August Break

A couple of years ago, I took the month of August off from social media. I did it last March as well. I just randomly choose a month and avoid Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I usually end up “going dark” when I realize that I’m checking my iPhone far too frequently. Or if I notice my family and friends are obsessing over their phones as well. Sure, we all take a moment when on the toilet to watch a video… but in a social setting- it should be time to interact with those around you. (Using a public washroom doesn’t count as a social setting- just saying.)

I’m also choosing August as a time for a break from social media because for the second half of the month I will be enjoying the great outdoors. I’m taking a couple of my kids to a cabin with a friend of mine for a week, followed by a week of camping in one of my favorite spots in BC- Twenty Mile Bay.

You can’t tell me that relaxing with your feet up on an inflatable raft in the middle of a peaceful lake staring off into the mountains isn’t good for the soul.

The same way our electronics need a recharge- so do our minds. A chance to unplug is good for everyone.

Le Sigh

I know most of my friends won’t care that I am not on social media for the month. In fact they may be relieved because I tend to share, like, and comment quite frequently. Of course, during the month of August I still have to do work, pay bills, etc… I’m not disappearing from the Internet all together- I am still going to be writing everyday.

My blog automatically shares on social media. But while I’m out doing things with the family- I may not have internet access. Which is totally fine with me. It just means when my blogs do get posted, they may be a few days later.

So if you follow along, please bear with my posts as they may not come everyday. But you may get bombarded with a couple each day when I return to the technological era.

Data Hogs

A few days ago, my cellular provider informed me that we were about to reach our data limit. Actually, I was notified on July 20th and our data cycle resets August 3rd… I could not figure out how this was possible, since for months we barely hit our allotment. Between four iPhones, we share 12GB.

I checked our usage and found the culprits. Our youngest daughter had gone through over 5GB on her own in under three weeks. While our oldest had only used about 800MB. My wife had used 1GB. I had used over 4.5GB.

A story of two sisters who are very different data users:

Our oldest keeps her phone on airplane mode most of the time. She also has it set up to connect to WiFi all the time. She has conditioned herself to only go on social media when on WiFi as well which keeps her data usage low. She’s been doing this for a few years now- since her first phone.

Our youngest daughter has no concept of how much she uses her phone. She also doesn’t pay attention to whether she is on WiFi or not. This summer, she hasn’t been anywhere that requires her to be online. Turns out, while she was in our backyard sharing Instagram pictures and watching YouTube, she was never connected to our WiFi. She had been using data the entire time. And watching videos in full HD. I had to have a little talk with her about this and hopefully she will correct her behavior.

My wife works from home and hardly uses data. She likes to do comparison shopping in real-time when we are out. She does still play Pokémon Go and only checks social media when bored. I tend to use data far more frequently. I’ve always hovered around the 4GB range. But I use my phone for work quite often. Checking email, looking at maps, connecting with coworkers, that sort of thing. I also use social media a lot. That’s my crutch.

So for the past few days, I have shut off all data access to everyone. The biggest results I have found is that iMessage only works on WiFi now and Siri can’t figure out how to make a handsfree call when I drive. These are things I can live without for a couple more days. As we discuss as a family how to move forward with our shared data plan.

This could be interesting…

Please feel free to share any tips or advice on limiting our data consumption. I’m sure there are ways to still enjoy the cyber world…

Sound Off

Today I was going through my iPhone and changing up some ringtones and sounds. Life is too dull with only having the default sound effects set up. I would like to say that I often change up my ringtones, but it’s more like once a year. Usually my phone is on silent/vibrate. But lately I’ve been wanting to hear it again.

I realized that the ringtones I have are from movies, video games, and some of my favorite songs. After years of using these themes, I still like to hear them. Pretty sure that subconsciously, when others hear my ringtones, it brings up feelings and memories. I know that a couple of weeks ago, when I was using the ringtone from “Episodes” it caught people’s attention. Mostly because it is a very irritating theme. Also, I was getting a lot of phone calls, so even I was getting irate.

I guess that this is what makes life a bit more interesting. Sound effects are everywhere. But we become so accustomed to them that they get filtered out. I sometimes add my own from my mouth just for fun. Nothing like singing a line from a song before answering the phone. “Who can it be now?” Or yelling out “Boom” as you hit enter on on email.

These are my current sounds. I love the Disney Turnstile beep. It’s one of those sounds that you hear in Disneyland all the time, but ignore.

I’m always on the hunt for new sounds/songs. What do you have set for your phone?

Passwords

All this computer security stuff irks me. Especially PASSWORDS. Seriously- who would want to hack me?

Today I was trying to log into an online account and I could not remember the password. Then it dawned on me- I was using the wrong email address! That was dumb.

Yesterday at work, I needed to access a program that I hadn’t used in months. Because of this- it locked me out and I had to reset my password to gain access again. It didn’t take very long to fix.

Even worse at work is that they make us reset our passwords every so often. I have also had to reset my password on other sites/apps and I always forget what it is. Especially when I only log in every so often or rarely at all. Then I’ll request an email to get a reset my password, only to discover that I can’t use the same password! Holy hell.

But you can’t make the password simple. It should be different for every site/app/program. Or so they say. I have a couple of “Go To” passwords. But with variations such as capitals, numbers, symbols… I often forget which variation I used.

If I didn’t have my WordPress app set up to log on, I have no idea if I could remember my password. Same with most of my social media apps. As long as my phone doesn’t die, get lost or stolen- you’ll continue to hear from me.

No, that doesn’t mean I want you to steal my phone!

Enjoying Fallout

Last night my son and I began playing Fallout 4 on PS4. Ya I know the game is already 3 years old, but it’s new to us. As I mentioned back in January in Father/son Video Game Day, we finally got a PlayStation 4 for Christmas. We have been slowly adding to our library of games. A game such as Fallout 4 that has been around for a few years is generally inexpensive to purchase. So, we now own it.

Since we only just began playing the game and it is a one player, first person shooter, my son has taken most of the control of the character. I have sat on the sidelines offering advice and asking questions. It surprised my son that I know so much about the game. I had to explain to him that most games like this are formulaic. They follow a set style which makes it more natural to pick up and begin playing.

What sets apart each game are a few key features. Storyline, characters, settings, graphics (these increase in quality over the years), sound effects, and music. Fallout 4 surprised me in this last area. Where most games of this style (shooters) usually boast either no music or go heavy metal/industrial, Fallout 4 does not. Instead, because it is a post-apocalyptic theme, the soundtrack is rockabilly/ bluesy songs from the 1930’s-1960’s. It comes through their mock radio station- Diamond City Radio.

This music playlist really sets the tone of the game for me. I have already fallen in love with it after only playing for about an hour. The use of music in the storyline really sets the narrative. I am looking forward to many more hours of gameplay. With my son at the controls of course… because I suck at gaming nowadays. I miss my blocky running dude from the early 80’s.

My Technology Is Listening to Me… And Getting It Wrong.

Last night I tried to tell my son Theory that I loved him. Because that’s what you do when it’s time to say goodnight. I just tried to say it all cool like. You know, just kind of throw it out there.

“Hey Theory.”

“I love you.”

Aww. Easy Dad speak to a 12 year old son, right? Not according to the phone in my pocket. She answered me suddenly after a beep:

Aw man. What should’ve been a simple response from my son, “love you too” turned into a mean statement from my iPhone. I then began to ask Siri if she could pronounce “Theory”. Then I asked her to pronounce “Siri”. Then I asked her to find my son. So she did:

You see, my technology listens to me. Even when I don’t want it to.

Sometimes it gets it right, sometimes it doesn’t.

3D Printer- Part 1: The Obsession

I’ve been wanting to buy a 3D Printer for a few years now. I even became convinced that I could justify its existence in my life. Hey honey- Looks like I’ll need to reprint more flower pots! I’ll have that ready in about a week. But why don’t I just hit the Home Depot and spend $2 on some?

Once I almost spent some money on a pancake printer! What the heck is wrong with me? I know- it’s the excitement of making something out of almost nothing is kinda cool. Just an image in a program, some heated plastic and a few hours later- there it is: a plastic replica of something.

3D Printers have gotten better lately. After years of obsessing, studying and watching every video review- I think it may be time to get one. The model I want is the CR-10. It looks like a good printer with good reviews and a decent price point. My only worries- I’ll get bored and have an expensive paperweight or it will end up as annoying as a regular printer.

You know what I’m talking about. The paper printer at work that randomly stops working. Or the printer at home that refuses to print in black and white because one of the ink toners is low. I imagine that it could get frustrating partway through a 3D print only to have it flake out towards the end. Troubleshooting things like that are the part that makes me leery about going too cheap.

But hey, maybe I could print off my own 3D money in the end!

Treat Yo’ Self

On Friday I decided to buy a new iPhone for myself. I was really bad with my last phone. The 6+ was too big. I broke the screen 3 times (four if you count the pixel lines that appeared down the side). It pissed me off one time that I had to write about how stupid I was: Aw Dang. I never broke my iPhone 4! I treated that thing like gold. I took some Parks & Rec advice:

Since we are going on a trip I don’t want a piece of poop iPhone with a broken screen or dying battery to try and make memories with. I wanted something that works. Convincing my wife was easy… I had to buy her one as well.

This time around I bought the phone in white. Last year I mentioned how I associate white cars with Luxury so I figured, maybe I should do the same with my iPhone. I should be able to treat it better now. It’s smaller and easier to see. It feels slick and clean as I type today’s blog post. I had to spoil myself for my birthday…

I’m also excited to utilize some of the new features available for video and photos. I’m going to force my children to participate in some fun while we are gone!

I love my new phone.

WiFi

I can’t live without technology. Over the past 15+ years, I also can’t live without access to the internet!

Ya I know I could “live” without it. But it has become an integral part of my daily life. In fact, once I got a smartphone- I have been unable to remain offline for extended periods. I’ve come to terms with this. I do however know when not to go online or use my smartphone; for example- driving.

Since the world is connected and Google is everywhere- I figured that our trip out of the country to Japan would require some sort of access to the World Wide Web. After speaking to some people at work who have been to Japan recently, I came to the conclusion that access to Google would be a necessity.

I’ve been using Google Maps on my computer and my iPhone for the past few months studying up on Tokyo. I’ve been trying to get my bearings of where we are staying in relation to the various sights. I’ve already printed directions and train times for each day. But I know that I will also need access to a live map periodically.

Having access to “Google Translate” also seems like a great idea. Since none of us speak Japanese- nor can we read it- having quick translations both written and in speech will be handy. Knowing my personal limitations when it comes to other languages and cultures is humbling to say the least.

It all comes down to the question, “How am I going to access the Internet abroad while on the go?” I had a couple of options:

The first was to fork over $12/day on my personal cellphone to “Roam Like Home“. The second option was to get a SIM card or a “Burner Phone” and pay as I go for the twelve days we are there. But the option I liked best was “Pocket WiFi“. This is $7/day and I can connect up to 10 devices. This will also allow my wife and children unlimited access to the internet as we travel around Tokyo.

This option seemed like a no-brainer. I pre-ordered the Pocket WiFi from Econnect and it will be delivered to our hotel the day we arrive. I had the option to pick up at the airport, but it was on the far side of the airport at the Domestic Terminal. I have decided that we will try and manage a 15 minute train ride from the airport to our hotel without use of technology. This may end up being the longest 15 minutes of my life as I stress about what stop we are getting off at and which way to walk afterwards.

The benefits of having WiFi in a foreign country won’t make me feel so nervous. It’s a common ground that most of the civilized world understands. Who knows, after this trip I may try and venture further out of my comfort zone.

Note Taking Skillz

At work, I am constantly taking notes. Always scribbling on pieces of paper- tidbits of information needed throughout my day. Before my day is over, I review these notes a few times during my shift to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I don’t take any long term notes in notebook form anymore. Over the past few years, I have begun using my iPhone as my note taking device. It has become invaluable to me. (As in having lots of value, not having no value.) I use this because of the simplicity and ease of using the “Search” bar to find keywords. Much easier than flipping through notebooks.

I’d also like to think I have a decent memory. But some of my computer skills would tell you otherwise. I often forget the DOS style commands and end up fumbling through until I discover the correct code. At that point, my phone comes out and I figure out where I went wrong. I’ll probably die with a bunch of memorized codes after 25 years of work. But by then, we’ll all be integrated into the Matrix and my mind will just be another battery…