New Old iPad

For Christmas, Mom got a new iPad Air 2 and gave me her old iPad 2 she has been using for the last four years. Available for as little as $349, the iPad Air 2 is a great deal right now compared to the latest iPad Pro 9.7″ model for $499, but that is still more than I paid for my new HP laptop. I got a smaller Nexus 7 around the same time she got the iPad 2 and I eventually got an Asus Transformer which is a 10″ Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard. Unlike my iPod touch which I use all the time, I never have made much use of the tablets. The Nexus is a nice size for reading magazines and even watching videos, but kind of small for web browsing.

From top to bottom, iPod touch 6G, Nexus 7, Asus Transformer, iPad 2

From top to bottom, iPod touch 6G, Nexus 7, Asus Transformer, iPad 2

The Asus is kind of big to carry around (does not fit in a coat pocket like the Nexus) and it basically takes the same Windows screen you might see on a 15″ laptop and shrinks it down to 10″, making it hard to read. Now that I am buying some Blu-ray disks, a lot of them come with digital versions, so I have been thinking I could use the tablets for watching movies and TV episodes. The Asus, since it has iTunes, can be used to download and watch videos from iTunes and has a bigger, higher resolution screen. I bought a 64 GB micro SD card to increase its storage capacity (32 GB built in). But the glossy screen of the Asus makes it a little harder to see while on the train even when I make sure it does not dim while on battery power. Also the headphone volume is not high enough to overcome train noise all the time. The Nexus works a lot better for watching videos, but again I have to max out the volume and it still isn’t loud enough. While the Nexus has Vudu and Google Play videos available along with whatever I have been ripping from DVD’s, I don’t think it has a way to watch iTunes videos, which isn’t that bad since the only videos I have exclusively on iTunes are my Disney and Pixar movies.
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Xfinity Setup

I got my Comcast Xfinity cable TV service a couple of weeks ago. The TV package is pretty stripped down, but includes maybe 10 decent cable channels plus broadcast. With Dish I had a DVR and had added an external 2 terabyte hard drive to store more recordings, so I wanted to do the same with the new box if possible. But first, there were some interface challenges with Comcast. Dish had a pretty good interface. You could set up custom channel lists, so that when you went to the program guide, you would see only the channels you wanted and as you changed channels up and down, it stayed within that list until you changed to a different list. Xfinity doesn’t seem to have that, but you can get to a list of favorites with a couple of clicks, just not as convenient as just one click. Also it isn’t as easy to scroll through channels in the guide since it stops at an ad every 4 channels. Since I don’t get 95% of the channels, why would they have the guide force me to scroll through all of those? Even if I use channel up and down, I have to go through all of the channels. It’s a terrible interface.
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Digital HD

After joining and then leaving the Disney Movie Club, I wound up with a bunch of Blu-ray disks. Many of them included a DVD disk as well so that you could share with friends who don’t have Blu-ray or to convince you to buy the Blu-ray disk even though you don’t have a player yet. Blu-ray does not seem to have caught on as well as DVD’s originally did, maybe because people don’t feel like buying disks and players anymore when they can stream over Netflix, Roku, Chromecast, or whatever to their TV, computer, phone, or tablet. Good technology, bad timing. And Blu-ray has branched off so that now there are 3D Blu-ray disk which should play in a conventional Blu-ray player (though not in 3D) and Ultra HD 4K which is not backwards compatible. Even though most of the highest grossing movies are filmed in 3D, Neither of these seems all that popular. People maybe don’t want to wear the glasses at home or something and maybe there aren’t enough UHD TV’s and UHD disk players out there yet.

Three Blu-rays, one that includes Digital HD download, one with DVD, and one with both.

Three Blu-rays, one that includes Digital HD download, one with DVD, and one with both.

Anyway, in addition to the DVD disk, many of the Blu-rays include a digital copy or “Digital HD” as stated on the cover. Sometimes there isn’t a digital HD copy and sometimes not a DVD and sometimes neither. But lately, it seems the digital copy is being included more and more often (and the DVD less and less: Pixar is re-releasing movies on Blu-ray that used to include Blu-ray and DVD disks and now including the Blu-ray and Digital HD only, which saves them the cost of including an extra disk).

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Door Busting

I don’t think I’ve ever lined up outside a store on Black Friday to be the first to get some amazing deal, called door busters, but I certainly don’t mind going a little later in the day. I used to go to Best Buy all the time, but I realize it was mostly just to get cheap DVD’s. Most of the DVD’s I own were less than $10. I don’t know that many people even buy DVD’s anymore and I haven’t been to Best Buy in a while. But this year I did a membership with Disney Movie Club and that got me shopping for movies again, this time for Blu-ray DVD’s which are in HD (DVD’s actually have pretty poor resolution at 480p, whereas a Blu-ray is 1080p). The Disney thing has worked out pretty well and I have collected points from those purchase and gotten a couple of free movies at Disney Movie Rewards. In the past week or so they offered a $5 off coupon that could be used in stores for only 250 points. 100 points is worth about a dollar, so that’s a good deal. I planned to combine the coupon with a Black Friday deal (or two) to get Zootopia and/or Finding Dory for pretty cheap. The Black Friday ads were published weeks ago, so I knew I could get Dory at Target for $10 and Zootopia at Best Buy for $8 (before the coupon). Would I be able to get both? I figured I would purchase one coupon and that way if Target or Best Buy ran out, I wouldn’t be stuck with a coupon that expires at the end of the year. But since Target and Best Buy are across the highway from each other and I didn’t want to make two trips just to save 250 points, I ultimately bought another coupon and headed to Target, not on Black Friday, but Thanksgiving night, albeit still a few hours after the doors had opened.
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Parking

I have been hearing about a new development coming that would be built where the Avondale stations south parking lot is now located. The problem with that is that is where I have parked every day for the last 20 years. I can go to the north lot, which will probably be even more crowded now, or go to Kensington.

parking

Dumping Dish

As I was writing my last entry about Ultra HD televisions, one of the considerations was whether I would have fast enough internet to stream UHD content. It takes at least 25 Mbps, which is right about what I am getting from Xfinity right now for the introductory price of $20 per month. The non-intro price is $60 per month, which is crazy since Google Fiber will charge $50 for 100 Mbps service (the problem being Google Fiber isn’t available yet at my house). I checked AT&T Uverse, but their rates are even worse and they pretty much require you to bundle cable television, which I don’t want to do. When I throw in Uverse cable and internet plus their ridiculous extra fees for modem rental (I bought a modem for Comcast for about $40) and HD television, it was still more than I am paying now. So no thanks. I have had Dish for many years and they seem to be the cheapest cable I can find, even though their prices have creeped up to about $55 per month, including HD and a DVR to record shows and skip commercials. Plus I bought an external hard drive and have stored hundreds of hours of shows on it that I have yet to watch including the last couple of seasons of Hawaii Five O, all the episodes ever of Blacklist (never watched one episode), most episodes of Twilight Zone from a SyFy marathon, including the rarely shown season of hour-long shows, and tons of movies and Game of Thrones episodes from free weekends of HBO (I watched a couple of episodes of Game of Thrones and decided it was too dark for my tastes).
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Ultra HD

HDTV was a huge step up in television resolution after no significant changes since the introduction of color, going from 480i to 1080p (720p and 1080i used to be made, but only smaller TV’s still have 720p). But a few years ago, 4K TV’s started arriving, at first only to show a glimpse of the future, but now they are actually not that much more expensive than 1080p TV’s. Walmart will sell a 55-inch 4K TV for $298 on Black Friday. Yes, it will probably only be one per store, and it will probably be broken, but there you go. I am still using my 13 year old 51-inch 1080i rear projection TV which doesn’t even have HDMI jacks on it (let alone wifi or apps), making it increasingly difficult to deal with, though so far I am making it work without many sacrifices (mainly because my Dish receiver and HDTV receiver both have component video output and my Blu-ray DVD player’s HDMI output can be converted to the TV’s DVI input with just a cable).

“4K” was the original term, but really 4K is a slightly different standard created for movie theaters, so “Ultra HD” is the correct term for TV’s with resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, or twice the resolution in each direction as 1080p. True 4K has 4096 pixels horizontally, which is where the 4K came from, but still 2160 pixels vertically). Theaters don’t use film projectors anymore, but instead download 4K versions of the movie (or they are delivered on hard drives) and then projected on the screen like you do with a Powerpoint presentation.
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Third Cousins

A few years ago when I was just starting to do some genealogy research, Eleanor told me about a relative of ours, Judith Chapman, who starred on The Young and the Restless and Magnum P.I., but Eleanor wasn’t sure how we were related. In fact Judith Chapman has been on a lot of soaps and guested on dozens of primetime TV shows since the 1970s. Fortunately the Cashin tree isn’t that complicated, mostly only going back to John Cashin, who emigrated from Ireland. In fact, all eight of Eleanor and Dad’s great grandparents emigrated from Ireland and settled in Augusta. We also know the names of a couple of their parents, but not much else that I’m aware of. So John Cashin is our great, great grandfather and anyone else who shares him as a great, great grandfather is our third cousin. Unless they also share John’s son, John J. Cashin, in which case they are second cousins, unless they share Papa, in which case they are first cousins. We know all of our first cousins. And we know a few second cousins, including the Bill Cashins and Stuart Cashins. We even know some third cousins, the Harry Cashins. I’m sure the Augusta Cashins know even more, but that’s as far as I actually sort of know anyone. Actually there may be fourth cousins because John Cashin seems to have had two brothers in Augusta, named Lawrence and Patrick, but that’s too much to keep up with right now.

Actress Judith Chapman

Actress Judith Chapman


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HP Notebook 15-ay052nr

My desktop computer died a year ago and I have been getting by with my 8 year old Vostro notebook set up as a desktop with external keyboard, mouse, and extending the desktop to a second monitor. But the Dell is showing its age, still running Windows Vista, which is no longer supported by the Chrome browser. Even using Firefox, a lot of the security certificates don’t work. And it tends to run slowly at times, though I am using it right now and it is working just fine.

Still, I was having some serious issues today with internet speed, which may not have been the fault of the Vostro, but I started looking at new notebooks. I don’t want a desktop because they use too much electricity and laptops seem just as capable, but you can take them with you if you want. I have a Dell Inspiron 15 that I bought a couple of years ago to be my main laptop and it is pretty good, but has a few little things that are disappointing like the wi-fi cutting in and out and a bad trackpad and mouse buttons. It works fine, so I am not replacing it, but after buying 5 Dell computers over the years, I am looking at other brands too.
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Disney Movie Rankings

I was researching Disney animated movies and thought it would be good to see how the movies ranked. Disney has released a lot of animated movies, but the lists I was looking at were limited to the canon of Disney Animation Studios, not Pixar, not Disney Toons (mostly straight to video), etc. These are fully animated (unlike Mary Poppins) and released in theaters, though some are compilations of shorts, particularly during the 1940’s when labor was short. The compilations were kind of a low point, as was a period in the 60’s to 80’s, and then another in the 2000’s.

At least in a few of these rankings, the writer actually sat down and watched all 55 movies before making the list, which is an impressive commitment. There are so many of these that I just don’t feel like I need to watch, though I guess if I had a lot of time I wouldn’t mind coming up with a list of my own. But instead I figured I would take an average of a number of lists on the internet to smooth out some of the personal opinions. There are some movies that tend to be polarizing. One is Fantasia, which some consider an early animation masterpiece and some will admit was kind of boring. In fact, all of the early movies tend to be polarizing with movies like Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, and Dumbo appearing at opposite ends of different reviewers’ scales. The exception is Pinocchio which was in every single Top 10 (Snow White had one outlier at #25, otherwise all Top 10). Another is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which some throw in the bottom half and some include around number 5, feeling it is part of the 1990’s renaissance. Beauty and the Beast was also pretty consistent, though while a couple of reviewers insist it is the best Disney movie ever, nobody has it outside their Top 10.
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