Category Archives: Uncategorized

One of my favorite technology writers joins one of my favorite technology publications

From Harry McCracken on Technologizer:

On July 21, I will join Fast Company as technology editor. Why Fast Company? Well, I’ve been a fan since its first issue appeared almost two decades ago. But what I’m excited about is its future. The publication is committed to excellence in print and online, a fact which its peers in the American Society of Magazine Editors recently celebrated by naming it as Magazine of the Year. Just as important, it’s produced by people who are scrappy, curious, and willing to experiment, traits which are reflected in the fact that much of the brand’s web presence consists of excellent specialized sites such as Co.Design. It’s going to be a fun, challenging place to be. (I’m going to stay based in San Francisco, but will visit my NYC colleagues regularly.)

Fast Company is one of the best technology publications both online and in print. They are one of three magazines I would physically buy/subscribe to. They have some of the most fascinating and thought-provoking articles on technology. And adding Harry to the mix just makes Fast Company even more awesome. Looking forward to seeing what he writes there!

Looking for a new camera

While I absolutely love the amazing quality of photos my Lumia Windows Phone stake (Lumia 1020 and Lumia Icon) – I am looking to dive a little deeper into photography. I previously had been using a Sony NEX-5 and a Nikon D5000 camera. But I’m looking for something new. My intention is to get a new camera to take with me later this summer when my fiancée and I embark on our honeymoon to Europe after our wedding. Here are some of the cameras I am looking at right now:

Follow Brandon’s board Cameras on Pinterest.

I’m very interested in hearing what people recommend on the cameras I am looking at our any suggestions on cameras I’m not currently looking at. While some of the cameras I am looking at are quite pricey (like the Leica M) – I’m hoping to keep the price down a bit. Looking forward to hearing what people have to say!

The Official Star Trek Starships Collection from Eaglemoss

As a die-hard Star Trek fan, I have always wanted to see small scale models of all the various starships seen in the various Star Trek movies and TV shows. And a company called Eaglemoss is doing exactly that.

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Called the Star Trek Official Starships Collection, Eaglemoss is producing highly detailed die-cast models of popular starships from Star Trek paired with a magazine for each starship. The magazines give you all the details on a specific ship including awesome background and design work from the shows or movies.

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You can buy these issues with the starships in stores like comic book shops, etc. But Eaglemoss also lets you sign-up for a magazine subscription. And this is REALLY awesome. They release 2 starships every month and with a subscription, you can get those two starships delivered to you. Having a subscription essentially means you are part of the “Collector’s Club” and that brings benefits:

  • You get digital copies of the magazines.
  • A binder for all your physical magazines.
  • On your 6th shipment of issues/starships you will receive a U.S.S. Enterprise dedication plaque (these are the bridges of most starships in Star Trek).
  • On your 10th shipment you will receive the future U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D as seen in the episode “All Good Things…”
  • On your 16th shipment, you will receive a (giant) Borg Cube that lights up.

As part of having a subscription, another really good perk is you’ll also receive variant model starships. Recently, they released Deep Space Nine as Special Issue #1.

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The starships are actually made with a combination of die-cast metal and high quality ABS which are then hand painted to get the right details. And the details on these starships are incredible.

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For example, on the Enterprise-D you can see windows, escape pods, and the hull paneling.

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On the Romulan Warbird, you can see varying colors of green on the ship and all the tiny windows.

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And look at all the detail on the Klingon K’Tinga-class battlecruiser!

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I have noticed however that the level of detail can vary between the starships. You saw all the great details I noted on the above starships but when you look at the U.S.S. Voyager, you’ll notice that the detail isn’t as good. You don’t see painted windows for example.

I pre-ordered a subscription right before the Star Trek Collection launched in the Untied States so I am receiving the latest and greatest starships as they are released in the United States. I received my 5th shipment (U.S.S. Defiant and Borg Sphere) last week. For my next shipment, I am expecting to get my U.S.S. Enterprise dedication plaque, the U.S.S. Reliant and Akira class starship. Over 70 starships are planned. You can see the list here. I highly recommend a subscription if you’re a Star Trek fan like me!

I did want to offer up some additional thoughts and feedback to Eaglemoss and general thoughts about having a subscription.

Eaglemoss launched the Star Trek Collection in the U.K. first then the U.S. a few months later. So there is a few months of a gap between U.K. subscribers getting their starships and the U.S. subscribers. I believe Eaglemoss is a company based in Europe so it makes sense that they would launch in the U.K. first but it feels like the gap between the U.K. and U.S. is really big and could be smaller. Folks in the U.K. have already reached their 16th shipment and receiving their Borg Cubes while here in the U.S. we’ve just had our 6th shipment. Unless for some reason I’m behind on my shipments, seems like a big gap to me. I pre-ordered before the U.S. launch to make sure I get the latest and greatest starships once they hit. I see a lot of shit on their Facebook page from folks complaining about this very issue (and doing so very rudely). I think an easy solution to this is simply better customer communication overall.

On Special Issues, for Special Issue #1 which was DS9 – we (in the U.S.) were supposed to get DS9 right around the holidays but subscribers received an email from Eaglemoss saying that DS9 would be delayed. This was great customer communication. However, Eaglemoss has announced Special Issue #2 which will be the U.S.S. Enterprise as seen in the J. J. Abrams movies and a date for the U.K. and Ireland (March 6th) but no date for the U.S. First off: I would love to see more direct email communication with subscribers to keep them informed on releases. Second, it would be great to have communication as a U.S. customer on when I should see Special Issues since its a perk of the subscription, right?

And finally, I need to say that Eaglemoss’ customer support has been phenomenal. I’ve had a few shipments in which starships arrived broken. My first shipment actually arrived with the engines disconnected from the Enterprise-D for example:

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Eaglemoss promptly responded to me via email and replaced the shipment with new starships. This has happened a few more times and each time, the customer service in replacing the broken starships has been great. My DS9 Special Issue came with a broken docking pylon. But I ended up being able to easily glue it back to place and all is well. These starships are well built but are small and have tiny parts connecting things together due to their size. As they are tossed around in transit, some damage is bound to occur. In my opinion, this should not reflect poorly against Eaglemoss. I applaud Eaglemoss for their support in this regard.

So I stand by my recommendation on getting a subscription if you want the most kick-ass detailed collection of starships from Star Trek ever made.

Note: Photos of the starships used in this blog post were taken of my collection using my Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone.

Dear Sony, please don’t make Ghostbusters 3

With the passing of Harold Ramis yesterday, naturally the next Ghostbusters movie is a topic of discussion amongst the movie sites today. Harold Ramis played the character “Egon Spengler” in the original Ghostbusters movies and my favorite Ghostbuster.

Ghostbusters 3 is in the works at Sony and was supposedly scheduled to shoot this year with director Ivan Reitman directing who directed the first two Ghostbuster movies. Apparently the script for Ghostbusters 3 is going to be “tweaked” due to the death of Ramis according to THR. The involvement of the original Ghostbusters has been said to be “minimal” – likely as cameos with the story focusing on a new group of younger Ghostbusters (Bill Murray has actually opted out to appear in Ghostbusters 3 all together). Here is what Dan Aykroyd says the plot of Ghostbusters 3 is:

“It’s based on new research that’s being done in particle physics by the young men and women at Columbia University… Basically, there’s research being done that I can say that the world or the dimension that we live in, our four planes of existence, length, height, width and time, become threatened by some of the research that’s being done. Ghostbusters — new Ghostbusters — have to come and solve the problem.”

Dear Sony, DO NOT make this Ghostbuster film. I’m begging you. This isn’t Ghostbusters. This is a completely different movie. Ghostbusters is about 3 crazy scientists (parapsychology professors in the original) who figure out a way to catch ghosts and then market themselves like pest control but for ghosts (which makes it all fun and entertaining). Not stopping threats to our existence from other dimensions and things like that.

There are critical things you must have for Ghostbusters that is part of the magic formula that captured people’s imagination back in the 80′s and early 90′s. Catching ghosts is one of those things. Then you’ve got the proton packs, PKE meters, Ecto-1, their firehouse headquarters, Janine, and Slimer. Not to mention the amazing dynamic all the characters. You’ve got the smartass ladies man Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz who is overly excited about ghosts and catching them, Egon Spengler who is super nerdy and brainy, and Winston Zeddemore who is there just because it’s a job.

Sony, if your intention is to expose a new generation to the Ghostbusters, you mind as well reboot and start over and take the best parts that made Ghostbusters what is was – the characters, the proton packs, the catching ghosts – and do it again with a modern twist. How would Ecto-1 look today in 2014. How would proton packs look in 2014? That would be interesting to see. But the movie you are supposedly planning to make as Ghostbusters 3 based on what Dan Aykroyd has said is not a Ghostbuster movie.

Thoughts on the Fitbit Force voluntary recall

One blog post I’ve been meaning to write over the last few months is on using Fitbit over the past year. A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about using the Nike+ FuelBand. A few months after I published that blog post, I was exposed to the awesomeness that is Fitbit and its service and gave up my Nike+ FuelBand and haven’t looked back. In the course of the last year, I’ve used the Fitbit One, the Fitbit Flex, purchased the Fitbit Aria scale, and now am using the Fitbit Force. As I’ve upgraded myself to the newest Fitbit tracker, I’ve given my old trackers to friends and family who are now all using Fitbit. Right now, my 57 year old dad is destroying me in steps and activity. Clearly, I have some work to do to beat him. But I really do like what Fitbit offers with their products and service. I plan to write more on using Fitbit soon.

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As a Fitbit Force user, some important news came today from Fitbit about the product. Fitbit’s CEO James Park wrote a letter to the community regarding reported skin irritation from a small portion of Fitbit Force customers. Despite affecting only a small amount of customers, Fitbit took the matter seriously and did an investigation. They found that some people are having an allergic reaction to the nickel in surgical grade stainless steel they are using on the Fitbit Force. And others might be having a reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to put the Fitbit Force together. Based on their investigation, Fitbit has decided to stop selling the Fitbit Force and is doing a voluntary recall where Fitbit Force customers can send in their Fitbit Force for a full refund, Fitbit’s CEO promises some news soon on their next-generation tracker, which I assume will be the replacement for the Fitbit Force.

I applaud what Fitbit is doing to take care of this issue and Fitbit Force customers and think its the right thing to do. The Fitbit Force was essentially their top-of-the-line tracker amongst their tracker products and to stop selling it altogether and to do a voluntary recall on such a high-profile product is one of those things no company wants to do. That’s not to say customers having skin irritation from using the product isn’t a big deal either. Despite this issue though, you will continue to find me recommending Fitbit to anyone who is looking for a activity tracker with an excellent service to help you be active, fit and healthy. I have no doubt that Fitbit will come out with something to replace the Fitbit Force that will be just as awesome, or more awesome. In the meantime, I highly recommend the Fitbit One or Fitbit Flex trackers as both are great.

I am still wearing my Fitbit Force. Fitbit is doing a voluntary recall so it’s up to me to send it in and get a refund. I love my Fitbit Force and wear it every single day. It hasn’t given me any of the symptoms of skin irritation some customers have reported. I don’t have any reason to send it in for a refund.

However, I am very interested in what Fitbit comes out with next to replace the Fitbit Force.

To Fitbit: It would be great that for customers like myself who don’t have any problems wearing the Fitbit Force today and don’t need to send it in now for a refund to be able to somehow trade it in eventually when you release your next-generation tracker and get some sort of credit.

Dell Venue 8 Pro and USB adapters

I spent some time today figuring out USB adapters for my Dell Venue 8 Pro so I thought I’d share what I learned with everyone else so they don’t have to go through the same thing. The Dell Venue 8 Pro comes with a Micro-USB port. In order to be able to plug in something that uses full USB, you need an adapter. There are various types of adapters out there but not all will work the way you want (or expect).

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You will need a USB On-The-Go adapter to transfer data, music, photos, etc. from a device using full USB to your Dell Venue 8 Pro. If it is not a USB On-The-Go adapter then it won’t work and you won’t be able to transfer anything.

I’m on 500px

Seattle by Brandon LeBlanc on 500px.com

I’m on the photo sharing services 500px. Come find me!

It has been a while since I was really “into” sharing my photography. It mostly came down finding myself not taking as much photos as I used to. However, I’ve decided to re-commit to photography. I recently have begun learning to try and take night shots with my Nikon D500 (any advice/pointers will be much appreciated!). And I’m using 500px to share the high-res photos I take with my Lumia 1020 Windows Phone – which has quickly become my camera of choice.

A question I am getting from folks is “why 500px?” and not just continue on using Flickr. especially with the biggest design in years shipping back in May. There is the part where I should be able to say “I’m on 500px because it’s better than Flickr” and give you a reason.

But I can’t really give a great answer.

The reason why I choose 500px was because I was fascinated by it and how it differed a bit from what I was used to with Flickr. 500px for example gives you a “pulse” on your photos – this is a measurement (out of 100) on the popularity of a photo. And the pulse of a photo can fluctuate over time. You also get this “story” concept as part of the service but I’ve not really played with this feature much yet.

And 500px is a small team focused strictly on making a service that is great for photographers. Sometimes I feel that Flickr has lost a bit of this as Yahoo! puts a bigger on priority of folding it into the rest of Yahoo!.

So far, I’ve been pleased with 500px. We’ll see how it goes here on out. If you’re on 500px – follow me.

I also blogged about the 500px app for Windows 8 on the Windows Experience Blog. If you’re not a photographer but like checking out neat photography I suggest downloading the app from the Windows Store. A lot of great photos from folks on 500px.

WordPress is buggy while hosted on Windows Azure

UPDATE 1/1/2014: It has been four months since I wrote this blog post and I can say the majority (if not all) of the issues I was having with WordPress hosted on Windows Azure have been completely resolved. I am very impressed with WordPress on Azure and would recommend it as a solution for anyone looking to host their own WordPress blog.

I’m long overdo for writing a blog post about how I moved my blog to being hosted on Windows Azure. So there you have it – my blog is powered by WordPress AND hosted on Windows Azure. Cool, huh? Yeah I think it is.

Well sorta.

I am having all kinds of issues with WordPress running on Windows Azure. For starters, updating plugins automatically through the WordPress Dashboard will break my blog making it completely inaccessible – even the Dashboard. To resolve the issue, I have to FTP into the site and delete the plugin manually that I just attempted to update. In the case of today, I attempted to update the Jetpack plugin from WordPress. Once I did this, my blog starting handing out “HTTP 500 Internal Server” errors like candy.

Other issues range from when deleting comments, database errors occur to rendering issues in the Dashboard and issues composing blog posts (for example under “Visual”, I cannot add hyperlinks – I need to go to the “Text” tab).

I have no idea how to resolve these issues so if anyone out there has any tips or tricks for Windows Azure hosted WordPress blogs – I’m listening.

On rebuilding my personal brand

Kelly Clay published an excellent blog post this evening on a topic that really hit home for me personally. She talks about how her personal brand lost its way and how she found it again. I need to find my personal brand again.

I’m going to try and do more blogging here again.

I’ve been meaning to do more writing anyway (I love to write). Maybe share some of my photography and stories around those photos. Talk a little tech too.

I also need to do something with my blog’s theme. I need something that reflects my personality. More bright colors! I’m open to suggestions on themes.

More to come!