Monday, November 25, 2019

Smart phone detox: John's Phone (Business version) review

I used this phone for about two years, and it solved a major issue for me. It was simple. I used to like to drink on the weekends, and this led to the occasional drunk text to a former female friend. She didn't mind the texting when we were going steady, but when I couldn't seem to stop even years after she had unceremoniously dumped me, she laid down the law. "Stop, or else."

I knew I liked to drink every Saturday at a local bar. I'd walk there at 9:45 am and the side door would open at 10:00 to let in a crew of about five or six of us to watch English Premier League games.

Now, at this point (I was 28 years old) I had stopped drinking on weekends and at night, I essentially only drank on Saturdays, and during the English Premier League season. Still, I needed to avoid the "or else." John's Phone solved this problem for me.

The phone does not handle SMS. I believe any incoming SMS may be stored on the SIM latently, but outgoing texts are more or less impossible without the help of say, a computer and some serious hacking skills. The phone book is hand-written just like the old days when men carried a "little black book" of numbers they might have collected from strange women.

This phone's speaker is essentially a copper penny wired up to vibrate with low-fidelity. What's sort of amusing is the headset, which I did use somewhat often. I used to call into the caller-line for the Howard Stern show every morning. I'd often be put on hold, for the full duration of the show. You listen in as you wait to potentially get on the air, and I'd do this, through my John's Phone while I walked around the city by myself.

I'd probably still be using this phone, but AT&T shut down 3G service entirely and I had too much into my number to switch to T-Mobile in order to just preserve the usage of this device. In order to solve my other issue? I quit drinking entirely. No more issues, but hey, I'm still waiting for the John's Phone 4G.

The solo artist: Personal triumph or act of vanity?

Sure, I've done it. Recorded and promoted an album of music that features solely me. My name, my music, my album. It's all about me. After the first go, it starts to beg some questions.

I recently watched a YouTube video of Cedric Bixler Zavala at "Amoeba Music" showing the audience the various albums he had picked up. I noticed he had selected several "solo" albums from different artists, for example Syd Barrett.

In the past, I might've been interested to check out the solo stuff recommended by Cedric, even eager, but I've sort of changed my stance on the whole trip over the past couple of years. My gripe comes down to motivations. I guess after the major success of say, "The Backstreet Boys" when one of the guys has a go at a solo career, it seems standard, run of the mill. But what about a relative unknown? This is where I start to inspect more thoroughly. The line of delineation is drawn across egocentrism.

If you're a capable musician, you should be well aware any combination of skills in the form of equal-parts collaboration yields the most pleasant results, every single time. That's why I'm skeptical of solo work. However, it's naive to imagine every single musician has the dumb luck to stumble across chemistry-laden musical partnerships as it they were easy to come by. This is where a solo effort begins to become more plausible.

Liner notes allow for investigation into these matters. If you look through the fold-out and find the "solo" album is actually just a long list of hired guns supporting the voice of a single person, this qualifies as vanity. However, if the musician himself is responsible for nearly everything on tape (I guess aside from engineering), the implication tips towards responsibility.

This is why I stray from generalizations. "All bands, or all solo albums are acts of vanity," is too broad of a colored brush stroke. Any musician yearning for active status has a multitude of options, if he or she chooses to self-promote and only self-promote, the jury may be out.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

I built my dream app, and this is what happened

It took me two years of work to create my dream app. It's on the Google Play Store here, for now at least. The vision was clear, as were the motivations. To create an app that allows a userbase to predict the final score of a sports game, on an active "leaderboard" type of "Buddy List." This way, you could interact with friends in a light-hearted way in terms of who really knows what they're talking about before Sunday's Bears-Packers game.


I completed all work by myself, without help from anyone else. The first step was to create an LLC, just incase I were to receive investor interest. Then I weighed options to host the web application.

Over the two years it took to complete the app, I used Bluehost and BuyVM. Bluehost is helpful for a beginner, because they lay out the backend architecture of your site with a friendly GUI and set of menus. BuyVM requires more know-how and I wouldn't have been able to complete the setup without the knowledge I gained over the course of my tenure as a sys admin/ web app dev at a University.

In terms of the actual code writing, the most difficult aspects were the front-end interface and UX, the Leaderboard, the login mechanisms, and the overall design. I went through several iterations of the forward-facing markup before I settled on the W3.css I used for the PWA version of the app.

The backend scripting was all just written freestyle. The Leaderboard was the most challenging aspect and I actually legitimately failed trying to write it once. After a took a couple of months off I returned with a clearer vision for the Leaderboard and was able to complete it.

The app is heavily automated and updates on a single script execution that I do manually. The app would be fully automated if I were to pay for a service to put the final scores into a text file for me, but for now I do it myself. Once the scores are in the text file I just execute a single script and that updates the Leaderboard. As for building the app, it's also just a single script that completes that based off of the NFL Schedule as stored in a CSV.

I guess this puts a nail in the coffin into any conversations about, "I will create an app and become a millionaire." Hardly. I lost money making this. This should also put nails into the coffin on "portability." I wrote this app and ported it everywhere, from Ubuntu to Mac to Windows 10 to CentOS, building on production servers, and local machines regularly.

The two years I spent building this free application wasn't a total waste of my time. Over the course of creating the pages I studied Linear Algebra by myself and came to understand n-dimensionality in a proper fashion. I used a book I'd highly recommend by I.M. Gel'fand called "Lectures on Linear Algebra" and found it was quite useful and relevant to the idea of manipulating a creative idea in hyperspace. Had I not challenged myself, I would be less enriched.

Classic VHS Review: Interview with a Vampire

I first heard about this movie when Richard Christy (Howard Stern) talked about it on the radio and how he had a "moment" with ano...