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  • My Top Obsessions of 2008

    Posted on December 31st, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    As we wind down 2008 and wind up 2009, let me recap on the obsessions that have kept me coming back to the blog. In looking over the past 12 months, I’ll highlight the top seven obsessions that have swallowed up all my free time this past year. I’ll also take a look at what obsessions might be cropping up for 2009.

    Here are the obsessions in order of importance to me.

    Picture the ball dropping, and countdown on…
    10, 9, 8…

    7. Death of My Treo Obsession.
    After four dedicated years to the Palm OS and the Treo lineup, and the blog formerly named My Treo Obsession, the obsession that started this blog has ended. I have handed my Treo to my 3 year old son as his new toy phone, and my Treo 700p to my 2 year old daughter for her new toy phone.

    6. New Xbox Experience.
    The Xbox 360 is my console of choice (though do use a Wii nearly as much) and the New Xbox Experience (NXE) was a fun obsession this year. We got to hear the rumors, leaks, and beta testing of a cool dashboard for the Xbox 360, which in November brought new life to the 3+ year old gaming system. I really haven’t played with NXE much since it came out, due to other obsessions taking up much of my time…also, my general rule when it comes to Xbox is, (1) turn it on (2) start Rock Band 2.

    5. Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy.
    Well this is an obsession that has spanned a decade+, and finally came to fruition (well, sort of) in November 2008. Axl Rose, and an entirely new band, finally released Chinese Democracy. So, the hype was of course huge and the album…well, more of a let down to most. But, honestly, something that was hyped for about 14 years is guaranteed to never match expectations. I can say that I have only listened to the CD three times, which either means I don’t really love it, or maybe I just got old in the past 14 years. You decide. None the less, it was a very exciting past few months discussing GNR all over again. I felt like I was back in high school again.

    4. Drumming Stuff.
    You may know that I’m a long time drummer. If it weren’t for Rock Band and all the other rhythm games out this year, I probably would have not talked much about drumming on the blog. But, thanks to Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero World Tour, Rock Revolution, and others, drumming was a big part of the year. From the new kits with the games, to the ION Drum Rocker, to me building (and temporarily failing) a custom Roland/Yamaha kit to work with Rock Band, it was a great year for electronic drumming. I can anticipate that in 2009, this obsession will likely continue. As my Rock Band drum kit recently died (red pad is a goner), and I plan to continue my soldering challenges of building a custom Roland/Yamaha kit to work with Rock Band, 2009 will be a big year for my drumming obsession.

    3. BlackBerry Storm.
    Although the Storm has been on the top of my blog posts lately, it tops out at #3 this year. The hype leading up to RIM’s for touchscreen device was just awesome. The release date flops and “not ready for prime time” OS that it released on, made for great posts and quite an obsession. Now it’s stabilizing, and 3rd party apps are cropping up everywhere. For me, I have enjoyed the Storm since I got it, and continue to love it more every day. Since this blog was founded on gadget obsessions, I’m sure the Storm and BB in general will play a big role in 2009 obsessions.
    2. Rock Band 2.
    This has taken a big part of my life in 2008. What a game! What a soundtrack! What a fun way to listen to music! On and on. I just love this game and everything about it. Rock Band (and Rock Band 2) has brought me back to gaming, has brought me back to drumming and singing, has brought me closer to friends and family (though my wife would disagree), has given me a way to stay close to people who are geographically far away. I get excited every Friday to hear about the new downloadable content (DLC), and rush home Tuesday nights to play with friends. In 2009, I see this genre remaining big on my obsession list, possibly with focus on new DLC or possibly the rumors of a Rock Band 3.

    1. You, the readers.
    Corny, I know. You may not know this, since I only blog about it once or twice a year, but I spend a lot of time watching statistics of the site. I love seeing what the sites visitors are reading, where in the world they live, and what keeps you coming back for more. As much as I started this blog for myself, it’s built up a few occasional writers (I’m always looking for more writers) and thousands of visitors. In the six months I’ve been using Google Analytics to follow site statistics, I’m happy too see over 5,000 visitors a month and steadily growing. My current target is 9,000 visitors a month by Summer. I’m happy to see some people taking advantage of the Store offerings we added this year (sponsored by Amazon, Best Buy, and Google), and just glad to see that people enjoy reading and discussing the same things that I obsess about. Thank you!

    With that, we’ve come to the end…

    Happy New Year!

    Please share your top obsessions in comments below.

  • BlackBerry Storm Tip: No Bluetooth Needed When Driving

    Posted on December 31st, 2008 Shawn No comments

    BlackBerry StormHere’s what I think is a huge handsfree feature of the Storm, especially for those using their Storm while in the car. Of course, many places have outlawed using any mobile device (phone, texting, etc) while driving, plus it’s not very safe to be fiddling with your phone while trying to focus on the road. So, many of us have turned to using Bluetooth devices while driving. For the majority, it’s a single-ear Bluetooth headset, for a few it’s the two-ear Stereo Bluetooth headset, for even fewer there is the Bluetooth speaker/handsfree device, and for those with newer (fancy schmancy cars) there is Bluetooth built into the car audio system.

    This post focuses on us without those new-fang dangled cars with built in Bluetooth, and it also focuses on people who don’t want to use up precious Storm battery life with the draining Bluetooth radio.

    The Storm comes with a standard 3.5mm headset jack, which is the key to this tip. That standard jack can be used for wired headsets, headphones, or any wired audio output. As long as your car stereo has either an axillary (AUX) in, or a cassette deck (I know a couple of you still have these) then this tip will work for you.
    1a) If you have an AUX jack on your car stereo, get a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm Stereo audio cable from your local store (Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Target, etc).
    1b) If you have a cassette deck on your car stereo, get a cassette adapter from your local store (same stores as above).
    2) Plug the 3.5mm cable into your Storm headset jack, and either put the cassette adapter into your cassette deck or the other 3.5mm cable into your AUX jack.
    3) Make sure your car stereo is on to the correct output (i.e. cassette or AUX). You are almost done.

    Now, you have your Storm ready to send all audio (phone and music) to your car stereo. What’s even better (and the big part of this tip) is the Storm microphone is enhanced when using the headset jack to answer calls.

    4) When call comes in (or you place a call out) answer the phone with the green phone button (as you normally would). You may need to press the soft-button for “Headset” which will send the phone call to your car speakers instead of the Storm handset (or speakerphone). The microphone will pick up your voice even if you leave the phone in a cradle or cup holder. It will also filter out most of the engine noise.

    I have been doing this for over a month, and callers say my voice is clear and loud. No longer do I need to use a Bluetooth headset when in the car.

    To make it one step better, start using your Storm as your music player while driving. play your music with the BlackBerry Music player plugged into your stereo with the above setting. When a call comes in, your music will pause and your call will come through. Once the call is ended, the music will resume. Works like a charm.

    Try it, let me know what you think.

  • 12/29 Update: New Storm OS ( In the Wild

    Posted on December 29th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    BlackBerry StormThis is the 2nd unofficial OS update for the 9530 Storm (only for Verizon) within the past two weeks. The last leaked update, .83, had mixed reviews…most were positive. Though, I would not recommend the .83 update.  It made my Storm quite unstable, and the trade off of fixed features was not worth the issues it introduced.

    I’m now downloading the latest leaked OS, .85, and plan to install this afternoon. I’ll report back soon.

    Here’s the link if you want it: (thanks CrackBerry)

    If you install this on your Storm, leave comments below with your feedback.


    I just did the update.  Here’s where I’m at:

    * Ran JL_Cmdr first, which wipes the device.  I figured with four OS updates and several installed buggy apps, it was time for a full wipe.  Details here:
    * Then ran the install just like previous Storm OS updates.
    * After the install, Time Zone is set to Bogata, though I was expecting Eastern.
    * First impression, OS seems snappier out of the box.  Accelerometer is definitely faster.  We will see once I get some apps loaded and running again.


    * Visual Voice Mail was unusable in .75 and .83.  I called VZW on this last week, and they confirmed many open tickets on VVM.  They wouldn’t tell me if there was a workaround, they just said they’d call me back…and didn’t call me. With .85, I click the “Login” button, and nothing happens.  I then try by tapping the BB button and bring up the menu, then click “Login”.  That closes the VMM app and returns an error: Uncaught exception: java.lang.ClassCastException. So, no confirmation if VMM works or not in .85, but signs point to no.


    * After deleting (Options > Advanced Options > Applications) VVM, and re-installing from Application Center, I’m still not able to login to VMM.  This has existed since the official release of .75.  I’ll be contacting VZW on Monday to resolve or cancel.
    * Music player has several issues that were seen in .83 and continue. The Slider typically never moves when attempting to FF or Rew a track.
    * Also, there seems to be a file size limit causing an issue with FF.  I’ve noticed any long podcasts (>49 minutes) are not able to FF past the 49 minute mark. If attempted to FF after 49 minutes, the track starts over…though the timer on the Slider continues to count past 49 minutes. This problem also occurs if you pause and unpause a track after the 49 minute mark.  It also restarts.  Without any bookmarking feature (which is desperately needed for a multi-media device), this makes listening to podcasts quite difficult.


    * Where’s my LED? I have not seen the LED light up at all since upgrading to .85.
    * My email no longer gives me the options of “Delete in Mailbox & Handheld” etc. After looking at my Email settings (Setup > Email Settings > Edit) there is a greyed out checked box “Synchronization of deleted items is unavailable because Wireless Reconciliation is disabled on your device.”  How do I fix this?


    * LED was set to off (Options > Screen/Keyboard > LED coverage Indicator). Set it to on and LED is working as expected.
    * The screen dims/brightens based on lighting. I noticed it last night while sitting in the car.  The screen was dim, then I turned on the interior light of my car and the screen brightened up.  Very cool and possibly a power saver. This might have been in earlier builds, but I didn’t notice it until .85
    * Windows Media Player (WMP) loses all saved settings (via MTP) when I do OS updates.  I use WMP to sync my music/podcasts everyday. With each OS update, WMP loses the device details and I have to set it back up, then set up my sync preferences. It typically loses my previously synced history too and will duplicate synced songs. It’s not the end of the world, but I wish there was a way to retain the sync settings in WMP when an OS is updated.

    Check back for updates

  • RIAA Stopping Lawsuits, Shutting Down Internet Access

    Posted on December 27th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    I’ve done some reading today and learned from sources that the RIAA, that’s the Recording Industry Association of America, is going to stop suing people that share music via peer-2-peer file-sharing services. Think of the original Napster, Limewire, Bearshare, Gnutella, and on and on. I will not admit to growing my music library in the ’90s compliments to Napster and continuing the trend with Limewire on the Gnutella network. But, once the RIAA started bringing lawsuits after 12 year old kids who’s IP addresses matched those sharing copyrighted material, I still won’t admit that I stopped “borrowing” music at that point… …then began buying from dirt cheap Russian web sites. I won’t admit to any of that.

    So, here’s the details I found today from SANS (security web site) and other sources:

    RIAA Changes Tactics (December 19, 2008)

    The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said it will stop filing numerous lawsuits against suspected copyright violators. Instead, the RIAA will work with Internet service providers (ISPs) to target people it believes are violating copyright laws and convince them to change their ways.  Under the new plan the RIAA will notify ISPs of suspected violators and the ISPs will either notify the suspected offenders themselves or forward the messages from the RIAA. Repeat offenders would be subject to increasing sanctions, including network speed throttling and termination of Internet service.  The RIAA has not entirely ruled out the possibility of lawsuits; people who appear to be committing gross violations of copyright law could still find themselves being sued by the RIAA.

    RIAA Letter to ISPs:

    [Editor’s Note (Schultz): RIAA’s approach in pursuing those who engage in music swapping has been incredibly unsuccessful. A change in strategy has been long overdue, and apparently it is now forthcoming. ]

    How does this effect your music buying/borrowing plans?

  • New BlackBerry’s for 2009

    Posted on December 27th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Touchscreen Bold and Slider Storm. Now we are talking! Those are the two devices I want to see from RIM. I will gladly retire my 9530 Storm in a heartbeat for either a slider Storm or touchscreen Bold. How about you?

  • Got Some Gift Money Burning a Hole? Cheap MS Points and Storm Accessories

    Posted on December 26th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    If you are like me, you have an obsession with one of the following…Rock Band, Xbox 360, and/or BlackBerry Storm. Oh, and you also got some gift money too that is burning a whole in your pocket. I have the remedy for this. Good stuff, cheap. I did my homework this morning and found some good deals in our Amazon store. They are listed below:

    $19.99 $17.99 for 1600 MS Points
    $49.99 $44.99 for 4000 MS Points
    $29.99 $22.99 for Xbox 360 Text Messaging Kit

    $59.99 $29.99 for Grand Theft Auto IV SOLD OUT!
    $49.99 $38.99 for 13 Month Xbox Live Gold Subscription

    $49.99 $28.35 BlackBerry Storm Desktop Charge/Sync Pod
    $24.95 $2.50 Premium Soft Silicone Skin for Storm

    I already have the Storm skin and love it. Of course, I have some MS Points, but will need to restock and this is the best deal out there right now. I really want the Storm dock and now have this great price. I also have been considering getting the 360 Messaging Kit. Now, I need to figure how to spend my gift money wisely. 🙂 Hope you had a great holiday and get today off of work/school.

  • BlackBerry Fitness Software

    Posted on December 24th, 2008 Shawn 5 comments

    I’m about to try out a few 3rd party applications for BlackBerry, focusing on fitness.  My primary use will be for tracking workout routines.  In the past, I used a notebook. Since I take my BlackBerry Storm with me to the gym for listening to music, I might as well use it to track my workout routine.

    I have found three apps that I plan to try out:

    Ascendo Fitness for BlackBerry $29.95
    PumpOne Mobile pay as you go?
    Gym Technik $FR.EE

    If you have used any of these, or others, let me know what you think.  I’m looking for some real simple technology here…like a spreadsheet to track my routine.  Don’t need anything fancy.

    If interested, let me know and I’ll report a review in a couple weeks after I try them out. Today, I start testing Ascendo Fitness.

    UPDATE: Updated and confirmed the pricing for Gym Technik is free.  Ascendo isn’t Storm friendly, and just painful to use on the Storm.  I have not yet tried PumpOne yet.

  • BlackBerry Storm Developer Contest

    Posted on December 24th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    I’m very excited about the news from Vodaphone. They have started a contest for BB Storm developers, and the grand prize is 50,000 Euros….phew, good thing it’s not U.S. dollars.

    Anyway, this is great news. The BB App Store will be opening soon, although there already is a CrackBerry App Store at which is quite good, and there are many BB apps (Storm and not-Storm specific). If you Google enough, you will find more BB apps then you ever knew existed.  That’s why we need a central store like iTunes, so we can find things quick and easy.

    With this contest and the upcoming “official” BB App Store, we Storm users are almost guaranteed to get a smattering of apps, like our iPhone friends across the isle. Just like iPhone, I’m sure we will see lot’s of useless junk and gimmicky stuff, but also lot’s of stuff we really want.

    Speaking of what we want, let’s let our voices be heard. In the comments below, shout out what you want to see on your BB Storm. Be as detailed as you want, so that the development community (possibly me included) can hear you loud and clear.

    I’ll start. What I want on my BB Storm…
    * I want a fully functional music player (just like Pocket Tunes for Palm OS and Windows Mobile). The must have features that do not exist on the Storm music player include: crossfade, incremental FF and Rew buttons for 5, 10, 30, and 90 seconds (must have for podcasts), album art grabber for missing album art, and Internet Radio integrated player.
    * Now that GPS is unlocked, let’s get some GPS specific apps. Garmin and TeleNav already have the typical navigation apps on the Storm, and the camera already has geo-tagging. But, what about some games or business apps that take advantage of the GPS?
    * Physical fitness apps for tracking workouts. There are apps out there, but not adapted for the Storm. GymTechnik’s web app works well, and I may stick with that, but would like to see some alternatives.
    * Games, games, games! Can we please see the likes of Sega make games for the Storm? I know that the BB OS is based on a difficult Java development environment, and the iPhone is based on a simpler C development environment. I really hope that the Storm can become at least a somewhat competitive gaming platform.

    If you are a Java or BB developer (or aspiring to be one), check out the contest at Vodaphone.  The contest runs through April 2009.

  • TWIRB: Holiday Music (a bit late), Roy Orbison, more Foo, Classic Rock & Snow Patrol

    Posted on December 24th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    THIS WEEK IN ROCK BAND! So, what did you think of the Country music DLC last week?  Did you get it, are you enjoying it?  I might get some after Christmas (hoping Santa brings me some MS Points).

    This week, there is not lack of Rock Band news. We got our first Christmas & Hanukkah music, plus a few more Foo tracks. We also hear that a 6-pack of Roy Orbison will be coming in the near future, plus we hear of next weeks DLC.


    we got our first taste of holiday music, with some Christmas and Hanukkah joy.  We also got a 3-pack of more Foo Fighters.  Crazy, we have just so much Dave Grohl on this game.  Dare I say, too much?
    Rockin’ The Holidays 2008 Pack – $.99 (80 Microsoft Points for Xbox 360) each or for $2.99 (240 Microsoft Points) for the 3-pack

    Barenaked Ladies – “Hanukkah Blessings”
    Billy Squier – “Christmas is the Time To Say I Love You”
    The Pretenders – “Blue Christmas”

    Foo Fighters 3 Pack – $1.99 (160 Microsoft Points) each or $5.49 (440 Microsoft Points) for the 3-pack

    Foo Fighters – “DOA”
    Foo Fighters – “Times Like These”
    Foo Fighters – “This Is A Call”

    For me, I like the bands Dave Grohl has been in, but I think I have enough Foo Fighters for the rest of my Rock Band life.  Please Harmonix, take a Foo break.  As for the holiday music, I’m so glad to see it…though I have a couple gripes.  First, releasing Christmas music 2 days before Christmas is, well, how do I say this?  Stupid! Everyone is so busy in life the few days before Christmas (working, shopping, traveling, finishing up school, etc).  Most people don’t have time to get friends & fmaily together to rock out to some classic Billy Squire. That said, I bought the Billy and Pretenders songs…but have realized that I won’t have time to play until after the holidays.  I did play it as backgorund music last night on No Fail Mode.  I have that Billy song, and the Pretenders cove of Blue Christmas….so-so.  I could take it or leave it.


    Our next batch of DLC features a trifecta of classic rock tracks from such notable bands as Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, and James Gang. Additionally, a single from Scottish alternative rock group Snow Patrol’s latest record will be up for your rocking pleasure.

    The full list is as follows:

    Deep Purple – “Space Truckin'”
    James Gang – “Funk #49”
    Jethro Tull – “Hymn 43”
    Snow Patrol – “Take Back the City”

    All songs will be available for 160 MS points on Xbox Live Marketplace, and $1.99 on the PlayStation Network.

    The release dates for these songs will be December 30th on Xbox Live Marketplace, and January 8th on the PlayStation Network, due to Sony being on holiday next week.
    If you read the earlier breaking rumor, Axl Rose has been quoted as saying, “I think that’s a yes on Rock Band” when asked if Chinese Democracy would be available in its entirety to the Rock Band community. No date yet, no pricing yet, but it looks like it’s coming. Where’s Appetite and Use Your Illusion? C’mon Axl, you will make a killing if you release those albums. Illusions 1 & 2 is 30 songs….I would go broke buying every track.

    FUTURE dropped another bomb this week, as they announced an upcoming 6-pack of Roy Orbison.  That is likely to drop in January. So, are you fired up for some “Oh, Pretty Woman”?

  • PlayStation Home virtual world hacked

    Posted on December 23rd, 2008 Shawn No comments

    This isn’t specifically one of my obsessions, but it does relate to (1) what we talk about here and (2) what I do when I’m not obsessing. Developers have found a way to exploit vulnerabilities within the software’s code to allow them to customize their PlayStation Home experience beyond the options provided by Sony.
    Read more…

    What do you think?

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