The One-Man Swiss Army Knife of Design™

Switching from Time Warner to Verizon FiOS

December 31st, 2011

I’ve decided to switch from Time Warner to Verizon FiOS. In doing so, I’ve done what most people would consider exhaustive research, and decided I should share my findings.

Unlike many other users, I use a TiVo Series 3 HD DVR, which requires two  S-Card CableCARDs (or one multi-stream M-Card). From my chat with Verizon, by default, they’ll send one S-Card with the installer, but I can call to request one M-Card (apparently they charge the same $3.99/month for one M-Card or one S-Card).

What channels will I NOT get with Verizon FiOS?

Where I live (a suburb of Buffalo, NY), we usually get Canadian channels with our cable service. For some reason or another, Verizon FiOS doesn’t offer Canadian channels, even though I could receive them over the air with an antenna. Oh well. I won’t be missing much there.

There’s also the Time Warner exclusives—channels that they produce themselves—like “Time Warner Cable SportsNet HD” etc.

For all intents and purposes, I’ve grown to take HD for granted, and barely watch anything that isn’t HD. So, while Verizon FiOS offers BBC America, it’s not in HD. As a big fan of “Top Gear,” that’s a big deal for me, but for the amount I’ll be saving per month, I think I can wait for it to be available online or through Netflix streaming.

The following channels are available from Time Warner, but not available from Verizon’s “Extreme HD” package (there may be others, but I didn’t really check anything other than HD channels within the bundle I planned to get, compared to the Time Warner package I was cancelling):

  • 717 HLN HD
  • 732 Tennis Channel HD
  • 733 Outdoor Channel HD
  • 740 Velocity HD
  • 745 Crime & Investigation HD
  • 747 Cartoon Network HD
  • 753 MGM HD
  • 761 Encore HD
  • 762 TV One HD
  • 764 EWTN HD
  • 768 BTN HD
  • 770 YES HD
  • 787 TCM HD
  • 858 Oxygen HD
  • 860 BBC America HD
  • 861 H2 HD
  • 862 Cooking Channel HD
  • 863 DIY Channel HD
  • 864 GOL TV HD
  • 871 FEARnet HD
  • 881 GSN HD
  • 883 Bloomberg HD
  • 884 Sundance HD
  • 885 Reelz HD
  • 889 Style HD
  • 897 Hallmark Channel HD

Will I get additional channels that I didn’t have before?

Verizon’s “Extreme HD” package includes some channels that are not available, or would carry an additional fee with Time Warner:

  • Independent Film Channel 234/734HD
  • NFL Network 88/588HD
  • Smithsonian Channel HD 625
  • Wealth TV 169 / 669HD

How much does this cost? Will I actually save money?

Price-wise, my bill with Time Warner was ~$170 / month, while the bill from Verizon should be ~$110. What I had with Time Warner was their Triple-Play package of Cable TV, Digital Phone, and Internet (10 down / 5 up, I believe). With Verizon FiOS, it’ll be the same three services, with internet of 25 up / 25 down.

If you have additional information that I’ve overlooked, or have any questions, please feel free to comment below, or contact me on twitter: @PumiceT.

Propellerhead Reason 6 – Pay What You Want Upgrade

September 30th, 2011

For those of us who have Reason 5 + Record 1.5, we have the opportunity to upgrade to Reason 6 for any price (over $1). Some Record users feel they were used as Beta testers of the recording functionality of Reason 6, and they see this as the least Propellerhead Software could do to thank them. I don’t feel the same way.

My feelings about Record are so strong that I’m sad to see it go (Reason 6 is all of Record 1.5 + Reason 5 and then some, so Record is being discontinued). Since I started using Record, it’s been my all-in-one weapon of choice to such a degree that I can’t recall the last time I opened Reason. Which may be why I felt like I’d be missing something. Perhaps by using Reason 6—with even more features than Record had—to record the Hip-Hop Talk Show, I’ll be overburdening my computer to run all the new bells and whistles. But that’s not the case—it’s really just doing everything Record 1.5 was doing, with the additional of a few effects.

I’m ready to re-embrace Reason 6, are you?

Netflix Renames Its Online DVD Rental Qwikster

September 19th, 2011

Netflix can’t win. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time. I used to get new DVDs in the mail several times a week, and I was thrilled when they added streaming. They were on the right path: become the best source for movies, documentaries, TV series, and pretty much anything you’d watch on TV.

Then Netflix blew it. They got all complicated (read: greedy) and decided to separate their rental plans. Streaming was no longer a free add-in for their DVD plans. They’ve officially jumped the shark. Way to go, Fonzie.

It was bad enough to split the pricing, but now, those of you who have both DVDs and streaming will have to build your queues on two completely separate websites. Talk about going in the wrong direction. Not only has Netflix missed their chance to let their users share their viewing experience on social networks, now their users can’t even share their ratings of DVDs alongside their ratings of streamed videos. WTF, Netflix? I mean Qwikster. I mean Qwikflix. I have no idea who to complain to!!

WECK 1230AM on iPhone

April 18th, 2011

I recently wanted to listen to my cousin Nick’s WECK show on my iPhone. For those of you looking to stream WECK on iPhone or Android, get the TuneIn Radio app. It’s that simple. The app is only 99¢ as of this posting, and includes over 50,000 radio stations worldwide. Not bad!

The Hip-Hop Talk Show

January 6th, 2011

Although I may listen to a wide variety of music, hip-hop is always on heavy rotation. Back in the early ’80s, my brother and I made “pause tapes” before we knew there was a name for them—I’m pretty sure we thought we invented the technique. I never stopped finding ways to manipulate songs, I produced rap music with my friends and learned everything I could about sampling, beat production and recording.

Rob Borman, TS3, Pumice T, Jon Salemi, and Pete (from left to right)

When I was attending Buffalo State College, I got my FCC license and entered the world of radio broadcasting at WBNY 91.3FM. After a short stint on Sunday mornings from 6 to 9 A.M., I was given the opportunity to join the “Dance” shows on Sunday nights. My show, “Pumice T and his Famous Hot Nuts,” broke pretty much every rule the station had. No unauthorized guests in the studio? Ooops. I had at least 2 friends co-hosting with me every week. No callers allowed on-air? Sorry, I did that, too. No profanity? I’m pretty lucky no one from the FCC was tuning in to what was then a mono 100-watt broadcast, because rap artists tend to drop a few F-bombs. Not allowed to do the show unless you’re a student? Even after I left Buffalo State, I did the show for another two or three months before the program director called me and put an end to it. She asked me why I was still doing the show. “Because it’s fun,” I replied.

As much as I enjoyed playing music, it was the on-air conversations that I truly loved. Almost 20 years later, I’ve decided to get back into broadcasting, but thanks to technology, I no longer need that FCC license. “The Hip-Hop Talk Show” premiered January 5, 2011, with what will be a weekly podcast about hip-hop. Keep in mind, hip-hop is not to be confused with “rap music.” Hip-hop is composed of four elements: MCing; DJing; B-boying (breakdancing); and Graffiti Writing.

MC Serch and Frank Azzarelli

MC Serch (left), Frank Azzarelli (right)

In order to do the show “right,” I needed to re-assemble a strong group of co-hosts. I’ve known DJ Heat and Jeff for over ten years, and I knew they both not only kept up with what’s current, but also what’s to come in the music industry. Frank was a regular guest on the Hot Nuts show after bringing us free food one night. We used to refer to him as “MC Serch,” due to his uncanny resemblance to the 3rd Bass MC.

DJ Heat and Jeff hadn’t even met Frank until a week before recording our test run. I had them over to my house to see how the group would gel, and not surprisingly, it was as if we’d all been friends forever—and the rest is history.

You can listen to the Hip-Hop Talk Show on our website, and the podcast will be on iTunes as soon as Apple approves it.

Starbucks New Logo

January 5th, 2011

Starbucks LogosFor whatever reason, Starbucks decided it was time to change their look. I think it looks a little too corporate. Part of the charm of the older logo was its lack of minimalism. I think it seems almost amateur to pile element upon element—mermaid symbol, green ring, white text, outline ring—but that’s what helps make it seem less corporate and almost local. This new icon-only logo reminds me of cold major corporations, not a friendly warm place to get a latte. Perhaps this is just another Gap logo fiasco? Only time will tell.

Buffalo Bills Rap – New for 2010

September 9th, 2010

The Late Nick Mendola

My cousin, Nick Mendola, is something of an AM talk-radio superstar. He recently left WGR 550 in favor of WECK 1230, and in the wake lost the instrumental of his Buffalo Bills Rap. Not one to let a family member be left high and dry without a beat, I fired up Propellerhead Reason and made a reasonable facsimile of the beat.

We decided it needed to be freshened up a bit, and what says “fresh” better than Auto-Tune? Nothing. So we added some T-Pain action to the mix, and an instant classic was born.

Without futher ado, feel free to download and bump this week’s Bills Rap, as heard exclusively on WECK.
Bills Rap – Week 1 (Original Version) MP3 (4MB)
Bills Rap – Week 1 (Auto-Tune Version) MP3 (4MB)

RFID for Fun, Profit and Eavesdropping

August 20th, 2010

Imagine this world, sometime in the not-so-distant future:

All consumer goods will be embedded with RFID chips. You’ll be able to catalog all your worldly possessions, and find them whether they’re in your house or on loan to a friend. If your child goes missing, you’ll know their outfit(s) based on what’s missing from the house.

Of course, this begs the outcry of the paranoid, “but then my every move can be monitored and traced!!” True, but is that so crazy? People check in on foursquare and Facebook by the minute. Then again, they might be begging to be robbed.

I suppose you could also scan the RFID from a perfect stranger (or friend), and keep track of them whenever their tag is read by a reader of yours. I think if you’re broadcasting your Bluetooth ID, this could be somewhat possible already. But then, you’d have to have a whole bunch of ID readers that you can access. Who knows, maybe there would be some use for public scanners, for organizations to log into and grab data.

Seem possible? Likely?

By no means am I an RFID expert, but it does make one think about the practical uses, and potential dangers of the technology. I look forward to being able to walk out of the grocery store without having the cashier crush my loaf of bread under a gallon of milk. I’d love to just choose my payment account on the way in, and have all my selections tallied up as I pass by a pedestal. Until then, I’ll keep eating crushed bread.

Gotham is Everywhere

November 4th, 2009

I’m not sure if this is just one of those things that you only notice after you’ve bought one (like when you buy a new car, all you see on the road are other cars just like yours), but I keep seeing Gotham everywhere I look.

Gotham font sample

I started using it about a year ago for one of the companies I work for. We also use it on all the marketing materials for The Barkyard, per the style guide provided by the creators of the logo and brand, The Martin Group.

To me, Gotham may very well be the perfect font, so I really don’t mind seeing it everywhere. I’ve decided to post each time I have a #GothamSpotting on my Twitter feed. Feel free to follow along.

See also: Font of the Year and Gotham in Ten Years.

Twelve Hours in a City

August 21st, 2009

I’ve been working on some branding for a couple of guys who are traveling around the United States for 31 days, spending 12 hours in each city. Sean Gregory of thinks they’re crazy, but the local media here in Buffalo, NY seems pretty optimistic about the plan.