The Jose Abreu hype is growing. From Jorge L. Ortiz’s article in USA Today:
Cuban baseball expert and author Peter Bjarkman calls Abreu the island’s best pure hitter in the last decade after fellow WBC star Frederich Cepeda.
“Abreu is a better hitter than either Puig or Cespedes, and he should be the best (biggest impact) Cuban player to come to the majors during the three decades of the defectors era,” Bjarkman said.
Spring training is just getting started, but it’s good when national publications are saying good things about a guy like this. It’s a better indication than hype from the beat writers. Much like last season1 the ceiling for this team is pretty high, but the floor is very low too.
The division will be much tougher as Kansas City gets better and if Cleveland can play well again. Chris Sale is one of the best pitchers in the AL at this point, but there are a lot of guys without proven track records behind him. The offense struggled to produce last season, and continue to wait for leaps from guys like Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo. Meanwhile Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko keep getting older. The rest of the lineup is mostly a bunch of unproven guys like Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton and maybe Matt Davidson.
Because Abreu has been heralded for hitting bad pitching so well, and spring training in Arizona tends to favor hitters, spring training will be deceiving no matter how well he hits.
- I’ll probably do a more complete preview in March [↩]
A good keyboard is important, but nowadays, having one that can handle multiple devices is even more important. The Matias One is a great example of a keyboard that can handle multiple devices. In addition to the USB port, it also had built-in Bluetooth so that the keyboard could toggle between two devices, say a desktop computer as well as an iOS device. I used one of these keyboards for a couple of years. The ability to quickly switch between my desktop and iOS was invaluable. But the keys never felt right, the left shift key was terribly unreliable, the bright blue Bluetooth light was more annoying than helpful, and the odd key layout caused by the spot to rest a phone was more a hinderance than a benefit.
Kanex released a multi-device keyboard called the Mult-Sync which offers support for up to four devices simultaneously (three Bluetooth and one USB). It has it’s own set of pros and cons.
The typing experience on this keyboard is great. It’s very similar to Apple’s current crop of “chiclet” style keyboards. The keys are responsive and easy to type on. Because there isn’t the obnoxious rubber spot for a phone the home, end, page up, page down and delete keys all return to their proper location. The selected device indicator lights are much more subtle than the Matias and look just like num lock/caps lock indicators. There is a button to lock/shut off an iOS device as well as other common buttons like volume and music controls. The buttons for switching device are mapped to the F1 through F4 keys, so they don’t require extra real estate.
The keyboard comes with a USB cable, which if used negates the need for any batteries. It also allows the device to be paired with three other Bluetooth devices if for some reason a person had that need.
Included in the box is also a sweet little compact stand for phones and tablets. The stand folds flat for easy transport and comes with three possible angles. It is surprisingly sturdy and a great little plus.
The downsides are mostly minor, but some can be frustrating. The aforementioned stand only has three angles to chose from, so it’s limited in some scenarios. There is no button to activate the on-screen keyboard on iOS devices (the Matias had this), the only way to get the keyboard to show is to switch the keyboard to another device. speaking of switching devices, because there is just one Bluetooth receiver that toggles between devices the keyboard must constantly reconnect itself when switching devices (even USB) which creates a delay when switching devices that takes some getting used to. On iOS there is a bug that if the user starts typing before the reconnecting is complete it could freeze the phone and force a hard reboot. This happens to me at least every couple of days.
Another minor quirk is that the keyboard seems to put it’s indicator lights to “sleep” at some point. It’s unclear if there is more happening behind the scenes when this happens, but sometimes after idling for a minute it’s easy to forget which device is currently selected and can be frustrating.
There are also some other quirks with the special keys. Curiously, a “home” button was placed in the bottom left of the keyboard where the control or function key is usually found. This is nice for iOS, but on Windows it opens Internet Explorer. Most people probably won’t use this for Windows, but not having the control key in the bottom right takes a long time to get used to. There is a key for iOS spotlight that doesn’t actually launch spotlight (iOS 7 problem?) and the brightness keys don’t seem to do anything on iOS either.
Overall, this is a great multi-device keyboard. Logitech offers their line of Easy Switch keyboards, which come in both Windows and Mac models, as well as their solar-powered keyboard, but all of those lack non-Bluetooth connections (read: USB) which means that the rare scenario1 where a USB connection is required, means those aren’t options.
The keys feel good, and while the keyboard itself seems to have a little give to it when typing hard, it’s not inhibiting. Switching between devices is easy, and mostly reliable minus the issues with freezing iOS devices (which I was told by Kanex is an iOS problem that can be re-created with other Bluetooth keyboards as well). Anyone who likes the current generation of Apple keyboards should like this model as well, and it’s a great solution to having multiple devices.
- Mine [↩]
MacHash is a free app for the website of the same name. It aggregates the feeds from many different Apple-related news sites in one place. The app itself is just OK to look at, and features ads at the bottom that can be removed for a one-time free of $2.99. The app features a scrollable list of headlines from various sites and includes a thumbnail from the article, the first few words and how recently it was posted. Unfortunately the space for the headlines is not large enough in most cases and ends up getting truncated which can make it different to determine exactly what the article is about.
It does allow for the use of many “read later” services and one of these can be configured to be quickly access by holding on an article in the main timeline. This is probably the most useful feature as it allows headlines to be quickly scanned saved for later consumption. The reading pane within the app is solid as well though. MacHash contains literally dozens of sites and each one can be enabled/disabled based on the user’s preference which can help keep the feed of news of growing too much. This is a great app for keeping up on Apple news without having to browse multiple sites or fill up an RSS reader, and for me has literally become my primary source of Apple news.
Blur is one of the most simplistic applications there is, as it serves just one function. It creates a blurred effect on a picture already in an iOS device. There are free alternatives for sure, and while this one looks nice judging by the way most people scoff at paying anything for apps, this probably won’t interest most people. But it has a nice icon, and a nice interface and came recommended from trusted sources so it’s worth it. I took Tools and Toys advice and use it to blur my lock screen wallpaper to use on my home screen.
NOAA Radar Pro ($1.99)
My recent evaluation of iOS weather apps led me to determine that Weather Line was my favorite, but that I needed a companion app that could provide radar. It turns out that there are a plethora of dedicated radar apps out there. One of the most highly rated apps was NOAA Radar Pro1. It features a decent interface and nice looking maps2. More importantly it includes push notifications for severe weather alerts which something missing from Weather Line. One downside with this app is that it focuses on animating the map and it’s very difficult to just see “current state” without having to time hitting the pause button perfectly. Other than that, it has proven to be a solid, fast, reliable radar app.
Another recent evaluation I did focused on iOS calendar apps. From that I determined that all calendar apps lacked a dedicated weekend-only view. It turns out, at that very time, a developer was already working on an app for just that purpose. Weekender almost perfectly captures that need. The app is very simplistic and does almost nothing more than displaying the next few months worth of weekends and the appointments scheduled on those weekends. The only user setting is which calendars to include. It doesn’t allow adding or editing of any events. There is an in-app purchase to remove the ads but that is the only other thing here. It’s hard to complain about a free app. A minor gripe is the inability to at least open events in Apple’s calendar program. A more major gripe is that times for events are displayed in in 24-hour format3 and there is no way to change that. Having this option, even if it was via another in-app purchase, would go a long way towards making this app perfect.
One Line Description: The life and death of Chicago high school basketball star Ben Wilson.
Despite growing up in Chicago, I was not familiar with Ben Wilson. This was a great look at Wilson’s rise and untimely fall. Wilson went to Simeon where current and future NBA stars Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker also went. He also played alongside future NBA player Nick Anderson. Wilson was comparable to current NBA player Anthony Davis. Wilson was a hero around the city, and his death was felt throughout the community. The most amazing part of this documentary was the fact that there are interviews with one of the men charge with Wilson’s death. This is a must see for any Chicago sports fan.
Ghosts of Ole Miss (2012)
One Line Description: A look at the integration of the University of Mississippi in 1962 and the impact on the football team.
Interesting story about a historic events in Mississippi, but the sports tie-in was a little thin. A story just about the integration would have been great, but spinning this as sports documentary was a little weak. It was interesting though, and the football team was undefeated. It was well put together though, and did a good job of showing how racial issues tied in to the history of the school. Not one of the best 30 for 30 documentaries, but still good.
You Don’t Know Bo (2012)
One Line Description: The story of Bo Jackson, two sport superstar.
Bo Jackson was an absolute freak of an athlete. He dominated both football and baseball both in high school and college. He also became prominent two sport athlete in history to that point. Jackson is remembered as a superhero of sorts, but the truth is he hadn’t really reached elite status in either sport. He never played more than 11 football games in a season, and therefore never hit the 1,000 mark. His average yards per carry were OK, but he was stuck behind Marcus Allen for a while. Despite having some power, Jackson had issues making contact, and again couldn’t play full seasons. This is a great documentary but it’s careful to stick with the allure of Jackson as opposed to being honest about a lackluster (albeit injury-shortened) pro career.
From Elway to Marino (2013)
One Line Description: The story of the 1983 NFL draft with a focus on John Elway and Dan Marino.
The 1983 NFL draft was absolutely loaded. Eight NFL Hall of Famers1 went in this draft. Six QBs went in the first round: Elway, Marino, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien. They combined for 11 Super Bowl appearances. This doc focuses mostly on Elway and his refusal to play for the Baltimore Colts. It was really interesting to see all the teams that almost traded for Elway, and even more crazy to see Marino fall to the end of the first round behind guys like Blackledge, Eason and O’Brien. This is one of the most interesting 30 for 30 films yet, particularly for NFL fans who are too young to know how crazy this whole draft was.
- Counting 2014 inductee Reggie Roby [↩]
Will we see Monuments Men? Chris sees The LEGO Movie. Hippo watches Django Unchained and The Hurt Locker. Re-visiting The Hangover 3. Some discussion of 4-year old The Challenge: Fresh Meat 2.
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Co-Host: Chris (http://twitter.com/LionEsquire)
Running Time: About 22 minutes
iOS 7 was announced at WWDC about 8 months ago. Developers to their hands on it shortly after. And yet there are still some applications that haven’t received updates to take advantages of it’s features. Here are some apps badly in need of some TLC.
Due.app is a reminders application. It’s signature feature is “auto snooze” which basically means that a reminder will keep popping up on it’s own until it’s addressed in some way, either deferred to later or marked as complete. This provides an advantage over most other apps’ reminders in that Due.app will keep nagging until the user intervenes and it means that ill-timed reminder popups, or devices that are not nearby won’t fail to accomplish their goal of reminding. I personally only use Due.app for things that I absolutely have to do by a certain time, and need the “bug me until I do it” mentality.
Due.app is multi-platform (both iOS and OS X), and includes the ability to sync across them. Unfortunately, at present time, only the OS X version can update itself in the background. The iOS versions must be opened to sync their data. This means that data created or modified isn’t updated on iOS unless the user remembers to open the app. This is frustrating. So frustrating that it basically removes the usefulness of being able to sync. This kind of on-demand syncing is fine for something like 1Password, where the data is only used when the app is opened, but the ability for this app to successfully send reminders is the whole point.
The developer has been telling people on Twitter that version 2.0 is coming, but refuses to give any sort of timeline. This problem could have been solved long ago with push notifications that just said “You have new/updated reminders. Open Due to sync.”, but for some reason that never happened. Until this is resolved, the multi-device support is as much of a hinderance as anything.
Tweetbot for iPad
Tweetbot is one of the most popular Twitter clients out there, particularly on the iPhone where it has to be one of the most popular clients. After the announcement of iOS 7, Tapbots went to work and managed to put out a completely re-written version of Tweetbot for the iPhone in October (just four months after the iOS 7 announcement). There was no new version for the iPad or OS X, but conventional wisdom served to indicate the iPad version was expected at some point. It’s been nearly 4 months since the iPhone version was released and the iPad version is still MIA.
Tapbots has always prided themselves on not just making their iPad apps scaled up versions of iPhone apps, which most users appreciate. Presumably though, much of the had part of developing Tweetbot for iOS 7 was done as part of the iPhone version. This obviously is not the case though.
Like Due.app, the biggest missing is background syncing, which has proven to be invaluable for speeding up tweet consumption. The rest of the app looks great too, and the fresh coat of paint on the iPad version will be very nice. It would be shocking not to see the iPad version by April 1st, but stranger things have happened.
1Password is another one of those apps, like Due.app, where it seems impossible to fathom life without it. The newest version for OS X was a leaps and bounds improvement, and the 1Password mini feature has made using it regularly so much more convenient. Version 4 for iOS was released universally at the end of 2012, and was presumably a complete re-write (or close to it) of the previous iOS version. This was unfortunate timing for AgileBits, who probably were not interested in re-writing the app 6 months later.
Most of the issues with 1Password aren’t due to a lack of iOS 7 dependent features missing, and more to do with just general bugs and weird design decisions. First and foremost, it remains wildly unclear why the search box is not always available. Instead it resides on the top of the list being browsed on the left. This means that in order to do a new search the list must be scrolled1 in order to perform a new search. On OS X, the app rarely needs to be opened2, but on iOS the only way to get a password out is to open the app. Finding a password should require far fewer steps.
Also tied to search is the annoying problem (on all platforms) of generated passwords being included in search results. This often results in duplicate/incorrect results. It’s rare that someone will be searching for that generated password entry as opposed to the login itself. It would make far more sense to hide generated passwords from search results by default, or only have them show up when specifically searching that section.
The UI itself doesn’t need a major change. The keyboard could be updated to the iOS 7 version, and it wouldn’t hurt to make the UI fit better, but those are far from the biggest issues.
The Houston Texans are in a very familiar spot. Eight years ago they also held the first overall draft pick. At the time, there was also a much heralded QB from a Texas college, and Texas high school who also had excellent mobility but somewhat questioned passing ability. There was also a franchise pass rusher sitting near the top of most draft boards.
When it was all said and done, to much scrutiny, the Texans passed on QB Vince Young and instead drafted DE Mario William. Eight years later, Young is out of the league and facing money problems, while Williams is about to start his third season in Buffalo. Common logic indicates the Texans made the right move. Williams made multiple All-Pro teams, and his 76.5 sacks already put him 64th all-time. He only missed 3 starts in his first five seasons. But after an injury plagued 2011 he went to Buffalo, where he has already racked up 23.5 of those 76.5 sacks (just under one-third).
It’s easy to think of Young as a punchline. Despite good records his first two years, his stats were not very good. Without the rushing piece he would have been terrible. He missed significant time in his third season and never played 16 games. He only played 9 games his last year in Tennessee, but that might have been his best season as a passer. After failing to have success stepping in as the backup in Philly, he is now unemployed.
It seemed apparent that Young had some issues off the field, as well as just general personal struggles playing the game. Sometimes players that are just so naturally physically gifted have a hard time with the mental portion of the game as it gets more difficult1, and there is no more difficult position to play in sports than quarterback. The pressure of playing in his home state might have made things worse, but no one can say that for sure. A QB is so affected by the players around him, it’s difficult to know he would have faired better in Houston. Matt Schaub came in 2007 and faired pretty well.
The six seasons the Texans got out of Williams were far superior to the 6 seasons Young put together in the same time frame. But Williams is already gone, and the Texans don’t have a Super Bowl ring to show for it.
That brings it back to this year. There are already those who think the Texans should take a QB, and some of those people think that QB should be Johnny Manziel. Manziel, like Young, is very naturally gifted. He also has some off-field baggage as well. Meanwhile Clowney has been pegged as the best pass rushing prospect maybe ever.
When they look at Clowney, do they see Mario Williams? If they do, do they see the guy that was just short of great, but wasn’t enough to push them over the top in the playoffs? Or do they see the guy who has 76 sacks in 8 seasons and think Clowney could do better? When they look at Manziel, do they see Colin Kaerpernick or Russell Wilson? Or do they see the last Texas born and raised QB with some off-field questions and a less than perfect passing game?
The parallels here are really uncanny. With a new head coach in the mix, it’s possible the team will take more time than usual to figure it out. O’Brien is an offensive guy, but that can go two ways. He might feel confident that he can turn a cheap QB into talent, and so he is better off getting starts on defense. Or he is the kind of guy who wants an elite QB.
Bringing in a first time head coach and a rookie QB at the same time seems like a recipe for disaster. Barring injury, Clowney will at least be an above-average pass rusher. Missing a QB murders seasons/franchises. Houston doesn’t have to look any further than their own history to see what the right move here is. Play it safe, and figure out QB later.
- This is routinely a problem in basketball [↩]