Month: January 2012

Netflix Streaming’s Hidden Treasure

Ever since the launch of Netflix’s streaming movies I’ve heard complaints about the lack of new or good movies available for streaming. Sure, due to the movie studios reluctance to join the 21st Century the latest blockbusters are not available.

However, there is a huge untapped resource in Netflix. Documentaries!

Netflix’s hunger for content and the huge amount of documentaries being made and looking for an outlet are a perfect match.

I love watching documentaries. There is always something I can learn or a topic I’ve never thought about being explored in abundant detail.

Sure, documentaries may not be as interesting as watching idiots parade drunkenly on television, action movies with explosions and romantic comedies which are neither. However, there is a vast wealth of excellent documentaries available.

Here is a sample of the documentaries I’ve seen on Netflix streaming:

Dive!: Living Off America’s Waste
– Every year 96 billion pounds of food is thrown away from our nation’s grocery stores. Much of this good and trashed before its expiration date. The documentary follows the path of Los Angeles-based dumpster divers who salvage a huge amount of food for their own use and to give to those in need.

Waiting for “Superman” – Children are falling through the cracks of our education system. There are many alternative schools popping up trying to educate those lost children. This is a heart-breaking look at parents trying to make the lives of their children better through education. Sometimes succeeding and sometimes falling short.

Maxed Out – Credit card debt is a toxic snowball slowly burying its victims. It’s easy to go down the road to credit card debt but takes many years and a lot of discipline to climb back out of debt. You owe it to yourself to watch this one.

Life In A Day Remember back in June, 2010 when a call went out for video from people across the world of their life on June 24th? This movie is the result of that call for video. 4,500 hours of video were edited down to make eye-opening film about how people across the world live.

Helvetica is a movie about a typeface and Objectified is all about industrial design and are required viewing for design geeks.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated shows how the MPAA chooses ratings for movies. Or more truthfully, how secretive the entire organization is and how cloaked they are about their decisions and who chooses what all movies are rated and how. A very eye-opening look at the decision makers for every movie that the MPAA rates.

Young@Heart is a chorus of elderly performers singing modern music. This film will restore your faith in humanity and leave you laughing. I got the opportunity to see a different group perform in DC and it was a great show.

Word Wars is all about Scrabble and those people who play it at a very high level.

Nerdcore Rising follows nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot and others and delves into the culture of nerdery, gamers, bloggers, and other nerdy topics.

This should be enough to get you started on your voyage. Go forth and find what interests you. I guarantee there is a great documentary about what you’re into and you might even learn something.

Be careful because once you start watching. Netflix will recommend more and more and you’ll have a list a mile long like I do.

Can you hear me now?

I was listening to a recent episode of 52 Pickup. Dave Caolo shared a story about witnessing a women in a grocery store hold up checkout line by diving into her gargantuan purse to find a ringing phone. As the cashier stood with change in hand and bags ready, she ignored him in favor of racing to answer the phone. As he and others looked on from behind her in line and as she tied up the cashier to get this possibly vital phone call.

He talked about how thoroughly we have all become trained to respond in a Pavlovian way to our ringing phones. Whenever there is a ring, bing, gong, tink or pop song blasting, the phone takes center stage.

In a recent story, an iPhone interrupted a symphony. This sparked a debate among tech bloggers about the function of the mute switch and how it should or should not be implemented to assure you don’t become a social pariah, but also don’t miss the vital family member in hospital call.

It got me to thinking how we have all been trained by our phones. We ignore people around us and the effect we’re having on those nearby when the phone starts ringing we dive into our pockets or hand bags to appease the noisy devil.

Is every call this important? Are you waiting on someone in the hospital undergoing surgery? The phone is not important. The ringing device doesn’t need to be answered this very instant. The caller will either leave you a voicemail if it is important. If not, they won’t and in most cases they won’t and it’s not important.

The phone has trained us to heed its call immediately. The phone is rarely important. If someone needs to reach you that badly, the news will still be just as valid and timely if you get it 30 seconds later

There is nothing so important the world must be put on hold because the phone is ringing.

It is most likely a robocall anyway. A machine is interrupting your day by phoning your machine which in turn alerts you. Skynet has won. You are a slave to your machines.

Quick Tip – Due for iPhone

My mother always said I’d misplace my head if it weren’t attached to my neck. I am very absent-minded and Due for the iPhone and iPad helps me remember things. Events in the future go on to the calendar, but if I need to remember to meet my wife somewhere, if I have to walk down the hall and check the laundry, or if I need to be reminded to leave for an appointment Due is a godsend.

Due allows me to set numerous reminders and timers. I make use of the Timers feature by keeping a couple of timers around all the time. I have 1, 5 and 15 minute timers which are always useful.

However, I also keep 38 and 50 minute timers. These are the cycle times for the washer and dryer in the laundry room in the condo we’re renting.

Keeping these handy means remembering to set a timer for laundry ((Since no one has a reminder app for remembering to set reminders.)) is as simple as pulling the phone from my pocket, launching Due and clicking the timer.

Reducing the friction between intending to do something and actually doing something is vital for me to remember little things. I highly recommend Due and at $4.99 for a universal app it is a steal.

iOS Multitasking Misconception

Recently, I was having problems with the Home button on my iPhone. I took it to the local Genius Bar to get the unit replaced since it did not seem to be a software issue.

The genius there told me I had too many apps running in the background and that can cause the button’s response to lag. Which I knew was false and I told him so. I had this phone for nearly a year and has never manually closed any applications unless they were acting up. It took some explaining (and the phone continuing to act up even after he quit all those running applications) but I got my replacement.

Fraser Speirs recently wrote a great article about why there is no need to manage applications on the iPhone or iPad.

Let me be as clear as I can be: the iOS multitasking bar does not contain “a list of all running apps”. It contains “a list of recently used apps”. The user never has to manage background tasks on iOS.
Fraser Speirs

Read the quote and read it again. There is no need to close all those “running” apps on your iPhone or iPad. They are not running at all. They are identical to the “Recently Used” applications list in Windows. They are not running. They are not using precious battery power nor are they taxing the device’s processor or memory.

If you’re technically inclined read the entire article for a great explanation of how background processing works in iOS. If you aren’t then read no further.

To review: The only time you ever need to forcibaly quit an appication is when it is misbehaving.

All those apps you see in the multitasking bar are not running. They have recently been used and closed when you switched away from them.

Most applications will close within 5 seconds of switching away from them. Some applications can run for 10 minutes in the background to complete a task. ((Such as podcast downloaders, news apps updating new issues and things like this.))

The only exceptions to these rules are,

Five classes of apps – audio, GPS, VOIP, Newsstand and accessory apps – and some built-in apps such as Mail may run indefinitely in the background until they complete their task.

These applications can run in the background so you can listen to audio, nagivate, chat, download subscribed content and use specific accessories.

The entire article is a good read if you’re interested at all and is easy to understand even if you’re not an iPhone developer.