Monday, December 23, 2013

Akooma



....because sometimes it's just fun to scare people.

I received the latest in the prototypes of one of my design concept shirts.  This one features a Japanese Demon with the Pungentees logo on the front and the back.  The logo on the back is far too large, but I wanted to test this vendors printing process more than the actual shirt.  As I'm continuing to use an American Apparel 2001 T-Shirt, I expect the fit and material to be consistent with other prototypes I received from an outfit in Texas.  They, however, took too long in production and shipping.  The new vendor took exactly ten days to get me a shirt after order, including an email exchange confirming exactly what I wanted design wise.

Everything looks to be on schedule for a Christmas Day launch with three unique designs. The image below is dubbed Akooma.  The prototype has a large image pattern on the front with a large logo on the back.  The actual front image will be scaled down by 50% with the company logo being reduced by 66%.  The image I have in my head is something relatively discrete, requiring the viewer to take a closer look to see the manufacturer.
























Is that really what the back of my head looks like?!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Pebble in the gearworks...



Watches.  An important part of any gentleman's arsenal of accoutrements.  They allow us to track the time we spend as currency throughout the day.  They afford us the ability to meet our responsibilities at the mark that we intend.  ...and they provide a great accessory to each one of our sordid crimes.

Time..is always of the essence.  Were it not so, then we could easily languish throughout the day...floating along in the sea of life.  ...but still, the timepiece has evolved from the most basic of function.  It no longer only displays the time of day.  The average watch now incorporates the ability to track the day of the month, the sweep of seconds and even sometimes the hand of father time in locations thousands of miles from the current.  The intelligence of man has allowed us to make our every day tools even more so.

For the Smart Man should be a Smart Watch.  This day and age has brought us a number of offerings from a number of Smart Companies.  Sony and Samsung bring us products that wield as much, if not more, power than than some Smart Phones, though their price points ($250+) leave much to be desired.  A number of smaller companies make less expensive offerings, but a fear of the unknown wins out against them.

Then, one day...you stumble upon review upon review for a little upstart.  You read about how their Kickstarter campaign has drawn much attention....generating far greater capital than requested by it's proprietors.You think about how limited the functionality of their product is at the moment, providing just SMS, Caller ID and Email. ...and yet, is that not enough? 

I suppose there are those that need something more....well....more.   Perhaps a watch that takes pictures.  Perhaps one that can talk to them or send messages on their behalf.  Or perhaps one that sings them lullabies as they meander through the different levels of the heaven we know as sleep. 

Perhaps.  Perhaps.  ...but not I.  I need a simple IDD (Information Delivery Device).  Let me know when I receive a text message (kudos for actually showing me the body of the message) or an email...or when my wife decides to change her drink order in the midst of a Backstreet Boys concert while I'm on line looking for anything to numb my auditory nerves enough to survive a night of screaming teenage girls  (they are ALL "teenage girls" around the BSBs).

I digress... 

Enter the Pebble Smart Watch















I've had mine for a few months.  Paired it via bluetooth to both my former iPhone 5 and my current Galaxy Note 2.  It's saved me from impending doom numerous times and helped me stay abreast of my SMS messages and incoming calls with aplomb.  That it costs only $150 makes it ever more alluring when compared to the Big Brand offerings.  The standard capabilities are as mentioned, but the watches ecosystem is ever growing.  New apps are available to relay sports scores or weather information and maybe...maybe... time.   Yes....time.  That unforgiving foe.  The stalwart warrior dragging us down into the muck and mire from whence we came.   We fight on yet...against our frigid enemy.

I digress, yet again.


The PSW comes in a multitude of colors and from an expanding number of retailers.  Best Buy now carries it and it's freely available on Amazon (for $120 as of this writing).   Any standard 22mm watchband can be switched out to replace the OEM rubber.  Skins and Screen Protectors available to customize and defend to the hearts content. While I could continue to opine on it's virtues, I suggest a simple Google search to find further reviews and banter.  Far more has been said by a few than the few words that I can continue to spew.


Revel in these pictures of my Pebble Smart Watch after some recent modifications:

























Needless to say.. the Pebble Smart Watch gets Two Wings Up!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

.. sampling-shampling.


Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.. Humpty Dumpty had a big fall....sounds to me like Humpty Dumpty should have worn one of these shirts to soften his landing. 

I've received the first of a series of samples for Pungentees.com.  These are more "prototype" than "final product", but their purpose for existence was to show me accurate sizing, material and finish quality.  I immediately see problems with two of my designs, but I am happy with the American Apparel shirts used for manufacture.  There are many more changes to the designs going froward, but I am encouraged.

A few more teaser shots:








....blah blah blah..blahh... KitKat!



WARNING: TECHNOBABBLE AHEAD!!

..and so it goes...fording through the winter of my discontent.  I picked up my old iPhone 5 for the last time a few days ago in an effort to wipe it's databanks of my personal information and clean it up for sale to a friend of mine.  During the process, though...I thought to myself, "Self...are you truly being a friend by selling this phone to your buddy, knowing full well that Apple is the Bane to your Batman?".   Let me explain.

Approximately two weeks ago, my wife's iPhone 5 died.  Well...not truly.  It's not actually dead.  It lives...somewhere...in that ethereal plane between life and death.  Not quite in the darkness, but certainly not any longer in the light.  Existing only in the grey.  Of which there are not fifty shades..just one cold, dreary...grey.

Yes..grey.  As in ....a grey, nonfunctional, totally devoid of function WiFi/Bluetooth control toggle.  At the same time..the iPhone got hot.  Very hot.  Such an odd phenomenon?!  Actually...not odd at all.

Over the last four months I've known no less than FOUR people that had this same thing happen to their iDevices.The Wifi intermittently drops it's connection to a good strong connection with ever increasing frequency.  Then one day, it magically heats up resulting in a total loss of Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity.  Going into the Settings menu show the toggle for both functions to be normal and in the On position.  Restarting the phone or turning the Wifi Off results in the toggle turning into the aforementioned grey...cold, dreary grey.

What say you????  Coincidence?  Two new models join the fray and all of a sudden a perfectly good, barely a year old iPhone 5 dies?  That a Google search indicates that this happens rather frequently with iDevices should not be cause for concern?  This problem seems to have intensified with the release of iOS6 and now even more so with the updates to iOS7.

I have a theory for the cause, though.  With each iteration of the Operating system, Apple (like most manufacturers) touts greater compatibility, aesthetics and performance.  It is this last "improvement" that i believe leads to the issues I'm discussing.  As most will know, one way to increase a wireless chipset's performance (or any other chipset's for that matter) is by increasing the amount of power it receives.  I can "imagine" that with the last two iterations, the voltage to said chipsets was increased, if even just barely.  That the internals of the iPhone, along with every other smartphone, value slim components, I can easily believe that said increases of voltage would push the internal electronics to the upper margins (or over, even) of there operating range and thus expedite the failure rate. I suppose it's one way to help plan obsolescence. 

That this seems to be happening more frequently and without adequate acknowledgement by Apple themselves, gives credence to my hypothesis.  ...but I digress. The point had not been originally to express my displeasure with support from Apple (though I still think of the iDevices to be excellent products) for something that seems to have been created by there own zeal.


For shame, Apple....for shame!

Yet still...out of the darkness rises the light. My displeasure with Apple lead me back to the Android ecosystem. I'd had dalliances with a couple of Android phones in the past..a Droid Eris and the venerable Droid Incredible (which I just reacquired from my brother for testing purposes), but had moved on to the iPhone (with a Windows Mobile phone in between).. they say that happens to everyone once they move to California.  You just convince yourself that being unique entails being just like everyone else. 

This condition has brought me back to Android, however.  I prefer the openness of the platform (though it is not completely without Google's guiding hand).  One can install any number of custom versions of the Operating System (ROMs) with each incorporating unique abilities and visual themes.  Each manufacturer employs it's own skinned version of Android in an effort to provide a unique experience to the enduser and should one choose too, you could install a myriad of themes, icon packs and custom launchers to make your phone...well ...yours.   The ambitious mind, can even take the open source goodies that Father Google provides and make a version of the OS solely for your own use.  Add and subtract as you like.  You answer to no one.

A few examples of how my phone has appeared in the recent past..both with some of my original artwork and with some from various wallpaper apps from Google's Play Store:



























Reply back with some of what you use to express yourself on your phone.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

... jumpin' Jehoshaphat! Did he really say that??!

Well folks.  I've decided to make an official go at a clothing line (of sorts),  beginning with a series of six T-shirts with some original artwork.  

Soon, you'll see a change in the blogs design as well as information and pictures of the latest offshoot of the 'Pungent Chicken' brand of offerings.  There will be an online store opening to the public shortly and I will be updating  everyone on a regular basis about it' s offerings.   I'm very excited about the shirts and have a few samples on the way from the printer.   I will follow that up with a further lineup of more comical offerings as well as some unique products....but more on that later. 

What I'm hoping to get...from you...yes...you there, sitting there with your lamb kebab... Is some feedback.  
For the moment,  I'd love some guidance about best practices for advertising and marketing.   My initial inclination is to "plug the brand" in the usual Social Media outlets,  but I don't want to seem desperate in doing so.  Later, feedback (and suggestions)  about the products themselves would come in handy, as I do want everything I sell to be of high quality and workmanship.  

Over the last few months I've been spreading my wings and clucking up a storm, but all that energy has lead up to this point. 

Let's work together in helping Pungentees.com take flight (Yes... I know.. Chickens can't fly! ).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

...Pardon the Interruption.



Some of you may have noted my absence from the blogosphere. I've been working a project that is near and dear to my heart. I won't get into the details just yet, but here's a teaser:























Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Albo's Book Club: Ready Player One!



I've droned on and on about my commuting woes.  It's not that I'm complaining though...it's afforded me the opportunity to listen to many audio books that I otherwise might not have had time to read.  I've decided to make mention of some of my recent favorites on PungentChicken.com to hopefully turn other people on to them.

It's rare to see books that meld modern pop-culture with a great narrative without falling into cliche.  The test is always whether or not the story seems contrived. I found a book recently that brings together a lot of nerdy memories from the 1980's (ostensibly I'm a child of the 80's...though I more fairly recall the 90's) with a classic zero-to-hero story.  It's hallmarks include virtual reality, Ultraman, Dungeons & Dragons-like games and my faves.... Mechagodzilla!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a story that pulls it all off nicely .  It follows a kid that unwittingly becomes the hero of a story he never meant to be a part of.  He struggles to meet his daily goal of survival, only to end up going on the journey of a lifetime.  He's accompanied by an assortment of characters that he's never met in real life..only through a virtual world (the Oasis) that everyone is addicted to.  The real world is falling apart, but one can be anything in the Oasis.

I'm not going to blow up the plot-line, but do your self a favor and check out this book for a fun read.  It's Ender's Game meets Lord of the Rings meets a plate of bacon!!

Two Wings Up!!!

Ernest Cline...your rock!  Drop me a line.

Ready Player One 

P.S. Extra points for the audiobook.  It's expertly narrated by none other than Wil Wheaton. 
 





Return of the Pungent Chicken Podcast - Episode 3: A New Dope

Episode 3: A New Dope


Monday, October 21, 2013

...does not compute! (Part Three)






As i mentioned in my previous post, Valhalla suffered some teething problems.  Having solved those, it gave us an opportunity to "finish" the work in The Shire.  My ongoing missions will to a0 utilize this space to the fullest extent possible and b) keep it as neat as possible.  The latter will be mad easier by Valhalla.  This is quite easily the fastest, quietest and most advanced PC I've made for myself.  I've hooked it all up to a 27" Samsung LED monitor as well as an AOC USB3.0 Display Link monitor to extend the desktop.  The result is impressive.

Without further ado.....The Shire:












Thursday, October 17, 2013

...does not compute! (Part Two)



For the first two days, the system ran flawlessly, but yesterday I made note of Windows 8's version of the Blue Screen of Death.  It seemed to start when I installed a number of programs en-batch via Ninite, but became more frequent once I installed the latest AMD Catalyst Suite for the HD7850.  The error message seemed to center around a memory management issue.  I had wondered if there was a hardware problem with the motherboard or perhaps one or more RAM module, but further research led me to believe the stated timing specs for the ram were not jiving with what the motherboard was auto-detecting.

I had some time to investigate the issue last night and so booting into the BIOS confirmed my hypothesis.  I manually adjusted the timing values and increased the supplied voltage from 1.50v to 1.55v for good measure.  A small increase of voltage to the CPU and Front Side Bus also helped insure that the vital parts of the machine got enough juice to do whatever it is they do. The tweaks in the BIOS allowed me to finally have a stable system with no BSOD's after 3 hours of break-in testing.  I did, however, find that my aforementioned water cooling setup works well without it's fan in all but extreme usage cases.  With all eight cores of the FX-8320 running above 75% efficiency, the core temp jumped from 35C all the way up to 70C (Ouch!!).  Not acceptable!   I'll be rerouting the hoses for the Water Cooler and mounting the fan to the radiator tonight to provide the additional cooling that it needs.  I may actually experiment with a dual fan setup with one fan attached to the "front" of the radiator to draw air into it's core and one fan on the opposite side to help expedite the exit of the air.


Pictures to follow in Part Three....








...ok.... here are some teaser pics:




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

...does not compute! (Part One)


WARNING...TECHNOBABBLE AHEAD!!!


I'm a geek...or a nerd...no..not a nerd.  Well... maybe a nerd.

Anywhoooo.

I play hard ball when it comes to technology.  I wouldn't say that I'm an early adopter, but I do get my hands dirty with custom built PC's when the need for a new system arises.  I've reached one of those periods now.  As mentioned in a recent post, we've remodeled one of our spare bedrooms into an office space (known as "The Shire").  I fully intend to make good use of this space with many of the projects I have going currently. To that end I decided to build a new PC with a mixture of old and new components.  In an effort to chronicle the build, I've decided to post the meat & potatoes here (parts list in your parlance).

Project: Valhalla  (Yes....it's true.  I endow my PC's with Norse nomenclature (ie. Odin, Thor and Yggdrasil).  My Wifi Network's SSID is Asgard.  I know.  I'm a dork.)

Case: Silverstone FT03S - I chose this case for three reasons 1) It's smallish form factor.  Most PC cases are a traditional tower design, however this one is slimmer 2) Aesthetics.  This case is beautiful.  It's constructed mostly from aluminum with with a few plastic bits. 3) Cooling.  The interior design has two overriding themes.  Organization and Airflow.  These two concepts go hand in hand and I WILL get into the details later.

CPU:  AMD FX-8320 - 8-Cores of 3.5ghz goodness!  Do I really need to say more.  I've had Intel processors in my last few workhorses, but this time I was looking for "bang-for-the-buck".  This guy provides it in spades.  The multi-core setup will help with video encodes (which I do a lot of) and any other application where multi-threading is enabled.

CPU Cooler: Corsair H60 Water Cooler.  This is my fist foray into liquid cooling and all I can say is WoW!  I don't have empirical data about CPU temps at idle or under load, but I CAN say that the radiator and CPU cooling block both get barely warm with the processor converting an AVI file into an MP4.  ....and that's without the radiator having it's cooling fan attached directly to it.

Motherboard:  Gigabyte GA-78LMT-USB3 Micro-ATX.  Not the latest or greatest, but it was the only one that fit the criteria I was looking for.  USB 3.0 ports, AMD FX-XXXX CPU support and four DDR3 Slot allowing up to 32GB of RAM...which brings me to my next point.

RAMPatriot Intel Extreme Master DDR3-1866.  Four 8GB sticks bringing the total to 32GB. CAS Latency = 10 and Timing =10-11-10-30

Hard Drives:  For now...two will have to do.  I've got two 256gb Crucial M4 SSD's running in Raid 0 via the motherboard's onboard Raid Controller.  Speed is not an issue.  I will be scavenging an old 1 Terabyte Western Digital  Caviar Black drive for mass storage, but it's not a priority.

Video Card:  This was a nearly impossible choice.  There is a huge selection of GPU's to consider, but in the end I wanted to keep it all in the AMD family.  I settled on a great deal I found on an XFX HD7850 with 2GB GDDR5 RAM.  It should be more than adequate for all my uses (spreadsheets...word docs...minecraft  ;-P...).

Power Supply:  I settled in on a Silverstone 600 watt power supply.  I could have gone in many directions with this choice, but this PSU had a good price, ratings and reputation.

Thus far, I have assembled the rig with no problem.  I do need an additional 3.5" to 2.5" drive bay adapter to properly mount one of the SSD's, but functionally...it is sound.  I installed Windows 8 Professional via a USB thumb drive with nary a problem, but had to resort to using a small USB wifi network adapter to grant internet/network access.  The Shire's Ethernet wiring is present, but not jacked on the modem side in our Tech-Closet.  I'll likely be working on that over the coming days, but first Valhalla has a few growing pains that need addressing....

To be continued in Part Two.









Thursday, October 10, 2013

...welcome back



No..I'm not watching reruns of Welcome back Kotter.  Are there still reruns of Welcome back Kotter?  I haven't seen mention of that show in maybeeeeee.. 5 years?

No...No.. this post is to announce something far grander.  I am...jumping out of Apple's crockpot and back into Androids cold metallic embrace . Way...back...when, I used to use Android devices and I enjoyed them,  but somewhere along the way, style became more important than substance.  I guess I just wanted to be one of the cool kids with just the right G.I.Joe to give validity to my status.  Having gone through an iPhone 4, 4S and an iPhone 5 as well as three iPads, I can confidently say that I have tried embracing the dark side and it no longer fascinates me.

I call it the dark side, because of it's limiting nature. The standard iPhone user has no problem with the iOS "ecosystem" (I don't like that term, by the way.  It's too....blah...but it is the industry standard, so I digress), but there are some of us that feel far too constrained by the limitations in these devices.

  • Screen size...with the competition building various sizes of devices that fill almost every niche, Apple's decision to simply add a cheaper option made of plastic (iPhone 5C) instead of adding a larger option to capture the market segment that is held almost exclusively by buyers of the Galaxy S4 and/or Galaxy Note leaves one scratching their head.  I understand the need or desire to capture the base market segment, but there is a wide swath of people that pine for a larger screen.  Note...I said larger, not longer.  My thumb was comfortably able to reach the top of the 4/4S screen without feeling encumbered.

  • Expandability.. I understand the concept of planned obsolescence.  Whether it be an iPhone 4 coming to a crawl after a recent OS update or simply a user running out of space because any app "worth-a-damn" is just too dang big, the nature of Apple's business model requires more frequent "Upgrades" than one should have to.  To be forced to buy a new iPhone should the need arise to expand storage because I love the image quality of the iPhone 5 camera and therefore take a massive amount of pictures is simply ludicrous in this day and age of rock bottom flash memory prices.  A 64gb microSD card costs about $20...you do the math. 

  • iTunes.. Simply put...it's a dog.  ...and not the cute kind that just wants to cuddle and kiss and follow you around in hopes that a Chicken McNugget will spontaneously fall out of your arse. It's the kind of dog that chews on everything in the house and takes a wizz on your computer, eating up valuable resources and leaves other types nuggets all over the place.  In all seriousness...the piece of software (POS)  is poorly written and badly implemented in the Windows environment.  ...and this boy ain't going Mac...he likes to build his own PC's...but that's another story.   Android requires no Ball-and-Chain to a desktop client.  It's all in the CLOUD, baby!...and not in the iCloud (Apple's half-assed implementation of cloud storage).   Do yourself a favor and open DropBox and Bitcasa accounts.
To get familiar with the Android farm, I dug up an old Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 that I had sitting in my storage closet.  This thing is now a couple years old with specs that are outclassed by today's flock of tablets, but it's current enough to run Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean). To those of you unfamiliar with the process involved with gaining full control over an Android device's settings and appearance, it'called "rooting". A rooted device can be overclocked to increase processor speed, underclocked to decrease the same (to say...save battery life), or simply updated with custom ROMs (builds of the Android OS) that allow different features and nuanced aesthetic modifications. On occasion, you'll find ROMs that allow the installation of newer versions of the OS on older devices, breathing fresh life (though oft short-lived) into their aged bones. 

I directed myself over to XDA-Developers.com (a fantastic repository of all things Android) and started searching the Developer section for my GT2, which is a 7" model (GT-P3113).

XDA-Developers Page for the GT2 7"

I settled in on a custom ROM built by a group know as SlimROMs called Slim Bean-P31xx that is based off of Jelly Bean.

Slim Bean

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I purchased my GT2 pre-rooted.  The previous owner had done the "hard" part and installed a recovery console (ClockworkMod 5.5.0.4) and installed a different ROM based off of an older version of Android.  I did not deem it necessary to update to a newer version of the recovery console, but I did download the Slim-Bean ROM to a microSD card to flash onto the GT2. I powered down the tablet, installed the uSD card and booted into recovery by simultaneously pressing the "power" button and "volume up" button.  I then navigated through the menu to instruct the console to flash from the uSD card (manually selecting the correct file).  A few minutes later, I had a fully updated and functional Jelly Bean tablet.  I'm still experimenting with features, but I'm happy with the upgrade:




























Stay tuned for updates when my Galaxy Note II phone comes in.  I'm going to go all "War Games" with that thing!



Monday, October 7, 2013

Mettle Man..




...Gods versus Men.




...Hide! Hide! The Martian's are coming!!



Every author needs a place to work.  A refuge.  A quiet place to put thought to paper...or finger to keyboard, as it would be in this case.  I've had a small desk in a small room for some time.  I called it an office, but it's really a small guest room on the ground level of our home.  That room will eventually be converted into a guest room as would be appropriate for any well-equipped suburban dwelling.  My beautiful wife and I spent this weekend refitting one of our spare bedrooms for office duty.  We stripped it bare and painted it Behr Shire Green. I built a new desk that would allow me to have the type of work space I need for my many misadventures and interests.  The components consist of a PRĂ„GEL light oak colored kitchen counter top (8 feet in length!!!) and five SJUNNE nickel-plated legs.  This room is now known as "The Shire" in homage to John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the famous philologist (and of course because of the color we chose for it).

I've only begun furnishing it with my requisite accoutrements, but here's a teaser pic (I'll add more...and better...pictures once I've reached a presentable state).  Take note..that's a 17" laptop on the table!