The End Is But The Beginning

April 17, 2011

All right folks.  It’s with heavy heart that I must say this: I have decided that the time has come to end this magical ride on my Mackintosh Fun Time blog.  I guess some of you who are old-school TV fanatics may have picked up on this from the title I used, which is an episode title of the old TV series that turned into a Harrison Ford movie, “The Fugitive”.

But the reality is, I have burned out, and it’s not fun anymore to blog about the Apple stuff I love.  Given the old adage, when it’s no longer fun to do something, you might as well stop doing it.

And the worst part of it is, my iPhone’s Sleep/Wake switch decided it was going to stop working about a week or two ago, and I’ve had to adapt ever since.  I even got myself a new Nintendo 3DS this past week, which put all of this into a sharp, focused perspective for me.  Recently, I have found joy in things I never found much joy in before, and that in and of itself was a stark reminder to me that what I was doing here was no longer fun, or giving me any joy at all.  So, I’ll see you all later.


Birthday Thoughts & Updates

March 25, 2011

Today is finally here!  It’s my 25th birthday today, the 25th of March, 2011.  25 doesn’t feel all that different than 24, and hopefully  successive birthdays will feel about the same way.

Also, you might notice that I took the donation page down. Long story short is that I got notified of some things on that page that did not come out the way that I had intended, so for that I am very sorry and will endeavour to wait to talk about such things as site operations, et al. until they have been more fully vetted.

One thing that, while it hasn’t come up for much, warrants discussion.  I do not intend for things to come out sounding ugly and/or vindictive, and if they do, then I’m sorry.  However, I’d much rather be honest with what I say any day of the week, including my birthday.  I’m still going to stick to my personal policy of no corrections UNLESS I’ve made a severe factual boo-boo, which doesn’t happen all that often, especially since I don’t report news much at all.

I will say things that may come out negative or vindictive or that may sound ugly, but I assure you that I don’t normally do that, and usually the party on the receiving end of my blog posts criticizing them very much deserve it.

Case in point, MLB.com.  They had the stones to charge $30 for those who would want both MLB.com At Bat 2011 apps for iPhone AND for iPad.  That is really distasteful, and my hope is that MLB.com will at least see the light if nothing else.  There really is no excuse for that kind of tomfoolery (except money talks), and I definitely won’t be buying both apps, and I probably won’t buy any of the apps, and will wait till after the season is over and the MLB.com At Bat 11 apps are both free, to send a loud and clear message to MLB.com that double-charging your iOS users is absolutely out of the question. Only $10 or less apps can get away with that, but please, don’t charge $15 per app twice.  Not cool at all.


Review: iStudiez Pro for Mac and iOS

March 24, 2011

Okay, after a very long wait, here’s my first review.  I must say in the interests of full disclosure that I actually bought the apps in question myself, thankfully they weren’t that expensive.  You can check out the app I’m reviewing below here.

iStudiez Pro (iPhone/iPad/Mac), $2.99 on the iOS App Store, Universal to iOS devices; $9.99 on the Mac App Store:

I’ve looked at several organizational apps over the years, but the one thing that all of them lacked was keeping things in sync across any and all devices that I owned.  iStudiez Pro is the very first one I’ve seen that has really transformed how organized I am, and really makes me feel good about using the app on a daily basis.

However, I always like to know what problem that product solves in a review of said product.  The problem that this solves for me personally is that I used to be perpetually off target with assignment due dates, etc.  (You wonder, then, why I have been a college student for so long?)  iStudiez Pro not only solves that particular problem, but it also solves the issue of keeping track of grades, grade weights, session GPAs, etc.  So, it really is perfect for a college student like myself.

I have not gotten the chance to play with the iPad version yet, but that is because I do not have an iPad of my own, but my guess is the interface is eerily similar to that of the Mac OS X version.

So, let’s go through each of the interfaces of the versions I do have, and I will describe them in a text-based form, but nothing is better than looking at screenshots, which you can find at their website, which I linked above.

Firstly, the iPhone interface: On the bottom, you have four categorical tabs that you can tap (from left-to-right): Today, Calendar, Assignments, and Planner.

On the Today tab, you can keep track of when you have to be in class, any assignments that are due, and some other things.  On the Calendar tab, you can take a look see at a monthly view of your schedule or your assignments, and if you color-code your classes (as I did), your class schedule will show up as multi-colored dots.

On the Assignments tab, you can see what’s coming up in the near-term as well as the long term, and you can also see all your completed assignments and the grades therein, and you can also edit the grades that you receive as you receive your completed assignments back.

And finally, on the Planner tab, you can drill down into your classes, add new semesters, add previous semesters if you like, and also look at your holidays and instructors.  You can also look at your overall GPA, but there is a slight problem with this that I’ll explain in a minute.

Also, you can change your settings on the Today tab with an i (for “Info”) button on the top left hand corner.  Tapping it reveals 4 large buttons in the middle of the screen, 1 smaller button on the upper right, and several bits of information.  First is the name of the app, iStudiez Pro, and the version number; in my case, it’s Version 1.5 (343).  Then, you get 4 large buttons in the middle of the screen, Settings, Data Managing, Technical Support, and Tell A Friend.  Then on the bottom, there’s the credits and copyrights involved with creating the application.

The Settings button is pretty self-explanatory, as you can change the application settings here.  When you tap Settings, you get Today, Calendar, and Planner (as you do on the main screen of the app), but then you also get 4 other options you can change: App Icon Badge, Grades, Notifications, and Sync.  More on the syncing part later.

Tapping Today shows that you can actually change the Today Icon that shows up in the Today tab on the main app screen, as well as the phrases that show up when there are either a) no more classes today, b) a day off, such as a weekend, or c) a vacation day.

Tapping Calendar says that you can manage iOS’s built-in Calendar app events from within iStudiez Pro, and you can see the different views and change whether or not you can have week numbers show up in the Week view as well as whether or not you can have multiple dots, colored dots, assignment icons, and exam icons show up in the Month view.

Tapping Planner allows you to have a time interval of either 1 or 5 minutes, and you can also modify the standard class duration as well, which is quite nice.

Tapping App Icon Badge allows you to either show or hide the badge and show how many days in advance you want to show tasks within the App Icon badge, whether all tasks, all overdue tasks, or even intervals of 1-6 days, 1-3 weeks, or one month.  That is very nice, believe me.  Keeps me much, MUCH more organized as a result!

Tapping Grades shows a toggle switch for whether you want to keep track of grades or not, what grading scale you need to have, whether it’s Percents, Points, or different kinds of letter grades, from A-F, some Chinese or Japanese characters I don’t know (I guess those are for the Asian schools), HD-F, and A-F (+/-), the last one of them I actually use for my own grades.  You can also see the GPA scale, as well as toggle overall GPA on/off (again, more on this later), and whether or not you want the Smart Keypad turned on once you get your assignments back (TRUST ME, it is that much easier to use the smart keypad, so keep it on, PLEASE!).

Tapping Notifications shows a Notifications toggle switch for classes as well as assignments, along with some minor tweaking on how you get notified about your classes or assignments.  For classes, you can get notified at a certain time before your class (depending upon your time interval), and what sound you want to be notified with (quite nice of them to do that).  For assignments, you can set a default time that you can get notified that certain assignments are due, as well as the sound you want to be notified with (again, quite nice of them to do that).

Data Management is basically how you can back up your data in case of emergency, yada yada yada.  Technical Support and Tell a Friend are also equally self-explanatory.

For the Mac OS X version, the main window is as follows: Along the top of the application window, you have 6 clickable icons (other than the standard Mac OS X icons), from left to right: Instructors, Holidays, Overview, Assignments, Planner, and Sync Now (if you have the Cloud Sync function enabled, which I do).  The Overview shows you your calendar view, it’s much like the Today and Calendar views on the iPhone version rolled into one.  The Assignments and Planner are pretty self-explanatory, although the Instructors and Holidays are essentially split off from their places in the Planner on the iOS version.

Also, there is NO Lite version on the Mac, but there is a free Lite version on the iOS so you can try it out.

So, after looking over all of the pieces and facets of the app, what’s the bottom line?

Pros:

  • Allows for really nice organization of your schoolwork, and the Cloud Sync is a really nice feature.
  • The ability to keep track of current semesters is a lifesaver for me.
  • The customizability of the way that the app notifies you of your class times and assignments is a really neat bonus.

Cons:

  • Cloud Sync, while being a really nice feature, is exceptionally wonky, where some things don’t sync from iOS to Mac, and most things don’t sync from Mac to iOS.
  • Keeping track of previous semesters as well as the GPAs therein to keep track of your Overall GPA is a really badly implemented feature, because it does not take into account grade replacements, or anything that affects overall GPA.
  • Color-coding and keeping track of each and every assignment actually has to be done manually before you can keep track of it in the app, but the manual labor required to keep yourself organized is worth it in the end.

Rating (out of 10): 9.7


Stu’s Show Wrap-Up for Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23, 2011

Yes folks, tonight’s appearance on Stu’s Show by Jerry Beck is over.  But don’t despair, if you want to listen after the fact, it’ll be available on stusshow.com as a free download after a couple of weeks.  However, if you want all the news and discussions summarized, you’ve come to the right place.

Discussion OTHER Than DVDs:

  • Jerry Beck ASIFA-Hollywood vice presidency
  • Cartoon Dump on Monday for the LA area
  • The late Elizabeth Taylor’s animation connections
    • Maggie’s first word on The Simpsons
  • Animated movie discussion
    • Mars Needs Moms (bomb)
      • both Jerry & Stu thanked the maker for Disney pulling the plug on the planned Yellow Submarine remake as a result
    • Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland
      • Jerry saw it, Stu has never been a fan of Burton
    • What’s coming out this year:
      • Stu goes on an anti-CGI rant
      • Kung Fu Panda 2
      • Cars 2
      • Puss ‘n Boots
      • Hoodwinked 2
      • Happy Feet 2
      • Smurfs
      • Alvin 3
      • Hong Kong Phooey
      • Jonny Quest
      • Rango
      • Rio
      • Winnie-the-Pooh
    • Rango
      • Jerry is meh on it, especially when it becomes a Western parody
    • Gnomeo & Juliet
    • Yogi Bear discussion
      • Jerry called the film a “baby film”
  • “Looney Tunes Show” discussion (includes other Looney Tunes TV shows)
    • Disappointment (oh boy)
    • “Nobody at Cartoon Network cares” re remastered LT DVD prints being on Cartoon Network
  • Rumors and Innuendos
    • Yogi Bear 2?
      • Still a rumour
    • Huckleberry Hound?
      • Still a rumour
    • Bugs Bunny CGI film?
      • Still a rumour
      • Picket signs would be a possibility
    • CGI Top Cat feature?
      • Holy crap, there’s going to be a new HAND DRAWN Top Cat feature coming out in Mexico, and translated into English too, wonderful!
  • AntennaTV & Totally Tooned In discussion
    • Jerry Beck was involved with Totally Tooned In back in 1999
    • Totally Tooned In NEVER aired in the USA before AntennaTV picked up the rights
  • Betty Boop discussion
    • An appeals judge ruled against the Fleischer family in their dispute over the ownership of the Betty Boop character
    • Home video rights to Betty Boop films owned by Lionsgate; rather complicated and sordid tale
  • Mighty Mouse
    • CBS Consumer Products are pushing Mighty Mouse for the 70th anniversary of Mighty Mouse in 2012 (!!).
    • All Mighty Mouse cartoons are now known to be in existence!!

DVD News From Warner Brothers / Warner Archive Collection:

  • Roadrunner set is NOT cancelled, just delayed
    • Why has it been delayed? Jerry guesses that there’ll be a big batch of animation coming out on DVD later on in the year, so it’d fit right in to that timeframe
  • LT on Blu-Ray later this year as well
  • Censored 11: No new news, except for the Censored 11 coming out on Blu-Ray ONLY, no DVD release at all…
  • Jerry did mention that he was working on forthcoming Warner Archive animation releases (possibly H-B, Popeye, LT, MGM, etc.) with George Feltenstein
  • Complete Bosko set incoming (possibly via Warner Archives), still in planning stages
  • Tom & Jerry Golden Collection IS coming! BRAND NEW restorations, mostly original titles, etc.  Unreal news, and I am real, REAL excited for this one.  I’m praying for a release at the end of the year for this one
  • Tom & Jerry Gene Deitch Collection – Possibly through Warner Archives.
  • No Ruff & Reddy for the Warner Archives yet, mainly due to music licensing rights (one of my sorest sticking points ever).

DVD News From Disney

  • Nothing, nada, zip, zilch, and zero.  Pretty normal at this point.

DVD News From Shout! Factory:

  • This was announced earlier today prior to the broadcast, but Shout! Factory and the creator of Jem and the Holograms FINALLY confirmed that Jem and the Holograms WILL be coming to DVD, all the details we know of currently are over at TVShowsOnDVD.com.

DVD News From Everyone Else:

  • There is some movement on the topic of Columbia Cartoons on DVD, but it is not Shout! Factory.
  • No news on Woody Woodpecker on DVD

 

Final thoughts:

Whoa, crazy heady stuff this time on the Stu’s Show front.  Jerry being announced as working with the Warner Archives on future animation releases was huge, along with the  unofficial announcement (hopefully an official one follows shortly) of the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection, WITH restored prints, made for one heck of a nice time listening.  Even if we didn’t get much, we will be getting much more by the end of the year, which Jerry characterized as an animation “explosion” of releases.  So, overall it was a good show, fairly talky for the first hour and fairly newsy the second, but that’s how it goes on Stu’s Show appearances by Mr. Beck.

 


Stu’s Show Background & Predictions

March 22, 2011

Tomorrow will be an event that I will be covering using my blog as the one place you can see a roundup of everything that is discussed (and not just the DVD news!) for the very first time.  I believe that I have spoken in the past about how much I really enjoy the Internet radio station Shokus Internet Radio, which is a radio station mainly aimed at baby boomers, but sometimes will have topics that interest me, the old soul that I am (because though I will be turning 25 this Friday, I have interests in classic cartoons and old game shows that seriously carbon date me, though everyone else seems to have the same interests).

And I have not spoken very much of Stu’s Show, and I am very remorseful that I haven’t mentioned it sooner, because it’s one of the best Internet radio shows out there right now, and it’s been about 4-5 years running now, and the format is essentially the same every week: Some incredibly interesting (or not, depends on the week really) Hollywood guest comes on the show to talk about any or all of these things, depending upon the guests in question: 1) The television industry, classic, modern, or both; 2) the movie industry, classic, modern, or both; or 3) the animation industry, whether it be classic, modern, 0r b0th.

This week’s guest is Jerry Beck, DVD supervisor extraordinaire and world-renowned cartoon expert, whom Stu Shostak, the host of Stu’s Show, has dubbed “The King of All Things Cartoons”, which he really is!  This time, it’s his first 2011 appearance, and the last time he was on the show, Jerry mentioned some major DVD news *might* be coming down the pike with this appearance.

Which is why, the week of my birthday, I am planning to blow things sky-high in terms of how I cover this event.  I’ve been live-tweeting the event before at my Twitter page (twitter.com/bjwanlund), but never have I done it quite like this.  This time, I’ve come up with a new name for what I’m doing, as well as a new hashtag to signify my live coverage of Jerry Beck’s appearances on Stu’s Show.

The new name (and resulting hashtag) I’m calling the Live Tweety (#LiveTweety).  Why this name?  Well, #1, it’s a spectacularly awful Looney Tunes pun, and #2, it meshes perfectly with the whole cartoon theme of the shows when Jerry Beck is on.  The other thing that I will do to cover this event is to create a nice write-up on here that rounds up all the topics that are covered on the show, and with my thoughts on the matter with my unique perspective as a cartoon fanatic.  I will be doing this for all the international members on the Golden Age Cartoons (or GAC for short) Forums who cannot stay up for the entirety of Stu’s Show in their home countries due to time zone differences.

So, with all this background, I have a few predictions, because any Apple blogger worth his or her salt understands the inevitable prediction posts before Apple’s events, usually filled with bizarro crackpot theories.  This time, however, I’m doing a prediction post before the next appearance by Jerry Beck on Stu’s Show.  There are a few candidates for Most Likely To Be Released, but I will basically put every one of the below predictions in the following categories: Warner Home Video, Disney, Shout! Factory, and Everyone Else.

Warner Home Video:

  • The Censored Eleven.  It’s been teased out, mentioned forever and a day, and we’ll finally see a release this year, and it WILL be a mainstream release, censorship issues notwithstanding.
  • Looney Tunes on Blu-Ray.  It’s about time, for one.  However, I am going to go out on a very creaky and unstable limb here and say that the Looney Tunes on Blu-Ray discs WILL be collector-centered, and I have a reason why.  I believe that each of the 6 previous Looney Tunes Golden Collections will each be re-released on a single Blu-Ray Disc (as opposed to four standard-definition DVDs), and Warner Brothers will pull what Disney has been pulling for the last few Blu-Ray releases (i.e. Pinocchio and Bambi) and create an incredibly unique experience for watching these old Looney Tunes cartoons that nobody, not even an old-school movie theater, is going to even be able to THINK of matching.  The LT LiveView technology will be a unique experience that will evoke many different memories, and show just how each generation grew up on these same cartoons, from the original generation who grew up watching these cartoons in a movie theatre, to the next generation who grew up watching these very same cartoons on an old black-&-white television, to the next generation that watched these cartoons in color, and then the generation that (like me) watched the Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon and then on Cartoon Network (before CN decided that LT wasn’t a good idea to be promoting ahead of their new “Cartoon Cartoons”).  The LiveView experience will evoke all of these experiences and more, and that is my guess as to how Looney Tunes will finally be put onto Blu-Ray.
  • Tex Avery.  Another DVD/Blu-Ray boxed set that has been an oh so very long time coming, the only official boxed set of his cartoons released in his home country, the United States of America, thus far has been the much-maligned Tex Avery’s Droopy: The Complete Collection DVD boxed set released a number of years ago, and is among my very favorite boxed sets ever.  Even with the odd issues that set had, I loved it, but then again, I am quite biased towards my main man Droopy.  I loved watching Droopy and Dripple on Tom & Jerry Kids, I even loved watching the old Droopy cartoons whenever they came on the TV machine, and I loved Droopy so much that I even put him in my first ever Gmail address as a tribute.  My first email address I ever made in Gmail was BJDroopyWanlund, so you can understand my excitement at the Droopy boxed set being announced, and I’m still waiting for the Tex boxed set, even all these many years later.  Heck, I’d even double-dip the Droopys to have a Complete Tex Avery set that covered BOTH his Warner Brothers AND his MGM stints, but I’m completely nuts in that regard.
  • This one should be quite obvious to those who follow the GAC Forums, as I mentioned above.  We will be getting a status update on another much-maligned release, Looney Tunes Super Stars: Road-Runner and Wile E. Coyote – Supergenius Hijinks.  It was SUPPOSED to come out in May (May 24, to be exact), but WHV for whatever reason delayed the release of this till the fall.  I’m personally guessing they still had some idea that they could save this turkey of a release by putting Zip-N-Snort in instead of a Larriva Road Runner cartoon, which are MUCH hated amongst LT fanatics.  My other guess is that they cancelled the release, given the advent of what I mentioned above.
  • My final Warner Home Video prediction is straight from the nuthouse: A rerelease, at long last, of the Golden Age of Looney Tunes laserdisc collections so that the people still clinging to their laserdiscs can now watch these same collections on their computer or whatever.

Disney:

  • Given Disney’s propensity for not letting Jerry Beck do much of anything for them, I don’t have much hope of seeing any release news from them, but I do have a few releases I’m hoping for particularly:
  • 1.  A new series of Walt Disney Treasures releases with Leonard Maltin‘s expert guidance.
  • 2.  A release of Song of the South on DVD at long last (maybe we should’ve gotten Julia Sugarbaker to talk them into it?)
  • 3.  A rerelease of the Saludos Amigos-Three Caballeros laserdisc with ALL of its bonus features intact (subsequent rereleases haven’t had every single feature from the laserdisc release, more like one or two at the most)

Shout! Factory:

  • More cartoon DVDs, that much is for sure!
  • Possibly we could get a cartoon DVD from the humble host of the program, Stu Shostak himself.  If you’ve seen the promo Shout! Factory did for the Dennis The Menace live-action series DVD, you will notice that the clips shown on the promo are absolutely pristine-looking!  They look eerily like they could have been made in today’s day and time, with the black-&-white (which was a technical limitation in the days when this series was on the air) as more of a stylistic choice than a technical limitation.

Everyone Else:

  • Again not expecting too much, maybe news of a new Thunderbean Animation release, and maybe news of more import that I might not be thinking of, but this is not one where I will be making many predictions.

5 Simple Rules For Practicing Good Journalism While Blogging

March 21, 2011

You may remember that on Friday I talked about linkbaiting, and how I found that to be journalistically reprehensible.

I am very much a stickler for at least sticking to the hard and fast rules of old school journalism in an age where that old school journalistic ethic of a Walter Cronkite is very rare indeed.

So, since blogging is the future of journalism, here’s five simple rules to practice good journalism while blogging.  Much as people hate list posts such as this, I find it to make my job somewhat easier if I have to make a list post once a week or so.

  1. Check Your Sources.  Bloggers often do not factcheck whatsoever (and yes, I admit to being guilty of that from time to time).  Once in a while forgetting to factcheck is fine, but bloggers who don’t factcheck all the time (*cough* Gizmodo *cough*) are reprehensible in my eyes.  Heck, journalistic outfits who don’t check their facts that often and have to post “corrections” because of that (*cough* Consumer Reports & New York Times *cough*) are just as reprehensible, if not more so.
  2. Know Of Which You Speak.  Please, don’t talk about ANY new hot consumer product or other similar device if you don’t have one in your possession.  Going hands-on with a product and talking about those hands-on experiences are so, so much better than just blathering on about a product.  I have made it a point to not talk about the iPad at all except when I’m mentioning what platforms a product works on that I mention.  Why?  Because I don’t have one, that’s why.  I don’t believe in talking about things without getting your hands dirty on those products.
  3. Speak Honestly To Your Readers.  I also don’t believe in quid pro quod (meaning “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”), which is a nice sophisticated way of saying that someone’s reviews were bought by whoever sent them that product.  I have made it a personal policy of mine not to plug or even so much as mention a product if I don’t absolutely love it.  It makes the recommendations I make that much more special, and really puts the onus on the product purveyor to really impress me with how their product works.
  4. Don’t Post Regularly If You Can’t Be Certain Of The Rightness Of Your Facts.  This one is one I’ve been practicing more recently.  Posting regularly is great if you want to be like any number of other blogs out there, but if you can’t be certain that your facts are absolutely correct, then don’t post them!  I’ve seen so many blogs that break this rule, and then have to post “corrections”, and really, I’ve way, WAY more than had enough.
  5. Have fun!  Yes, I know this is supposed to be a rule for whatever you’re doing in the blogosphere, but so many people just burn out for whatever reason, and blogging is supposed to be fun, and not something that you get tired of and burn out on after a while.

Pay Walls vs. Instapaper: Why I Believe The New York Times Paywalled Themselves To Irrelevance

March 18, 2011

Being a old-fashioned blogger, I find linkbaiting to be truly distasteful and journalistically unethical.

That being said, the New York Times just made themselves irrelevant by putting up a paywall.  The maximum the Times is charging is $40/month, well out of the price range of many broke college students who wish to scour the web for current events (most of them for a class).

Paywalls are a losing proposition.  The New York Times THEMSELVES even admitted that several years ago.  Other companies who put up such paywalls include the Wall Street Journal and other News Corp publications as well as the well-known-for-being-scientifically-biased Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports magazine, who have been well known for putting distasteful and journalistically unethical pieces into the pages of their magazine over the last several years.

But is there an alternative to the constant putting up and taking down of paywalls?  In the words of Sarah Palin (though I do not agree with her politics whatsoever), “You betcha!”

This service is called Instapaper, and it was created by Marco Arment.  Instapaper is most well-known for its iOS application that takes anything that you want to “Read Later” on the Web and brings it down to your iOS device, whether it’s an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.  What I think is so great about Instapaper is that you just register for the Instapaper service, place a little bookmarklet called “Read Later” into your Web browser and then you just hit that on any page containing an article (including the article page for this very blog entry), and that’s it.

The Instapaper app is only $5, and if you already have it, you don’t ever have to pay for it again.

So, $5 one time vs. $40/month… who wins? Instapaper, of course!  It makes total financial sense, not just for broke college students, but also for anyone questioning why one needs paywalls that make no sense once compared to Instapaper.


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