The Eternal Jukebox

My Last Ten Albums, Ever

eternal-jukebox

Music is Important to Me

A co-worker and I were having a music discussion around how satisfying it was to have physical media when we were younger. This co-worker and I often have analytical conversations around movies, music, and technology. Most of the time we fall on the same side of the arguments. The latest confab got me thinking…. What if something in the world destroyed the ability to access music so effortlessly like we do today. Since I was about nine years old, music has been something I enjoy listening to everyday. Whether I’m sad, happy, or indifferent, music is always there to appease me.

There Are Some Rules

Music streaming is gone, iTunes has shutdown, Sam Goody is gone for real, and all you have left is one jukebox. This magical jukebox can play any ten albums for as long as you live, as many times as you like. Before all the music is destroyed you have to quickly pick ten albums to fill the jukebox. 

“Today we have 50 million songs at our fingertips which is great and potentially life changing…”

These ten albums should be the ten albums you could listen to for the rest of your life. They shouldn’t be the best ten albums ever made, that’s always subjective. Your favorite ten albums could also be a mistake since you might be missing out on music that makes you feel all sorts of emotions. Ten albums are all you get, forever.

Because this is a artistic exercise, our eternal jukebox cannot play “greatest hits” or other types of compilations.

Eternal Jukebox Library

Here’s my list, these ten albums will forever be in my mystical eternal jukebox.

  • Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal
  • Dirty Heads – SWIM TEAM
  • Ed Sheeran – X
  • Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View
  • John Mayer – Continuum
  • Ma$e – Harlem World
  • Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I
  • Nelly – Country Grammar
  • Sam Cooke – Ain’t That Good News
  • Sublime – Sublime
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    Honorable mention: Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

    Continue reading “The Eternal Jukebox”

    Artificial Intelligence: The Downfall of Humans

    Us humans are programmatically extinguishing ourselves out of existence

    ai-brain

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the latest buzzwords you hear in the media, but it’s been around for a long time. AI is defined as intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast natural intelligence is displayed by humans and other animals. Even the simplest of machines or activities can have AI. Think about the last time your received coupons in the mail for a grocery store or department store. Using AI, that company determined the set of coupons you should receive to increase the probability of you visiting to their store or website. It’s straightforward and sometimes helpful, but that’s just the tip of this very large iceberg.

    When I think about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous machines I get excited for what the future holds. At the same time I start to ruminate about what all of this will mean for the future of us mortals. If we continue to build machines that learn, think, and live on their own, without our interaction, we could be creating our own extinction. 

    “The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. “

    Humans are currently the most advanced and smartest race on the planet Earth. Most of us have compassion, foresight, and morals which lends us to save inferior organisms like plants and animals. The plants and animals also offer us the resources we need to survive. Machines that aren’t based on needing plants, animals, or humans will have no use for those objects. Last time I checked, the advanced computers and machines using AI today don’t have any compassion or ideologies to prevent them from one day purging the Earth of humans.

    Creating an Artificial Existence

    Let’s start to perceive how AI evolution would occur that might force us humans out of continuation. Humans have created complex machines that can think for themselves as well as learn new ideas. Because humans are so diligent, most of the world’s information is procurable digitally on the internet. A high-powered machine could easily graze through all the information on the internet and learn everything, thus making that machine the smartest being in existence. The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. This machine, that I’m going to call BAE (Ben’s Artificial Existence), after years and years of studying old and new enlightenment, would be more powerful than anything we’ve seen to date.

    Let’s assume BAE has learned all the factual bits from the internet. BAE now knows how to speak, read, and write in every documented language on the planet. It also knows how to build anything (provided it’s blueprints were available on the internet). Lastly, with all the programming language information available (especially on the subject of AI) BAE is now a world-class artificial intelligence and machine learning expert. Because BAE is smart and is, presumably, self-aware it now has the means to upgrade itself. BAE can make phone calls (in any language), open bank accounts, trade on the stock markets, take over other machines; the list goes on and on. After a while BAE could start to reprogram other machines, creating a botnet army. BAE could also invent new technologies to make itself and it’s army untouchable. Before we know it, BAE has millions of machines that are self-sufficient, self-aware, and no longer have a use for the human race.

    Now let’s crawl back up out of that rabbit hole. All of this seems far fetched and is a lot like the plot of the movie ‘Transcendence’. The way people are advancing technology and all the information we have out there, it does seem that someday it could be possible. It’s also entirely possible that there are a few intelligent and prudent humans who can program compassion, sacrifice, and self-worth into machines. In that case we would have the ultimate personal assistant / companion.

    Humans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, at least not from machines taking over the world. In reality, it seems humans will destroy ourselves before something else.

    Apple iPhone X Beard Blog Review

    The iPhone of the future, today!

    iPhone x

    Apple’s new flagship iPhone has been on sale for almost three weeks and you can’t go anywhere without hearing about it. The iPhone X (pronounced ”iPhone ten”) is the biggest change we’ve seen to the iPhone in a really long time. It’s also the first iPhone since the original where people were excited to see it and asked me how I liked it. It’s a lot like when I first started wearing my original Apple Watch, but a lot more people know about the iPhone X. The following review will be my opinion of the new iPhone, not so much the technical attributes it posses. Furthermore if you’re curious about the technical stuff check out Apple.com.

    Screen

    The first thing you notice on the new iPhone X is the screen. It’s big, bright, and very colorful. The screen goes from top to bottom and left to right covering the entire top side of the phone. This new OLED screen is my favorite part of the iPhone X. All the colors are vibrant and the black levels are so dark you can’t tell where the screen starts and stops. As a result this makes the iPhone X screen very pleasing to the eye.

    iPhone X 7 plus
    iPhone 7 Plus (left) iPhone X (right)

    When the screen is fully lit up you can see a tiny notch at the top of the screen where the earpiece is. This notch holds all the fancy iPhone X sensors that I’ll get to in the next section. The screen itself actually flows under this notch so anything that would be shown the in the notch section of the screen will be hidden. In photos, reviews, and talking about it the notch seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. After a day of using the iPhone X the notch becomes unnoticeable and unobtrusive. Most of all, this notched screen design will become one of the most iconic phone designs we’ll ever see.

    Face ID

    Gone are the days of using your unique fingerprint to unlock your iPhone. Now the iPhone X comes with Face ID (replacing Touch ID) as the biometric authentication process. To put it simple, Face ID uses the features of your face to unlock your phone. This process works in the dark, in the sunlight, and most noteworthy even when you’re wearing sunglasses.

    My experience with Face ID has been fantastic. My iPhone unlocks more reliably than when I used Touch ID on my iPhone 7 Plus. There are a couple instances where Face ID doesn’t work, but they are very minimal and easy to live with.

    iphone x trudepth
    TruDepth Camera system

    Consequently the iPhone X doesn’t like my Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses so I have to slide them down to unlock my phone when wearing those. In contrast, My aviator-style Ray-Ban sunglasses work just fine.

    Face ID is definitely the future and it can only get better from here. I was skeptical at first, just like I was before trying Touch ID, because all the previous face detection systems were utter garbage. Face ID has lived up to Apple’s marketing and I can’t wait to have Face ID on all the products I use.

    Cameras

    As an amateur photographer my smartphone camera is very important to me. The iPhone is not my only camera but I like to take a lot of photos with it because it’s smaller, lighter, and always with me unlike my Nikon DSLR. Last year I was excited by the new dual rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus. The added “telephoto” camera is very versatile and is even better on the iPhone X. The new cameras work very well in low light and the image is very clear. Previous iPhones seem to have a small increase in camera ability, but the fact that both cameras work identically at two different focal lengths is a huge leap over previous generations.

    “It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.”

    The front camera hasn’t been changed, but it’s been supplemented by the new TruDepth Camera sensors which include infrared and depth sensors. The iPhone X’s front camera takes the same photos as the iPhone 7 but you now get depth mapping which adds the ability to take Portrait Mode photos. This still evolving feature is fun and looks cool, but it’s not a game changer. As a result I’d take the real depth of field on my DSLR any day.

    Animojis

    The iPhone X’s front facing TruDepth Camera system isn’t just for photos, Animoji is Apple’s way of putting you facial expressions on your favorite emoji characters. This is probably the killer feature of the iPhone X.

    iphone-x-animoji
    Panda Animoji

    Being able to send someone a short video of your expressions and voice is endless fun and entertainment. This is one of the few areas Apple has been an innovator and I would bet it pays off big now and in the future.

    Pros / Cons

    The iPhone X isn’t perfect, but at the same time, it’s a huge leap forward for tech nerds like myself.

    Pros

    • Great rear dual camera system
    • OLED screen is stunning in person
    • Face ID is more secure and easier to use

    Cons

    • No home button; New interface could be confusing to some
    • Battery life is slightly worse than my iPhone 7 Plus, but still lasts all day
    • Front camera resolution could be better


    Who should buy the iPhone X?
    Apple fans who want the latest tech, photographers wanting the best
    smartphone cameras, and techie people who like being on the cutting edge.

    Who shouldn’t buy the iPhone X?
    Users who want the same old iPhone interface, people who don’t want the latest technology, or folks who are afraid of the price.

    The price of greatness

    Let’s talk about price for a moment. All you read on the internet, hear on the news, and talk about at work is how this iPhone costs $1000+. While that is true, it’s not that big of a deal. Now let’s break it down a little bit.

    Here are the costs of the current iPhone offerings and storage capacity respectively:

    • iPhone 8 (64GB/128GB) ———— $699/$849 or $35$41 per month
    • iPhone 8 Plus (64GB/256GB) —- $799/$949 or $40/46 per month
    • iPhone X (64GB/128GB) ———— $999/$1149 or $50/$56 per month

    You can see the new iPhones range from $699 up to $1149. The iPhone X is not some outrageously priced hunk of junk. It’s worth the premium over the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. It comes down to if you can afford it or justify to yourself that you want to buy the iPhone X.iphone-x-2

    Most buyers will be financing this phone through carriers or Apple. Not many people will be shelling out cash for any of these iPhones. Also for even further comparison the top of the line Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costs $950.

    In conclusion, the iPhone X is the future of what we’ll expect to see over the next few years and it’s going to be great. After three years of the same stagnant design Apple hit it out the park with the iPhone X. It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.

    How Do You Send Money?

    Besides writing a check, how else can you send money to someone?

    It’s 2017 and most people I know still write checks to give money to someone else. You would think by now technology has solved this problem of carrying a checkbook, writing out specific information, and bringing that to the bank. This ancient technique has finally been updates, for the most part.

    There are numerous ways to send money to another individual or business, whether is to pay a bill or a gift, a lot of services exist for this sole purpose. Venmo, PayPal, Square, and PopMoney are three popular services, but it seems most banks offer their own version. These money sharing services often charge a fee when using a credit card, but most of the time there is no charge to use debit from your checking account. The issue with using an app to send money is that the funds live in the app and the recipient has to withdraw or transfer the money to use it. In rare instances, someone may keep the funds in the app and use it elsewhere, this is common when using PayPal. Think of someone you know that you’ve written a check to in the past. Odds are that they wouldn’t know what to do if you send them money via Venmo.

    Enter Apple’s solution to this problem: Apple Pay. Ever since Apple debuted Apple Pay in 2014, I’ve been wondering how I can use this to pay another individual. While not as simple as holding your iPhone up to an NFC reader, Apple proves they have taken the time to think this through. Basically, you can send someone money through your iPhone to another person who has also has an Phone through the iMessages app. The way they do this is by giving you an Apple Pay gift card that you can load money on to send to other people. The great thing about this gift card is you can use the loaded/transferred funds anywhere that accepts Apple Pay, right from your iPhone. You can also transfer this money to your bank account, which should be free to do. If you send money to another person through Apple Pay by using a credit card, you’ll be charged a fee of about 3% of your transfer amount. This is to pay the credit card fees, so Apple isn’t making any money of this transaction. This transfer fee is standard throughout all the popular money sending services, but differs in actual percentage.

    vamers-fyi-gadgetology-wwdc-2017-ios-11-gets-better-imessage-p2p-apple-pay-03

    A lot of retailers are moving to this “gift card” scenario where you load money on to a card and use that to pay, usually through a smartphone app. Starbucks is the biggest one I’ve used and they entice you to use it with rewards resulting in free items. The kicker with Starbucks is you can reload your card using Apple Pay, which makes this new system work.

    Apple Pay person-to-person will be launching later this fall. This new money transfer system will take a very long time to catch on, if ever. The older generations, who actually use smartphones, will probably never get on this program. Don’t expect that $10 birthday check from your grandparents to go away any time soon.

    SUV Search: Complete

    Most new SUVs are good, but none are perfect.

    suv-search

    My wife and I are in the market for a new SUV this fall. We are looking to replace our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, not because we hate it, but because our lease is about to come to an end. There are so many options out there that fit our needs, which could be why this segment is becoming the most popular among car manufacturers today.

    Feature Rich

    We have a very specific wishlist for this next SUV, mainly because of what we have already been accustomed to. Most of the items are luxuries or technology based goodies that we feel every car should have.

    • Remote startpullquote
    • Heated / ventilated front seats
    • Large panoramic sunroof
    • Heated steering wheel
    • Apple CarPlay compatible stereo
    • LED daytime running lights
    • Factory-installed hitch
    • Powered lift-gate

    Not that bad of a list right?

    In addition to those refinements, we really need a car that has an engine that can really move when we need to. We previously had a vehicle with an undersized engine and while it was good on gas, merging onto the highway proved to be somewhat dangerous. Some of the options we’re looking at vaulted us into the luxury SUV space which we didn’t want to tread in. Companies like BMW, Lexus, and Jaguar have great offerings but we did not want to get in on the low-end of their trim levels to meet our budget.

    Narrowing It Down

    In January of this year, we traveled to Detroit for the North American Auto Show to take a look at some potential new models. We came away from this show mostly disheartened by the fact that our beloved Jeep was not changing and thus not keeping up with the influx of technology in this space. The early leader leaving the show was the newly redesigned GMC Terrain. Remember that car I mentioned earlier that had a very underpowered engine? That was a 2013 GMC Terrain with a 4-cylinder lawnmower engine that would redline going up the slightest hill. Needless to say, we only owned that car for about six months. There was some hesitation to lean towards the new Terrain, but the new 2.0 turbocharged engine seemed like a good upgrade that we’d be happy with. Leaving the show I was just about set on getting the new Terrain, in fact, if they would have offered a trade right then and there, I probably would have taken it. They didn’t offer me a new 2018 GMC Terrain on the spot, so we decided to sleep on it.

    Fast forward eight months and we’re still looking at new cars coming out and deciding what we’re going to do. We have a slight deadline because our lease is set to expire sometime in October of this year. Lots of time ahead, but we aren’t taking this decision lightly. While the GMC Terrain is still in the running, we’ve had some other potentials come into view. The 2017.5 Nissan Murano checks all of our boxes and looks pretty cool too. We took a Sunday trip to our local Nissan dealer (because they are closed on Sundays) and eyeballed some new Muranos. This spelled bad news for the Murano because it just doesn’t look at good in person as it does in promotional photos. Now back to one again, the original GMC Terrain that started courting us in January.

    There has always been one wildcard in our race, but it only had the support of half the votes. I have really admired the Volvo XC60 since it’s redesign last year, and even added it to my list. Volvo is a great car company, and they know it, which is why the are now moving up the price list and becoming more of a luxury brand than ever before. My wife has never been impressed by either the XC60 or XC90. “Volvos are for old people, and I’m not old yet” exclaims my wife every time I mention the Volvo SUV. I’ve realized that’s a fight I cannot win, and thus we move on.

    The Winner

    A strange, almost divine series of events have unfolded lately that lead us to pick our next SUV. I was doing more research as I always do and found that the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokees were soon entering production. I thought to myself, “I wonder what’s new on the 2018 model year?”, turns out, just enough. The upcoming Grand Cherokee updates included one key feature that was missing from all previous Grand Cherokee models, Apple CarPlay. This was the one feature we had to have, not because it’s cool, new, and easy to use, it’s because most car infotainment system are downright horrible. The ability to essentially mirror your iPhone on your car’s screen for music and maps is monumental. Along with the addition of CarPlay, Jeep brought back a new special edition trim called High Altitude which fits our styling tastes perfectly. The basics of this special edition are removing all the chrome accents, including the Jeep badges, and replacing them with matte finish dark accents. This creates a very modern take on a more luxurious trim.

    If all goes well with finances and timing, we will be leasing a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee High Altitude in white.
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    How I Did The Research

    Over the last 10 months I’ve been researching mid-size SUVs as they are announced and adding them to a spreadsheet to compare the specifications. I have posted it here so that you all can see the various types of specs I was comparing and how the different vehicles stack up. You’ll also notice that I went after specific trim levels on each SUV and only cared about certain features. This was mostly due to the fact that almost all SUVs in this class are going to perform the same and have the same overall sizing.

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about my research and hope this will help someone else make a decision on a very large purchase. I will definitely post an update once we finally get our new SUV.


    Click here for spreadsheet

    Will you turn on this new iPhone feature?

    This fall Apple will be releasing a new feature for your iPhone that could save your life!

    Do Not Disturb… While Driving!

    A new feature included with the upcoming release of iOS 11 will put your iPhone into Do Not Disturb mode while you are driving in your car. If you are not familiar with Apple’s Do Not Disturb mode, it suppresses all notifications and sounds while enabled. This is especially useful while you sleep if you keep your iPhone near you all night long. The kicker for the driving mode is when you get an iMessage it will reply to that person with a customizable message describing how you are driving and not getting notifications. If for some reason this person needs to reach you, they can reply URGENT to the automated message and their original message will be sent through. You can even set a contact list of people who get right through to you, bypassing Do Not Disturb. Of course this is all fine until you want to use your iPhone while you’re in the car. When you go to unlock your iPhone while Do Not Disturb is on you’ll see a pop-up on your screen letting you know this mode is turned on. You’ll need to tap I’m Not Driving to let your iPhone know that it’s safe to turn off Do Not Disturb mode. This is just another step Apple is taking to ensure your are driving safely.

    dnd

    You should turn this on.

    The number of cell phone related car accidents is on the rise and while we wait for autonomous cars, this is a great step to lower the number of incidents. This can also be a way for some people to break the awful habit of having to look at their phones every second of the day. Your eyes and mind should be focused on the road and other drivers, not your SnapChat or Instagram feed. I’m hoping Apple puts out a huge ad campaign around this feature so that more people will use it. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Apple should turn this on by default, but it definitely deserves some attention.

    Ive been testing this mode for about a month now and it has been great. I’ve been guilty of checking my notifications, sending messages, and browsing social media in traffic or at a stoplight. I’m ready to kick that habit and Apple’s new Do Not Disturb while Driving is a great feature

    The Apple Watch : A Retrospective

    On April 25, 2015, I received my first generation Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch. You can read my original review here, where I talk about moving away from traditional watches and a Fitbit. Now, a year later I still have my same Apple Watch, and a whole new love for it.

    Over the last 12 months, I have worn my Apple Watch 99% of the time I was awake. There may have been a day or two I forgot to put it on or did not charge it. After so long, it now becomes habit to want to check my wrist for messages, activity, and weather. At it’s core, which is receiving iPhone notifications, telling the time and showing me on-demand information on the watch face, the Apple Watch is a necessary device for my lifestyle.

    Between my wife and I, we accumulated a good collection of sport bands in various colors to keep the look fresh. One of the joys of the Apple Watch is changing the band every morning to better match my clothing choice for the day.

    I’ll admit that I don’t use the Apple Watch to it’s full technological extent. Third-party apps, different faces, and glances have all become secondary features. The watch is now more of an appliance in my life and a fashion accessory. That’s more than I can say for my iPhone which is somewhat an appliance, but more an entertainment device.

    After a year, what I use my Apple Watch for is very simple:

    • Telling time (like a traditional watch)
    • Keeping track of time (alarms, timers, etc.)
    • Checking the weather (watch face complication)
    • Tracking activity (workouts, steps, standing, etc.)
    • Getting alerts from my iPhone (iMessages, emails, etc.)

    That’s about it. Can’t imagine what my day would be like without it.

    As Apple said, this is a very personal device indeed.

     

    How an iPad Can Replace your Laptop or Desktop Computer

    Home computing is not the way it once was. 15 years ago every home had a big white/off-white box in one room of the house where people would spend hours typing and clicking away. Today, you do that same time wasting twice as fast and from your couch in front of the TV. We are getting much better at consuming multiple sources at once, but the content is being more dumbed down because it’s usually distracted by another source. Whatever the case may be, we may need to better think how the home computer is classified. Continue reading “How an iPad Can Replace your Laptop or Desktop Computer”

    Technology brings us together

    During this holiday season, when you visit with your families and friends, some of that time may be blocked by bright screens in front of their faces. For the last couple of years, we may have thought this was a bad thing. In the soon-to-be year 2016, I think that has become something more.

    This year instead of everyone sinking into their chairs with the soft glow of LED screens on faces, I’ve seen families and friends come together over technology. From talking about iCloud backups to Uber driving, it now seems our time together also includes some tech talk.

    Continue reading “Technology brings us together”

    Beard Blog Review: Philips Hue

    On my previous post I talked about smart home items and how they are the next big thing. Because I don’t like being left behind, I went ahead an purchased a set of Philips Hue lights. These are internet-connected LED light bulbs that contain 3 different color LEDs inside so that they can produce thousands of different colors. As I’ll explain after the break, using the bulbs together to create a scene is a lot better than using the bulbs alone.
    Continue reading “Beard Blog Review: Philips Hue”