase PC’s and they definitely have their place. But I can’t imagine using a PC day in, day out anymore. Every now and again I give it a try, and I always come back to my Mac. Always.

An Open Letter to Tim Cook about Aperture

Tim -

I’ve been an Apple stalwart for years. I’ve spent way too much money on Apple hardware, software and accessories to admit to myself. I’ve also been an active hobbyist photographer for the last 10 years. I started out with iPhoto over 10 years ago, and graduated to Aperture 1.0 when it was released. I have tens of thousands of photos in my Aperture libraries. However, being an Aperture user lately is like sailing in to the unknown.

I’m writing this blog post/email in hopes that you will communicate to your users what Apple’s plan is regarding Aperture. It’s nice to see it get bug fixes from time to time, but 4 years without any new features is an eternity in the software world. If no communication is forthcoming, I’ll just assume Apple’s plan is to milk every last sale & download of the Aperture 3.X line it can, with no plan to ever advance it’s feature set beyond what it currently has.

If this is to be, all I can say is I believe Apple is making a big mistake. Pro photographers tend to live in the Apple ecosystem. That’s because Apple provides the better tools for the tasks at hand. However, telling these pros that they are better served by using Adobe Lightroom exposes Apple to a user who can leave the Apple ecosystem at any time, very easily.

You see, with Adobe’s new Creative Cloud method of delivering software via subscription, any Mac user can easily and immediately switch their Mac license over to a Windows license. Working photographers love their Macs, but they also love saving money where they can, and when it comes time to price out a machine that will serve primarily to import, retouch and share photos, the PC will win on price all of the time.

Apple has taken great strides lately to increase the cost benefit to it’s users with free copies of iWork and iLife for both OS X and iOS users. But don’t forget the pro customers. They may not be as large as the mass consumer market, but they set the trends, and they influence the consumer market greatly. Apple understood this 10 years ago as Final Cut Pro came to dominate the editing suites in Hollywood and the world. Yet Apple had to learn a valuable lesson when it chose to rework Final Cut into Final Cut Pro X a few years ago. It lost a good chunk of it’s user base and a large chunk of good will with its Final Cut customers.

So please, don’t abandon Aperture. Even after years of neglect, it still does many things better than Adobe Lightroom (books and slideshows, for instance). But it’s core RAW processor is showing its age and desperately needs to be improved. Aperture serves an important purpose for Apple and it’s photographer user base. Letting it wither on the vine is a disservice to your photographer customers and the developers who have invested thousands of hours in developing the app to date.

Republic Wireless

If you’ve read this blog, you know that while I am a long time Apple user/supporter/fanatic, I am not a fan of iOS 7. My initial loathing has been somewhat tempered, but now that we are several months in to it’s release, I can finally admit that it’s just not my cup of tea. Some things are a general improvement over previous iOS versions, but there are many, many steps backwards for usability, and especially the overall aesthetic.

So, with that, I’ve decided to give Android (yet) another chance. I’ve flirted with Android before, trying out the HTC One V for a few weeks, along with the Nexus 4 and 7. All those devices showed promise, but were not enough to lure me away from my iPhones and iPads.

I was waiting for the Nexus 5 to be announced when I saw a deal from new mobile carrier Republic Wireless. Republic Wireless is a MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator. That basically means they don’t own their own cell towers like AT&T or Verizon. Instead, they buy time on other carriers. In Republic Wirelesses case, that carrier would be Sprint. This is pretty common in the industry, as carriers like Virgin Mobile USA, Boost and Tracfone are all MVNOs.

Republic Wireless is unique among carriers in that they will always route a call over wifi when it is available on your device. What this means for you is that if you live in an area where your cell coverage is spotty, you won’t have to worry that you’ll miss calls at home. What it means for Republic Wireless is that they can route less traffic over the cell towers, which means lower costs for them, and lower rates for you.

How low? If you could get by with a wifi only plan, as low as $5 a month. Need a little bit more than wifi only? There’s a $10/month plan that gives you cell coverage for voice & text, but no data. For someone that has wifi at both home and work, and uses their device lightly, this is a great cost effective option. Need data on the go? There’s a $25/month plan that gives you unlimited voice, text and data (on 3G speeds). Let that sink in for a minute… There is a national carrier that now offers unlimited voice, text and data for $25/month. If you feel you need the speed of 4G, you can have unlimited voice, text and data on the 4G network for $40/month. Oh, and did I mention that there is no contract for Republic Wireless? And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet: You can switch your plans as frequently as twice a month.

Republic is pretty new to the scene. Their earlier entry used a Motorola beta phone, and it was known for having issues handing off from wifi to cell coverage. With the new Motorola Moto X phone (full review down below), I’ve had no such issues so far.

Of course, with any network, where you live, work and play is the big factor in how good your cell coverage will be. Here in Atlanta, Sprint’s network is pretty good. I have strong 4G in town and all the way out to my home in the suburbs. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Motorola Moto X

Motorola Moto X

I’ve long held a soft spot in my heart for Motorola. My favorite non Apple device was, for the longest time, a Motorola Razr phone. I owned three iterations of that device, and only relinquished it when the original iPhone was released.

I’ve not been a fan of the Motorola Droid products though. For one thing, they are basically a Verizon branded product. And Verizon tends to load them up with crap ware. That’s gotten better in the last year or so, but it’s still a product built for and controller by big red.

Since Google acquired Motorola, I’ve been hoping that Motorola would build a Nexus phone. That hasn’t happened (yet), but the Motorola Moto X is pretty close.

The Republic Wireless version of the Moto X comes in only two colors – Black and White. There’s no Moto Maker version, unfortunately. To achieve it’s ‘wifi whenever available’ method of call routing, the Moto X on Republic Wireless is a custom build. So don’t go thinking you’ll buy the phone at Republic Wireless’ low rate and take it to another carrier.

Speaking of the low rate – how does $299 sound? The Moto X currently is running between $500-$600 off contract for T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, so consider the handset pricing a coup for Republic.

The phone itself is a stunner. It features a 4.7 inch 1280×720 resolution screen. Coming from an iPhone, this device feels good in the hand, and can be used one handed for most operations. It’s not quite as one hand friendly as the iPhone, but I’ll trade a bit of one handed dexterity for a slightly wider screen.

Moto X Camera & Speaker Grille
Moto X Motorola Logo

I could careless what the phone is packing for a CPU and RAM. All I care about is whether the phone is speedy and can run multiple apps without stuttering or crashing. And the Moto X does.

Storage space for the Republic Wireless Moto X is capped at 16GB. That is less than what I’m used to, but it is somewhat tempered by Motorola’s offer of 50GB of Google Drive space for 2 years. If you stream your music from Google Music, store your docs on Google Drive (or Dropbox), 16GB should be plenty of space.

The Moto X features a 10 megapixel back camera with an LED flash. In good light, it takes OK pictures. Coming from the iPhone, I’m spoiled with the pictures it takes. I’ve yet to find any Android phone that even comes close to the iPhone in picture quality and camera utility. However, if you aren’t a heavy iPhoneographer, the Moto X camera is good enough.

The front facing camera is 2 megapixels, and video calls from the phone look good on the receiving end (tested using Skype).

The Moto X is running a nearly stock version of Android, save for a few Motorola specific tweaks.

One tweak is voice activated control. Your phone is always listening, and after being trained to recognize the phrase ‘OK Google Now’, you can ask the phone to do lots of things (anything Google Now can do basically) without actually touching the phone first. I love this feature, though it kind of breaks down if you use any sort of lock on your phone, because while you can ask the phone your query, it won’t answer until you unlock it.

The other nice tweak is the ability to see information at a glance without unlocking or waking your phone. As notifications come in, they are shown on the phone briefly on a black screen. If you want to see more, you just touch the phone for a moment, and it highlights a bit more information.

The third major tweak is the hand gesture for launching the camera. Twist the phone in your hand back and forth and the camera launches, whether your phone is locked or not. It’s a very handy way to get to taking pictures quickly.

Of course, the big question with any Android phone is “will my device ever see meaningful updates”? If I asked my Magic 8 Ball, the answer would probably be “the future is murky”. While Motorola is a Google subsidiary, and has promised updates for the Moto X to Android 4.4 on the major carriers, nothing has been mentioned yet for Republic Wireless. And since this version of the Moto X runs a customized version of Android to handle the wifi call routing, there’s a good chance it may be stuck on the OS version it is released with – Android 4.2. I hope it does see the upgrade to Android 4.4.1, as the camera upgrades in that release along would most assuredly greatly improve the Moto X’s shooting capabilities.

Bottom Line

If Sprint has a good network presence in your area, and have access to wifi at work or at home, the Moto X on Republic Wireless is the best bargain available right now in the public arena. If you can go iPhone less and live within the Android ecosystem, why would you pay more money to the big 3 carriers?

Republic Wireless bold move to route calls over wifi when available seems like a pioneering step for the industry. It gives the user better call quality, and it saves the network from unnecessary traffic. I bet we will see the other major carriers move in this direction in the next 12-18 months. It seems like a no brainer.

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

What’s Hot:

  • Monthly plan pricing
  • Wifi call quality is excellent
  • Moto X is a stunner of a phone at $299
  • No contract!
  • Ability to change plans 2x a month

What’s Not

  • Moto X Camera
  • Cloudy future for OS upgrades
  • Inability to use the Moto X on other networks
  • Lack of colors and Motomaker options

Overall Rating: 8.5 stars (out of 10)