Product Review – Keurig B60 Special Edition

For quite a while now I’ve been a fan of the concept of “single serve” coffee. I’ve had and used a whole variety of coffee makers. Everything from a Tassimo to my favorite Melita One-to-One to the high end Lavazza systems. Normally, I have two coffee makers as well. One, the single cup brewer for every day use and a larger 12-cup, full pot brewer for parties and holidays. After years of faithful service, both of ours decided to kick the bucket. As avid coffee drinkers, we had to find a replacement.

After doing our homework, we decided on the Keurig B60 Special Edition. We ended up getting one, on sale, with a 20% coupon on top of that. A $129.99 coffee maker only cost us about $75.


Getting the Band Back Together

Last night for the first time in probably two years I sat down and reunited with my old comrades for some good old fashion, ass kicking computer gaming. The members of the world famous Texas Combat Crew got together and had what I would consider to be a pretty awesome showing of raw gaming playing skill. We’re all older, we’ve all moved on to other things, but damn, we can still kick ass when we want to.

Of course, this meant I had to find and then install a copy of Battlefield 2, a feat that proved to be more difficult than shaking off the rust in-game. I had, at one point, two copies of BF2. One for the house and one for work. Playing at work was always a huge perk, one I genuinely enjoyed, and so that second copy was a necessity, especially since EA was (and still is) being an asshole about what computers use what CD keys. I managed to find both boxes. I managed to find both install CDs with both CD keys. What I couldn’t find anywhere were the “play” CDs.

That entire concept, from the beginning, has always been flawed and this is a perfect example of why. I own, legally, two $59.99 copies of that video game. I can’t use either one of them because I have to have a disk in the PC to play it. There’s nothing actually ON that disk, it’s merely “copy protection”. Now, 5 years after I bought those copies, I can’t find the disk to play. My install CDs, my CD keys, everything is useless without that second disk, the disk with nothing on it.

So, what did I do? The only thing a consumer can do (and they know it), I bought a THIRD copy.

Luckily, it was only $20 and included the entire collection (main game plus 3 expansions). Unfortunately, my fun lesson in economics didn’t end there. No, in order to maintain their place in the universe as a manifestation of everything soulless and wrong, EA requires “product activation” for the expansion packs. “Well, that’s not a big deal” you think, “I’ll just click this…..hmmmm…..why isn’t this working?”

Yeah, in order to play the expansion packs you have to visit EA’s website to register and activate your product. Only problem is, the websites for those expansion packs have long ago disappeared. The embedded links in the installer are dead. So, you get redirected to a page that says “sign up for an EA account”. I opt to login instead, because I already have an EA account from playing Skate and Skate 2. Oh no, that’s an EA Games account and the Battlefield page wants an EA Classics account. So you have to make a new one. Then, you go back and try and register again. This time it tells you it has no record of you playing Battlefield and can’t unlock the packs for you. This is because you haven’t “tied” your EA Classics account to your EA BF2 account. Oh, by the way, the page to do that, also dead.

You can see where I’m going with this. It took literally 10 tries, multiple account logins, multiple account merges, activations, dozens of dead links and finally a trip to customer support to finally get it straitened out. Two hours later (no exaggeration), I was ready to play.

Oh, and in the end, the expansions I was trying to unlock and install, add three (yes, 3) maps a piece. Oh, and the servers to play those on? They were shut down 3 years ago. Isn’t that awesome.

Way to make an installer EA. Keep up the awesome work. It was totally worth it to require I install (and then spend hours activating) those packs so that the main game install would finish. Totally worth it.

In the end, I really did have a blast playing. It was good to meet up with the guys again. It’s been too long. I look forward to the return of “Drunken Wednesdays” from now on.

Austin TX – Day 3 and 4

Wow, this week has flown by. It’s been two days since I updated and most of it was a blur. I actually intended to write about my experience yesterday but I was so tired I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Thursday was the first day of intense breakout sessions. There were twice as many as the day before and it was even harder to choose what to attend. I was able to see “Making Ideas Happen in the Creative World” with Scott Belsky, “Good vs. Great Design” with one of my personal favorites Cameron Moll, “Everything I know I learned from Video Games” with Dave Werner and “Variations on a Rectangle” (magazine design) with DJ Stout.

Probably the most helpful, especially in terms of design and inspiration was Cameron. It was a really great session with lots of insight on pushing your ideas to the next level. The video game session with Dave Werner was also interesting from a software standpoint. They’ve developed a great product in Atmosphir that’s essentially a “create your own game” platform. It looks very slick and I hope they succeed with their product.

We also had the chance to visit the exhibitions themselves and pick up some schwag. When I say some, I mean 6 bags full. I actually beat my previous record of “free t-shirts” from a computer conference in high-school with a resounding 9 shirts. A couple hats, toys, books and even a messenger bag are all mixed in there along with all the brochures and info sheets about various products. There was actually quite a number of paper companies, which I found rather odd. I was always under the impression that designers usually found and then used a printer that suited their needs and that the decision for a specific brand of paper was usually up to that printer. I guess a designer could ask for Monadnock paper instead of Mohawk, but I doubt a printer is going to go find, buy and ship in a special paper from some unknown paper company just for a certain job. More likely they’ll just suggest something similar from what stock they have. Who knows.

Paper is something that both facinates me from a strictly product standpoint as well as is a non-issue for me unless we’re talking about photo papers. Regardless, it was interesting to talk to people about their various products.

Thursday I decided to take it easy and just chill at the hotel. These sessions are hours long and we’re walking everywhere so I was pretty tired. My coworkers and I go some food and called it a night early.

Today I got up early and went to the “Early Morning Photoshop Show” presented by Adobe. It was probably the best session from the entire conference. I got more out that hour and a half than most anything so far. There are literally hundreds of little, tiny updates and changes to the CS4 Suite that I hadn’t figured out yet. It was very interesting to see how and why Adobe has updated what they did. By the way, if you have CS4, you’re going to want to check out the Configurator app. Trust me.

After that there were a couple less memorable sessions and a couple pretty good ones, including “Web Strategy that Works” with Mark O’Brian. The main focus of that was web clarity, marketing, search engine strategies and other random tips but the real focus was on creating and maintaining a creative writing schedule, something I’ve struggled with from time to time. There were a few good tips on staying true to your content, how to get over writers block, that sort of thing. Very helpful.

That’s about it for today. Lauren is driving up from Houston to join me for the weekend and I’m really excited about that. We haven’t been able to get away for quite a while and I think we’re way overdue. I’ve got a couple more classes first thing tomorrow, but after lunch we’ll be on our own and we plan on exploring Austin a little bit. I haven’t had a chance to go see the capital yet, so that’s definitely on my to-do list. I’ll try and share some pictures when we get back.

Matt out.

Austin – Day Two

Had a pretty good day of seminars today. Everything kicked off at 8am with the conference opening up the exhibit hall which resulted in the “t-shirt gold rush” that conferences typically turn into. I came away with 4. Not bad. I was a little rusty, but I made out better than the co-workers. Apparently that was only the first part of the exhibitors and the rest will open tomorrow, which will probably result in a repeat of this morning.

Besides the typical shwag grab, there are of course the classes we all came there for. I started out in “Photoshop CS4 Extended Advanced” with Russell Brown. It was actually pretty interesting. He detailed most of the more advanced features of the new Photoshop CS4 including the 3D features, the ability of make 3-D (as in the red and blue glasses variety) images from layered files, some advanced HDR merging and blending techniques as well as some general “tips and tricks”. I really enjoyed that one. It also didn’t hurt that they had a Versi-laser set up in the corner engraving things. I almost got my cell phone engraved but just settled for metal dog tag they were giving away.

After that we took a break for lunch, had some Mongolian BBQ, then got back to the second session.

That, however, wasn’t that great. We took “A Splash of Flash” which I had hoped would be more of a “these are all the cool things Flash can do these days”. It was, instead, a “here’s Flash 101 followed by every boring action script feature ever”. I really dislike Flash, with a huge passion, and this only cemented the fact that it’s tottally and completely useless. I sincerely hope that Flash, by this time next year, is a DEAD technology. Especially with the HTML 5 specs coming, I really hope Flash dies, hard.

Honestly, I just don’t see the point of it. The instructor gave no real world, actual examples of anything Flash could do to actually make a web experience better or more productive. The example he did give however, was laughable. He created an empty square with a stroke around it and linked it to some action script that would grab a defined JPG and add it to the frame. That was it. He then created an HTML page with dozens of these flash frames embeded. He previewed it in the browser and the called JPGs faded into the frames, then remained static.

…Congrats moron. You just required your sites visitors to install a plugin just to view a couple static images. What the hell was the point of that? You could have just used the actual images in the first place. The flash files just added to the loading time of the page. The plugin is a non-standard. You had to take the time to crop and size the images in the first place, so it’s not like it’s saving any time. A very pointless example. He certainly didn’t win me over with that one.

After that, we headed back to the hotel, relaxed a little bit, then regrouped and headed out for Austin’s historic 6th Street. He started off at R.D.O’Brians, a cool little Irish pub. After some food and drinks we headed down to the Jackalope for some kick butt Blues guitar and a few more drinks.

That’s about it for day one. I decided to leave the MBP here at the hotel, which turned out to be a good move. There weren’t any power outlet anywhere and a 4 hour session with a 3 hour battery just wasn’t going to fly. Oh well.

Anyway, I’m tired as hell, so I’m heading off to bed. Gotta get up early

Austin TX – Day 1

I’m not really sure if simply getting here counts as day one or not, but we’ll just go with it. We’re all checked into the hotel and, as you can see, the wireless is working. It took a little under four hours to get here but the trip was pretty uneventful, as it should be. We did stop at Buc-ee’s, the international rest-stop of awesomeness. Honestly, those stores have everything. I limited myself to a giant piece of homemade jerky, which I’ve already eaten.

After we got here and checked in at the hotel we ran downtown to the Austin Convention Center to get our packets and badges. The conference officially opens tomorrow at 7am, but I had little doubt that the line were going to be crazy, so I wanted to get that stuff out of the way early. The expected turn out for the conference is 4500, not counting exhibitors and lecture guests. They’re also giving away tshirts… so that should be, well, nuts. Something tells me 4500 tshirts are going to go fast.

After that we drove around a bit to try and plan our parking strategy. There isn’t any parking directly for the convention center or in the adjecent buildings, so we’re going to have to get a bit creative. Our thought is to park at the Mariott downtown, which is the “sister hotel” to ours. Hopefully flashing our room keys will be enough. It’s worth a shot. If that doesn’t work, there’s a downtown garage a few blocks away. That will have to do.

I was just flipping through the information packet about the vendors and sponsors and low and behold, SCAD will be here as a “platinum sponsor”. I’ll have to try and get a tshirt off them. I was going to bring my SCAD hat, now I’m regretting having decided to leave it at home. Oh well.

Now we’re just chilling at the hotel, waiting for the third person in our group to arrive at the airport. They’re renting a car and doing their own thing, but we had made plans to get some dinner with him. I hope it’s not much longer, I haven’t eaten since this morning, not counting the jerky.

Anyway, lots of rest tonight, lots of walking tomorrow.

Matt out.