I finally broke down and got an iPad. I spent part of my Sunday at South by Southwest Interactive in line at the ad-hoc Apple Store in downtown Austin, TX awaiting an opportunity to get my hands on the iPad 2. They only had 64 GB Wi-Fi models available that day, which was a bit depressing to my budget but I am certain that I will fill the space regardless. I’ve had a few days with this, my first iPad, and while I very well could have continued to live without it, I’m also finding that it is quite fun to use and — yes — I can work very effectively on it. In fact, a lot of this post is written from the WordPress for iOS app.
It’s pretty rare when a band pumps out albums in back-to-back years. It’s even more rare when it’s a band that I like that does that. Well, Tantric has delivered with Mind Control, the reconstituted band’s followup to The End Begins, released last April.
The End Begins was a second debut for Tantric, which had a whole new backing band with only Hugo Ferreira remaining from the original lineup. I liked The End Begins, but I could tell at times where I would miss former guitarist Todd Whitener’s licks and harmonies. (Whitener’s harmonies were incredibly apparent on the underrated After We Go album, and you could tell he was missing on The End Begins.) It was a band in adjustment, getting a fresh start.
Mind Control strikes me as a much more cohesive effort. It’s a heavy, aggressive album — and a coming of age for this new Tantric. You really feel the aggressiveness in tracks like “Coming Undone” and “Kick Back,” which is my favorite song on the album and is quickly cementing itself as one of my five favorite songs this year (the chorus is simply incredible, triumphant-sounding). Hugo Ferreira sings in ways I’ve never heard him sing before, with an aggression and grit perfectly suited for his baritone, and it’s great.
I didn’t think the guitar work on The End Begins was anything too incredibly special, which was a letdown after hearing Todd Whitener’s work on two albums (and the unreleased Tantric III songs, which were all aborted after he left the band). Joe Pessia, Tantric’s guitarist (and friend of Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt) completely stepped up his game on Mind Control, though. In fact, he absolutely kills. For crying out loud, there’s an instrumental on this album called “Intermezzo.” I haven’t heard an instrumental on a modern rock album in a long time, it seems like, and Pessia just totally makes it work. I completely dig that, as it seems like introducing an instrumental piece seems like such a gamble these days.
This album deserves to be heard and deserves to make it big. This incarnation of Tantric has bonded, figured each other out, and put out a damn good rock record. Go get it at Amazon MP3 for maximum compatibility, 256-kbit, DRM-free goodness.
Facebook is publicly beta testing a drastic redesign of their site to try to allay a lot of complaints that the site has become extremely cluttered with applications (oh, has it ever). While reactions seem mixed, I think this new design has a potential to be a real winner. I, personally, can’t go back to the old look now.
A couple Saturdays ago, I got a familiar itch that needed scratching — the good ol’ gadget itch. It’s an itch that can often be expensive.
I got this itch for the first time in 2005, when I coveted a Motorola MPx220. After waiting for several months, still hearing from Cingular that they were on “backorder” (read: they were never coming back), I went out on eBay and grabbed one — in black, no less, which wouldn’t have been available with Cingular. I stuck with that phone for about a year and a half, but with the advent of Windows Mobile 5.0 and my increasing text message habit, I was looking to move up to something else with a QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, the Motorola Q was not available on Cingular yet, but the Samsung BlackJack was. I waited patiently for my upgrade eligibility, which came roughly last March. I then nabbed the BlackJack on a nice discount. Finally — QWERTY and reasonably reliable — and fast — Internet access. I even had 3G for those times I traveled out of state or to Columbia.
However, some issues in the BlackJack crept up. I had to restart my data connection on a daily basis, and there were some things that I could not do — no GPS, and terrible support for Java apps. I lived with it, though.
In the last couple months, though, I’ve been intrigued by the BlackBerry platform and what it can provide. I’d never used a BlackBerry before but had a basic understanding on how they work. Everyone I’ve talked to has absolutely raved about them. Naturally, my interest was piqued; could this be a more efficient way for me to get stuff done on the road?
A couple Saturdays ago, I wondered what kind of money a BlackBerry would command on eBay. I was thinking about getting one of the older models; I would have been happy with an 8700c, with one important exception — no extended memory support. That was an issue. I also noticed that the newer BlackBerry models, namely the Pearl, 8800, and Curve, used a trackball, which seems to be better than the thumbwheel traditionally found on BlackBerry models in the past. I was used to the thumbwheel on the BlackJack, but it was limiting in that it only went up and down. The keyboard was also way too easy to fat-finger; BlackBerry keyboards are also known to be way better than most others out there.
Curiosity turned into an impulse buy of a used BlackBerry 8800 that Saturday. It arrived this past Saturday, and I see what all the rage is about. I have learned quite a bit, and it’s already become the best device I’ve used. The phone portion is fantastic, and the organizer is top notch. I’ll need to get hooked up to the Enterprise Server at work to get over-the-air synchronization of my organizer data and push e-mail, but that will be worked out. Messaging will rock when everything is set up properly. I have also grown addicted to BrickBreaker, the game that is bundled with BlackBerry OS.
My favorite feature is that I can holster the phone and have the keyboard lock and the notifications change. This way, when the phone is out of the holster and a call or message comes in, it won’t vibrate off the table. There are so many little usability things built in that I can’t even begin to break them down in a weekend.
It’s a great phone experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a lot of power out of their mobile device.
I failed to mention that I also installed Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” (yes, the full, official name) on my work MacBook Pro this weekend. In addition to its reflective dock, transparent menu bar (why, God, why?), and impressive new Finder view, it’s got quite a sense of humor. Check out the icon for my Windows desktop machine as seen in the Finder:
The Windows 9x-era BSOD is a clever way to avoid having to license the Windows logo artwork. Also note the beige CRT (and yes, I own more of those than I care to admit, but the machine in question sports a Dell 20″ widescreen LCD, for the record ;) ). A few years ago I would have been screaming about militant Apple elitism, but this is too funny to ignore (and to get mad at).
As for Leopard itself, it runs pretty well. There are a few bugs with AirPort that need to be squashed, though — I do like to be able to log on to my wireless network after I resume. The frame rate of the Dock could also use a little optimization, but it IS doing a lot more than it used to.
My favorite feature, though, is Spaces — yes, I have multiple desktops on the Mac now, as I would as if I were using pretty much any modern window manager on Linux. I love having the ability to shuffle applications around accordingly between the desktops. The only improvement I could possibly see with Spaces is perhaps better Expose integration, but I’m not going to complain too much. Leopard’s a good release, but it’s good advice to hang on for 10.5.1 (or 10.5.2 for that matter).
I’ve been trying to wait patiently for The New AT&T to release Windows Mobile 6 for the BlackJack. They’ve done so for the AT&T 8525, but have yet to do so for both the BlackJack and Treo 750. I think they’re close — the impending release of the BlackJack II is probably the holdup — but I couldn’t wait any longer.
Then, I found this thread on HowardForums — and jackpot. In about 20 minutes (5 of which were required to find my syncing cable), the ROM flash was complete. Before you knew it, the AT&T 3G startup screen appeared — and bam. Windows Mobile 6 on my BlackJack. And folks, it is sweet.