The fourth annual Newsies awards (a little later than usual this year) are dedicated to my favorite things I discovered/saw/bought for the first time in prior year. It’s also a homage to one of my great guilty pleasure movies of all time, Newsies.
Remember that these aren’t necessarily things that came out in 2014, but 2014 was when I got them, watched them, etc.
TV Show – Orange is the New Black
Netflix was added to the Hippo Household in 2014 and a large reason for that was House of Cards. Despite a particularly strong first season, a progressively disappointing second drove it from this list completely. Orange is the New Black however, lived up to the hype and then some. The second season was just as strong as the first. The backstory flashbacks are always entertaining and there remains a few characters who’s backstories are a mystery, so there is still time to drag that hook out further.
Still this show likely has a limited lifespan as (theoretically) only so much can happen to the same prisoners so many times. Although it doesn’t get as much publicity as House of Cards, Orange is the the better overall show, and has chance to be a top tier show before it’s over.
Transparent – Amazon’s award winning show about a man (played by Jeffery Tambor) making a transition into a woman. It’s funny, smart and well acted. It may feature a little bit too much craziness for one family to be a show that works long term, especially with three “anything can happen” children in the mix. But for now, it’s very, very good.
Silicon Valley – The subject matter earns extra points on a personal level, but this show had some of the better laugh out loud moments of the year. TJ Miller’s ridiculous over the top character was constantly hilarious, and the gag near the end of the season regarding “physics” was one for the ages.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Despite never being a fan of The Daily Show or Colbert it was hard to know what to expect from this show. The weekly format undoubtedly makes it easier to watch than something on every day, but John Oliver delivered a masterpiece. This show was informative sure, but it was also downright hilarious. The “look at how stupid society is” jokes has always felt a little like Seinfeld’s go-to joke type. Can’t wait for season two.
Movie – Silver Linings Playbook
Few movies live up to the hype, praise or awards thrust upon them. Silver Linings Playbook does, and then some. Bradley Cooper is just amazing, and it seems crazy that he did not win an Oscar for this performance1.
- The Sting – One of Paul Newman’s most famous movies, and a great con man movie based in the 1930s. Robert Redford is Newman’s partner and the story is great, with even better twists along the way. It took a long time to see this one, but now it seems like it will be re-watched many times.
iPhone App – Paper
Facebook put out an alternative app this year, called Paper. It is a different way to view Facebook statuses that always has move of a “cards” kind of feel. For many, it has become the goto app for Facebook. It also features a separate area to view news of various topics, but for most it’s just a Facebook app. It lacks some features of the full Facebook app, but is a much better experience.
Camera Sync – For anyone that wants to save/copy/backup photos from iOS without using a third party service, the options are truly limited. CameraSync offers a one click solution to upload all new photos to a WebDav/FTP site. This makes it super easy to save pictures from a phone without needing to copy them one by one, plug into an actual computer or use a third party service that then has all the photos on their servers, and likely costs money. Obviously this app requires a server to move files to, but setting up FTP or WebDav on most computers is fairly simple.
Narwhal – While certain parts of Reddit focus on sharing of links, it has also become a large message board of sorts, particularly with certain topics. The fact that it’s userbase is so huge means that lots of different topics have a lot of fans. Narwhal is a nice looking Reddit client with most features included. It seems to lack a way to see the sidebar of a subreddit, but for the most part it has everything else.
Gadget – URC-WR7 Universal Remote
Good universal remotes seem to hard to find, and the most popular line, Logitech’s Harmony, are expensive and require crappy software to program. There is a company called URC that makes all kinds of home automation, including universal remote controls as well. The WR7 model was only around $30 and works incredibly well and is easy to program. Unfortunately it turns out that for some reason this model has been discontinued, and it seems like URC only make models for professional installations now. Bummer.
Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Car Kit – For cars without built-in Bluetooth there are a ton of third party options out there. The problem is that when iOS changes come out sometimes certain functionality doesn’t work as well, or at all. A similar adapter from Belkin stopped being able to skip ahead/back after iOS 6 (or so). The Kinvio is the most popular, and highest-rated model on Amazon. It works very well, and has worked flawlessly for the last year. There are some cheaper options at this point that offer more features, but the Kinvio is still a worthy option.
Synology DS413j NAS – There are tons of options out there for network-attached storage (NAS) devices. At this point, most geeks consider Synology to the be gold standard. They offer a wide range of products of all shapes and sizes. The DS413j has since been replaced by the DS414j but they are both pretty much the same. Synology has really great software for managing the system and in almost a year of use there haven’t been any problems. It’s fast as well, and the software offers tons of services and apps that can be used on a home network for a variety of cool functions.
Mac App – You Need a Budget
Budgeting apps are not new, and a good ol’ spreadsheet is often sufficient, but You Need a Budget (YNAB) is so wonderful constructed it almost makes budgeting fun (seriously). In addition to a nice layout, it seems to have a solution to any situation and is very customizable as well. There are also tons of tips and tutorials on their website for both using the app and budgeting itself. The heft price tag scares people off, but if budgeting money is an issue, it will surely pay for itself within a year.
- Slack – All the rage in team communication these days, Slack is a super solid alternative to Google Hangouts and group e-mail or text chains. It’s not disposable enough to use just once, but for recurring talks over a period of time it offers a lot of advantages or e-mail. Plus it has apps for pretty much every platform.
Website – CBS Sports
Bill Simmons’ latest ESPN suspension provided an opportunity to explore other places for sports news. It turns out that CBS Sports is pretty darn good. Their website has a very clean look, and they don’t hide good content behind a paywall. The quality of their content still often seems to fall a bit below ESPN, but not enough to offset everything it has going for it. Definitely a worthy alternative and a new addition to the sites visited daily.
Six Colors – After Macworld.com was basically gutted, former editor-in-chief Jason Snell launched Six Colors, a nerdy blog with an Apple slant that has featured another former Macworld contributor, Dan Moren, frequently. While the blog tends to focus mostly on Apple, it ventures out to other areas of nerddom and has proved to be a valuable addition to the RSS list.
Vox – A news website founded by former Washington Post writer Ezra Klein that focuses on bringing just the facts of a news story without a political slant. It uses a lot of visual presentation that can sometimes get annoying, but for the most part the stories are very interesting and informative.
Podcast – Bad for Business
Jerry Ferrara, of Entourage fame, jumped feet first into podcasting with his own show. There has been plenty of Entourage talk along the way, as well as many guests from the show, but any Entourage fan will just enjoy these episodes even more. It’s funny, and gives a nice look at what it’s like to be a medium-caliber celebrity.
The Moment – Filmmaker Brian Koppleman2 on the Grantland network brings in famous people to talk about how they got to where they are, and the “moments” along the way that defined their path to stardom. There are lots of good stories and connections revealed on this show and it works so well because Koppleman is so comfortable with the people on his show.
We Have Conerns – Jeff Cannata (formerly of web series the Totally Rad Show) launched two new podcasts this year. The second of which, We Have Concerns pairs him with Anthony Carboni to discuss current news stories (usually about science or tech) and what they really mean. Things get silly, but their impromptu skits acting how the innovation or discovery factors in is often hilarious. It takes a specific kind of person to enjoy this show, so it is not for everyone, but anyone who likes it likes it a lot.