Monday, January 23, 2012

No more Netflix for me

I'm gonna do something that I thought I wouldn't do. Cancel my Netflix account. Why? Because I realize that I don't need it anymore. Long story short, when Neflix changed the the price of their plans last year, I moved from 2 DVDs at a time and unlimited streaming to one DVD with unlimited streaming. A few months later DISH Network announced Blockbuster Movie Pass to existing Dish Network customers. I immediately canceled the DVD option with Netflix and switched to the Dish/Blockbuster option.

I soon realized something. I really didn't do a lot of streaming from Netflix. Actually, the whole time that I had been a Netflix member, since 2009, I might have streamed 5 or 6 movies. Everything I watched was on DVD because there was nothing in their streaming library that I wanted to watch. So why was I paying for a service that I was not fully utilizing?

Reality is that I still watch DVDs. My family and I don't go to the movies often (maybe 4 or 5 times a year) so we watch the latest movies when they become available on DVD. As a Dish Network subscriber, it was a no-brainer to switch from Netflix to Blockbuster Movie Pass to fulfill my need for the latest DVDs (plus there are other perks available to Dish customers).

There are times that we do need to stream TV shows or movies that we want to watch. If I want to stream a recently released movie, the Vudu service is great and I subscribe to Hulu+ for the TV shows that we want to watch. The best thing is that, just like Netflix,  Hulu+ and Vudu are both available on multiple devices such as our Xbox 360 and the Sony Blu-Ray player in our house. Granted, not as many devices as Netflix, but the ones that I use regularly. Again, why do I need Netflix?

All things said, while Netflix is no longer a good service for me, it still meets the needs of many other people. It just doesn't do it for me anymore.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What I Use: WD My Book Live

Today I received the 1TB WD My Book Live. At home, neither my wife nor I save files directly onto our computers. Too much of a hassle trying to figure out what needs to be backed up on each computer, where to store each backup, etc (when you do this stuff at work every day, the last thing you want to do is deal with tech support issues at home). Instead, we have been using NAS devices.

NAS is short for Network Attached Storage and basically it is an external hard drive that connects to your home network instead of directly to a computer.  For years, my wife and I have saved our documents, pictures, movies, music and other files to some type of NAS device. It gives us the flexibility to move from the multiple computers and other devices, such as our Xbox gaming consoles, instead of being confined to one particular device.

Unfortunately, our current NAS, a Buffalo Technology LinkStation Mini, almost full (remember when 500GB was a lot of space a few years ago) so I have been looking for a replacement. Over the summer, I did move our home movies and photos to a Dell Inspiron Zino HD running Windows Home Server 2011 with a 2nd Generation Drobo for storage. While I love WHS, there are some things that I’ve had issues with (that I won’t go into right now).

Enter the WD My Book Live. Setup was straightforward after two firmware updates. Everything looks good so far. Still need to test accessing my files away from home. And guess what? There’s an app for that too! WD 2go Pro.

UPDATE (1/20/12): Unfortunately, the WD My Book Live did not live up to my expectations. While it did provide the features as advertised, some of them did not provide the functionality that I needed for my home networking environment. This is more specific to the ability to stream to my Xbox consoles in our living room and my home office. The issues that I encountered seemed to be related to the Twonky Media Server that it uses for streaming. The version that comes with the My Book Live is an older version than the one that is available now and unfortunately there is not an update available at the moment. If you don't need the media streaming features in your home, the WD My Book Live is a great choice even though it did not meet my needs. Sticking with Window Home Server 2011.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New SSD in my Dell Inspiron Duo

Ok, I admit it. I have a love affair with solid-state drives (SSD). Ever since I purchased a 120GB Kingston SSD several years ago to put in an aging 1st generation white MacBook, I have been madly in love with SSDs. Yes, they cost more than traditional hard drives and can’t match the storage capacity but the performance gain you get especially on older computers make them well worth the investment in my opinion.
Original hard drive next to SSD
I recently purchased a Patriot Torqx 2 64GB SATA II SSD from Newegg to replace the stock hard drive that was in my Dell Inspiron Duo running Windows 8 Developer Preview. Noticeable difference in performance. Hopefully, I will be able to really put it to the test once the official Windows 8 beta is released in the coming months.

SSD installed in Dell Inspiron Duo

My Goals of 2012

And just like that, 2011 is behind us and now we are starting 2012. With the arrival of a new year, comes a time to reflect on my experiences of the past year to see what was successful for me and what I need to improve upon. Unlike most people, I don’t make resolutions but instead establish realistic goals to complete. In my opinion, a resolution is basically saying you are going to do something while a goal produces a desired result from something that you have made a commitment to achieve. The big advantage of establishing goals is that you can write them down and review regularly to see if you are on track.
Here are my primary goals for 2012 in no particular order:
1. Perform at least one random act of kindness each month. Believe it or not, but kindness is contagious and the impact that a small act of kindness can have on a person is amazing.
2. Build a computer. It has been about 6-8 years since I built a computer from scratch. It will be fun and I think I will create a video of the process.
3. Add at least 1 or 2 new certifications to my professional credentials. This is an ongoing goal that that I pursue every year that add value to me professionally. Maybe something related to project management…
4. Increase my online presence. My plan is to blog more and contribute to other website regularly to improve my brand as an IT professional (see next goal).
5. Work on my brand. Yes, I have a brand. Guess what? You have a brand too! Your brand is how people see you and value what you bring to the table. Part of improving your brand is to ask what value others are receiving from you. This is important being a part-time instructor because students view me as an expert and I have to live up to that.
6. Attend more meetings for organizations that I have a membership. I recently joined HDI. The last thing I want to do is to pay an annual membership fee and not take advantage of the networking opportunities that it can provide by interacting with other members
7. Speak to minority kids about careers in IT. IT is the future. Period. The opportunities are endless. With the right planning and focus, a person can write their own check even in this economy, as long as they don’t limit themselves.
8. Continue mentoring those who want to start a career in technology. I had someone provide me mentoring when I started my IT career, so it is only right that I do the same for others. It’s all about helping someone define their interest and build their skillset.
So those are my goals for 2012. Of course I have other goals that are more personal, but I have to have some secrets :-) Now that you know mine, what are your goals for 2012?