Revisting the 2014 NFL Predictions

Time to revisit the NFL predictions from this past fall.

NFC East Eagles
NFC North Packers
NFC South Falcons
NFC West 49ers
NFC Wildcards Seahawks
Bears

Only one division winner was correct, and only two out of the six playoff teams was right. So pretty bad here. The Falcons were a trainwreck, but I nailed the prediction that the Saints would have an off year and miss the playoffs. I thought picking the Lions as a wildcard team was crazy. Oops.

AFC East Pats
AFC North Bengals
AFC South Colts
AFC West Chargers
AFC Wildcards Denver
Dolphins

Two out of four on division winners and four out of six on playoff teams isn’t bad. The Chargers went 9–7 but weren’t the team everyone thought they could be. The Dolphins struggled early and never bounced back. I was correct that Manning’s career slowed down, but not as much as I thought it would. The jury is still out on Ryan Tannehill.

NFC 49ers over Seahawks
AFC Chargers over Bengals
Super Bowl 49ers over Chargers

Tried to ride the San Diego bandwagon hard and look really stupid for doing so. Only got one out of these 6 slots even close to correct.

Eight Stupid Predictions

  1. Drew Brees gets hurt early and the Saints have an abysmal season. 1/2 point: Saints season was pretty abysmal.
  2. Teddy Bridgewater is the starting QB in Minnesota by week 4 and wins offensive rookie of the year. 1/2 point: No ROTY but he cemented himself as the QB pretty early.
  3. Brian Hoyer starts twice as many games at QB than Manziel. Booyah!
  4. The Cowboys stink and tease out Michael Sam’s debut as much as possible to stay relevant. Yikes…
  5. Ron Rivera is the first coach fired after the Panthers start 2–8. Double yikes. The Panthers were bad, but their division was so much worse that the made the playoffs.
  6. Oakland goes 2–14 and lands the first pick in the NFL draft. 3–13 and the 2nd pick. Not bad
  7. Jimmy Clausen starts at least one game for the Chicago Bears WHAT WHAT!!! I can’t believe this was true
  8. The Chip Kelly Hype gets so much momentum that is named is floated as a possible 2016 Presidential Candidate Doubtful

Number 8 was obviously a joke, but looking at the other 7 not such a horrible job. Nailed two of them, and two more were half right. Oakland was close enough to call it a victory overall.

Pretty mediocre showing overall. Didn’t really hit on anything crazy outside of the Clausen thing. Playoff predictions were pretty bad. But it was still fun

Recap of 2014 College Football Predictions

Time to own up to pre-season picks. There won’t be a huge breakdown of every detail, just some bullet points below.

My Pick Actual
SEC Champ South Carolina Alabama
Pac 12 Champ Oregon Oregon
Big 12 Champ Oklahoma TCU/Baylor
ACC Champ Florida St. Florida St.
Heisman Winner Cody Kessler Marcus Mariota
Heisman Dark Horse Bo Wallace
First Fired Coach Charlie Weis Charlie Weis
Game of the Year Week 2: Michigan St. at Oregon
Four Playoff Teams Oregon
South Carolina
Florida St.
Oklahoma
Oregon
Ohio St.
Florida St.
Alabama
Playoff Darkhorse Ole Miss
National Champion Oregon Ohio St.
East West
1 Michigan St. (2) Wisconsin (1)
2 Ohio St. (1) Iowa (4)
3 Penn St. (6) Nebraska (3)
4 Michigan (5) Northwestern (6)
5 Indiana (7) Minnesota (2)
6 Maryland (3) Illinois (5)
7 Rutgers (4) Purdue (7)
  • South Carolina was about as bad of a pick as could have been made. Alabama continues to prove that they should be picked to win the SEC every year until they really drop off.
  • Oregon won the Pac–12 pretty easily. They won the North by a landslide.
  • Oklahoma was the disappointment of the year almost universally across the board. They did finish in a big tie for 4th. Did not see TCU’s great season coming.
  • Cody Kessler and dark horse Bo Wallace were pretty bad picks. Neither of them got any votes at all. But if QBR is to be believed, Kessler was 11th, but on a 9–4 team that was irrelevant. These days it’s hard to win the Heisman on a team like that without ridiculous stats. Wallace on the other hand finished 67th in QBR. Ole Miss was a competitor for a while, but Wallace fell apart as the season went on. Mariota was the first Heisman winner in a while who was kind of a favorite going into the season.
  • Charlie Weis was an easy slam dunk
  • Oregon and Michigan St. was a disappointing game. Notre Dame/FSU was the best game I got to see. Ole Miss vs. Alabama or the crazy Baylor/TCU shootout might have been better though.
  • Ole Miss’s seemed like a playoff team through seven games. Once the schedule got tougher the wheels fell off.
  • Oregon made the playoffs but again came up short.

Moving over to the Big Ten:

  • One for two on division winners. After that though, things fell off a cliff. Only 3 of 14 slots were predicted exactly right.
  • Picking Nebraska third was unpopular but it turned out to be correct, just had the wrong team 2nd.
  • Penn St. was the team I was most wrong about, they were much worse than anticipated in James Franklin’s first year. Should be a lot better next year.
  • Nailed Melvin Gordon as offensive player of the year.
  • Nailed Michigan and Nebraska as at least a tad overrated. Iowa finished fourth but that was still higher than some had them
  • My two serious candidates for coaches to get fired both did, Pellini and Hoke
  • Whiffed on Michigan St. as Big Ten champ, but they made a case for being the second best team.

Overall it was an up and down prediction season. I won’t be quitting my day job.

The Podcast Listening Speed Argument

John Lagomarsino of The Verge says stop listening to podcasts at 1.5x or else?

As a podcast producer, the popularity of speed ramping has started affecting how I think of production. Should hosts speak more slowly to counteract it? Should I lean on a music bed to trick SmartSpeed into keeping the pace unaltered? As these features become more popular, they could hold back experimentation in audio.

This piece has already taken a massive beating from people like Marco Arment who has both a podcast and a podcast app:

Anyone dictating how people can or should consume media only ensures their own rapid irrelevance.

And also Stephen Hackett:

I’d rather people listen a little faster and consume more of our content than hear every single beat, as it comes out of Logic.

There is not a lot to say that both of these guys did not already cover so it makes sense to go read both of their pieces. But Arment’s quoted point is salient. This kind of thinking is what messed the music industry up so much. They thought that people downloading music were idiots or part of some fad, and chose not to respond in a timely manner to people’s changing listening habits.

The part where Lagomarsino talked about doing things to try and circumvent what listeners want to do is exactly the problem. To take such an elitist attitude towards things is not the way to attract and appease listeners, particularly when it’s not affecting the livelihood of the content producer.

Arment is right, listeners should listen however they want. Fast, slow, skip around, whatever. Would podcast creators actually prefer people don’t listen? Seems unlikely.

A Year with the Xbox One

Although the Xbox has been out for almost a year and a half at this point, I didn’t get one until January of 2014. So it has been about a year now, and it is time to reflect on this “next gen” system.

The hardware in gaming consoles is typically not super sophisticated. This is what allows them to sell them for $400-$500 upon launch and then decrease from there. A $500 gaming computer (even with a monitor) wouldn’t go very far. And the insides are a mystery to almost every user, the only thing that matters at all is the user experience. And that is where things have been rocky.

It is amazing that a company that has made computer software for decades, and is on their third gaming console could put out a product so unpolished from the get go. Regular updates have improved the current state of things, but only marginally.

It’s clear that Microsoft assumed that a majority of navigation from app to app and throughout the dashboard would be controlled via voice commands with Kinect. The ironic part of course being that Microsoft basically killed Kinect when it removed it from being included with every Xbox One box. Without this, navigating to specific app is a pain unless they are “pinned”. But that list can grow big very quickly, even for someone that doesn’t play/use a variety of different things. Navigating to a specific app requires clicking on apps/games, then picking the category and then just aimlessly scrolling until the correct thing is found. There has to be an easier way.

The party system has also been a major hit or miss. It’s been hard to know how much of this is on specific games and how much of it is on the Xbox operating system, but it has been a train wreck at times. Hard restarts just to join a game with someone seem like the kind of thing that should be fixed in a very early patch.

When Microsoft first announced that games would just be dowloaded, and not shareable, there was a huge uproar. People pretended they were mad about sharing games with friends, but really it was about the used game market. So they caved, and allowed for games to be downloaded and also purchased on a disc. But the disc games still require massive amounts of storage space for “installs” that then also take forever. And of course the disc must be in the machine to play a game even though it’s been installed. Clearly this is prevent people from selling games and still playing them, but it seems like there is a better way. Like require the disc once every two weeks or something.

The downloaded games are clearly the way to go, and everyone seems to prefer that to buying the physical game. Apparently that is why often sales/deals for games are often available only for the disc version instead of the downloaded one. So in order to save money there is an inconvenience associated with it. It doesn’t end there though. The aforementioned storage space can quickly become a factor. Anyone who buys a enough games (probably a littler over one per month) will quickly run out of space on the (criminally) small 500 GB hard drive that ships with the Xbox One. Never mind the fact 3 TB drives are readily available, and instead consider the fact that even 1 TB drives were pretty much standard when the system was released last year. Sure external hard drives are supported, but that is just more shelf space required for an already large system.

It’s not all bad. The controller is a nice incremental improvement from the Xbox 360, and third party headsets no longer requiring batteries is nice. The Kinect voice commands work fairly well, although ambient noise can sometimes be a problem. Not often enough to ruin what feels like the future realized though. Netflix and Amazon Video work well and Twitch integration out of the box is a nice touch. The “Xbox record that” feature is a fun addition that reportedly is about to get a nice feature bump.

To Microsoft’s credit they are listening to users and making regular improvements. Although it seems crazy that low battery notifications and a way to be notified when friends (or certain friends) sign on were two features completely left out from day one, at least those things have been added. Unfortunately it took almost a full year after release for the system to really feel like it was hitting it’s stride, something that just does not seem excusable in this age of technology. The Xbox one has probably gone from about a C- to a B in the last year, but it is trending up. It is likely that before it’s lifespan is over it will be much better, but the first year has been a bit lackluster.

Super Bowl Thoughts

Ten days removed from the Super Bowl, it’s time for some thoughts.

Most every word that was written in the aftermath of the game centered around Pete Carroll’s decision not to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch on the play that ultimately cost Seattle the game. Hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s very easy for “armchair head coaches” to second guess the playcall after the fact. Of course, if Seattle had scored a TD and won the game, the story would have been different. The internet has made this type of “insight” grow x1000, but most people are crazy to think that the decisions in sporting events are that easy, especially until time and pressure constraints. Coaches spend weeks watching film and scouting opponents in other ways. They know the intricacies of every one of their players, and presumably every strength and weakness of said players. To assume that every decision is as cut and dry as the Madden video games make things seem it just ludicrous.

Sure in retrospect Pete Carroll made the wrong decision to call that pass play. But there is no guranatee that running the ball with Lynch would have resulted in a touchdown. And every other decision by both coaches all game led them to be in that exact situation anyway. While it’s easy in a vacuum to say it all came down to that one play, that idea has been supremely overblown.

The fact that Seattle had lost two key defensive players before halftime, and another several had significant injuries they played through, it seems like a miracle that Seattle was as competitive as they were. This underscores the fact that Pete Carroll has proven to be a pretty impressive football coach who has been pretty unlucky in a couple of key moments.

Tom Brady now has played in six Super Bowls, and won four of them. It seems amazing to think about how impressive that is in the current state of pro sports, and particularly football. Because the titles were so spread out, the multiple scandals, and the two failed attempts against the Giants, it’s possible that in the moment Brady’s accomplishments are being overlooked. Comparing players across eras is damn near impossible, especially in football where the game has evolved so much, but when Brady’s level of success is compared to recent guys like Manning, Big Ben, Favre, and such, no one is even close to the four rings. 10–15 years from now people are really going to be talking about how amazing this was.

Bill Belichick seems to get a lot more credit for being great, but his personality has probably also cost him some due credit. Although it’s also possible that the scandals haven’t helped that either. The playoff wins and Super Bowl success are a major feather in his cap though. 10 years after he retires, and everyone has forgotten about all the nonsense, he will be remembered in a much better light.

Marshawn Lynch seemed like a dud when he got to Seattle. Now he has ripped off some of the most incredible runs over the last decade. Will he be remembered? Most backs in the top 30 of career rushing yards played around 11 or so seasons. Lynch is at eight. He is only 28 though, and doesn’t have as much mileage on his body, so he could play a while longer. But statistically he probably isn’t going to turn any heads, and when Steven Jackson is currently 16th all-time the bar to be significant is a long way off. Lynch will likely be a guy remembered fondly by Seahawks fans, and that’s about it.

Russell Wilson had a rough end to the playoffs and looked far more like a third round pick than a long-term star. A year ago he seemed like a gem in the 2012 QB class, a third round wonder. But that class suddenly looks amazing, especially if RG3 rebounds (it also includes Luck, Tannehill, Foles, Cousins and Lindley). Wilson had the makings of the solid QB who would win a lot of games and not cost his team many. But this playoffs he did not look like that guy. He is closing in on a huge new contract , and not it looks questionable whether he is an elite QB long term. Teams often had to reload after playoff runs, and someone of Brady’s caliber can roll with that, whether or not Wilson can is the big question for his legacy.

Overall the Super Bowl was tremendous. It was definitely one of the best games in years and lived up to the hype and excitement for once. It seems impossible to imagine either of these teams making it back here, and both teams could be looking at that post Super Bowl rebuilding that seems so regular. For Pats’ fans that might mean a long road ahead. For everyone else, the hope is that next year’s game is even close to this good.

Crazy Early 2016 Super Bowl prediction: Philadelphia vs. Indianapolis

Pygmy Reviews #49 – iOS Apps

Digg (Free)

One Line Description: RSS reader with a top stories component.

Digg was the original Reddit. It was the place to post stories, vote them up/down and comment on them. Something went awry along the way and it was on life support. It was sort and brought back to life, and now seems to focus more on being an RSS reader with the voting component. For those people that don’t use the RSS reader part it does have other features. It include a “Top Stories” section, which is both self-explanatory and one of the more useful features. It features a section for just the top videos as well as a place to save stories. It can also be tied to a Twitter account to try and determine commonly shared links.

The Top Stories is good enough to find interesting things to read, especially for someone that doesn’t follow the right people on Twitter, or have enough time for full-blown RSS feeds. It seems to bubble up a lot of popular stories that probably show up elsewhere, but that isn’t a bad thing. Overall it’s a decent discovery tool that is free and doesn’t require an account for many of the features.

Nuzzel (Free)

One Line Description: Filters out the most shared stories from a Twitter timeline.

Nuzzel is effectively one funtion of the aforementioned Digg app. It must be associated with a Twitter account and then scans a user’s timeline for the more shared stories by people they follow. It obviously is much more effective the more followers there are, and in practice someone with 300 or so followers might not find it as useful. Thankfully there is a separate section for “Friends of Friends” which casts a wider net and allows for more stories and higher link counts. The results can be filtered by time, another extremely useful feature to those with large lists of people they follow. There are a couple other ways to filter content as well.

This tool is highly useful, especially for people who follow too many users to keep up with their feeds, or people who just don’t check Twitter more than once or twice a day. It makes it easy to catch things that might have otherwise been missed based on the people a person is following, in other words, nicely curated content.

Nuzzel made loads of end of year “best of” lists, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not a totally new concept, but it’s executed very well, and could easily be the future of content discovery for many people.

Alien Blue ()

One Line Description: Now the official Reddit client for iOS.

Once an independant app, Alien Blue was purchased last year by Reddit and made the official iOS Reddit client. It has a sharp and interesting design and hide a lot of buttons and labels until they are needed. It has some interesting decisions regarding the menu design which seems to get a little too cute instead of just making it easier to use. It does provide access to the sidebar of subreddits, something not seem in other clients. The fact that it contains a way to revert to a “classic” UI says everything about the current design. It still works well though, and now that it’s the official client there is even more reason to use it. While it is free, it does have an in-app purchase to get the PRO version, which most people probably don’t need. There is still no reason not to try it, although Narwhal is probably a better option.

Transmit ($9.99)

One Line Description: An FTP/SFTP/WebDav client.

This app is too nerdy for most, but for those that need and FTP/SFTP/WebDav client this might be by far and away the best. It has it’s own local filesystem so that files can be saved and viewed offline, and has extensions so that files can be passed in from other places. It is intuitive to use, and seems to include any feature that most people would need. It even allows files to be edited right in the app itself. Although one of the few downsides is that it takes a lot of clicks to get into edit mode.

Overall though, this all opens a lot of doors for iOS-based development and other nerdy functions (such as syncing files from a WebDav server on a LAN without opening said WebDav server up to the WAN) that would be super useful to some people. This is one of the many apps that is making iOS get closer and closer to being the only option needed by most people.

Super Bowl Ticket Shortselling is Ridiculous

Darren Rovell on short selling Super Bowl tickets:

In order to “short” the market, a broker typically lists tickets in a generic section of the stadium and doesn’t disclose exactly where the seats are until the Wednesday before the game, when sites such as StubHub and Vivid Seats require the brokers to choose exact seat locations or cancel the sale.

The idea for the brokers is to take money from ticket buyers when the tickets are at a higher price after the conference title games, then actually buy the tickets days later as the prices start to come down. The ease of the scheme caused more and more brokers to get in the game.

Wait, what? This is a thing? People/brokers sell tickets they don’t even have, and this is perfectly legal? This is pretty screwed up. No wonder so many people thought they had tickets but didn’t. This undoubtedly proves what an absolute scam ticket brokering is.

Has it always been this way? Has the ability for any person to buy/sell tickets online made brokers have to resort to this? Either way it is totally insane that people do this. Obviously there must be some fine print somewhere that keeps them from getting sued when they don’t deliver, but this is so shady.

How much do brokers really help fans? Do they drive up prices, or give people a chance to get tickets who wouldn’t otherwise? Or both? It is somewhat convenient it would seem, but with higher prices it seems like maybe that isn’t as useful. So what is the long term scenario?

Non-transferrable tickets are starting to become a thing, and there is surely a market for them especially at reduced price. It is something comparable to cheaper airfare/hotels where a cheaper price can be had if the plans cannot be canceled. This would essentially allow brokers to have to pay a premium just to get their hands on tickets, and perhaps give the general public a better chance to pay a reasonable price. Especially with major, major sporting events, what percentage of tickets are purchased just flip for a profit? The system always seemed broken. But with the revelation of short selling it seems downright trashed.

Goodbye Parenthood

(SPOILER ALERT: The following post (obviously) contains spoilers about the Parenthood series finale.)

For some reason people thought that at the end of Breaking Bad Walter White got too much of a “happy” ending, even though he died, lost his family and couldn’t be sure they would ever get the money he left them. But if Walter White had a happy ending then the Braverman’s are like lottery winners. Series finales are generally supposed to leave happy moments for the audience, but Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, The Wire and others showed it doesn’t always have to be that way. Parenthood went a different way though.

Minus Zeek’s inevitable death, everything came of roses for every member of the Braverman clan. There has already been plenty of (digital) ink spilled over the finale, so there is no reason to completely rehash it all, but at least some people pointed out that things were a little too perfect.

Todd VanDerWeff of Vox on the financial woes that seemed to come and go:

By and large, that disappeared from season four onward. Brothers Adam (Peter Krause) and Crosby (Dax Shepard) launched a risky recording studio venture in season three, seeing it almost fall apart, only to spend most of seasons four and five doing just fine for themselves, even as the real world music industry was completely falling apart. (The final season suggested the studio was not long for this world, before the finale completely reversed this, somewhat inexplicably.) Sarah’s economic circumstances suddenly seemed much firmer, and while Julia left her job to care for her newly adopted son, she and Joel never seemed to worry about money.

Alan Sepinwall with some closing thoughts:

Do I buy that everything would come up roses for the remaining Bravermans? No. Is it what the show needed to give us as our last glimpse? Abso-damn-lutely. The whole finale is fantasy camp, but that’s just the way it had to be.

The show was indeed a fantasy camp; one that probably only succeeded because the cast was one of the best/most talented assembled this century. But so much talent left some stories unfinished or rushed and while the show was good week-to-week it’s hard to see it having the prolonged shelf life of something like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. It was definitely solid and fun, but not a top tier show all-time. Uneven is a great word to describe this show, and some of it can probably be blamed on weak ratings, or a network that didn’t seem to appreciate the quality of program it had on it’s hands. Either way this show wasn’t everything it could have been.

Last thing, HuffPost had a breakdown of all the stuff that happened in the flash forward.

2014 Newsies Awards

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.

Runners-Up

  • 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.

Runner-Up

  • 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.

Runners-Up

  • 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.

Runners-Up

  • 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.

Runner-Up

  • 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.

Runners-Up

  • 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.

Runners-up

  • 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.

  1. Between this, American Hustle and American Sniper, Cooper is making his mark as potentially the next great actor. I have long been wondering who the next Tom Hanks would be, and with Cooper’s comedic run this could really be it []
  2. He wrote Rounders, Runaway Jury, Ocean’s 13 and Runner Runner []

No Need for Voice Plans on Cellphones

Mat Honan of Wired discusses the lack of needing a “phone”

So why do we still need voice plans? Dunno. You can get LTE on any decent tablet. And with LTE, you can send and receive calls with Skype and its ilk even, say, on the bus. You can send text messages with services like WhatsApp. You can port your existing mobile number over to Google Voice and continue calling and texting, from the exact number you have right now, on your iPad.

A thousand times yes! Most people under 35 hardly use their phone for voicecalls at all1. Most people hate talking on the phone these days. In this world of constant task switching2 a phone call is to much of a dedicated task. Text messages and the like has become most people’s preferred method of communication, mostly due to the asynchronous nature of them. In other words, a person can text another person and that second person will answer when they have time, or are able to. As opposed to the old method of needing the second person to be available for a phone call at a specific time.

The problem is that the carriers make so much of their money off these voice plans. It is their bread and butter. And for the time being, it isn’t going away. There are still issues with certain VoIP technologies that make them not as reliable as a traditional voice call, and that will scare off “average folk.” In order to get a subsidized price with a carrier a voice plan has to be purchased. Even if an unlocked device is purchased it’s unclear whether a data-only plan could be purchased for a phone device the same way it could be for a tablet. Then on top of that a problem exists with having a phone number for traditional phone calls (e.g., doctors, repairmen, etc.) that would need an actual number.

At the moment it is just to difficult to circumvent the phone call system without too much disruption. At some point some carrier will make the shift and draw in a bunch of customers and force the hand of all the other carriers in the same way that many previous options have done. In the meantime the carriers will just keep fooling people into thinking there is a difference between voice and data traffic.

  1. I have a relatively modest voice plan and I have over 4,000 rollover minutes []
  2. Although people love to throw the word “multitasking” around it’s really just frequent context switching []