Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Life Lessons of 2012

'Tis the season!
Hey again everybody, it seems that the Christmas season is upon us again, which of course means that it is a great time to reflect on the important ideas of peace, love and harmony, and to spend time with friends and family. It is also a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and gaze into the next one, which is what I intend to do today.

2012 was a very odd year for me overall, sort of a transition year from my schooling into real life. It has been a full year now since I defended my masters degree, and though objectively I am not much further along than the day I finished my degree, I have grown a tremendous amount in the last 12 months. Between the six months I spent working in a retail electronics store, and the 6 months I spent primarily job hunting and unemployed, I gained a ton of life experience and came to have a better understanding of what I want to do with my life, as well as what I want from my future.

There are also two very important lessons I have learned in the last year that I would really like to express here, in the hope that perhaps somebody reading this can gain something from hearing it.

The first lesson, and easily the most important to me, is the understanding that every person on Earth shares some manner of similarities with every single other person, and that is what makes us human. More importantly though, each and every person also has something or things that make them totally different from any other person they will ever meet. As I grow fully into adulthood, this really comes sharply into focus. This is the reason that life is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but it is also the reason that nothing will ever be perfect. For every intellectual, there is an idiot. For each angel, there is a Westboro Baptist.

Every single person on Earth has weaknesses, but most have strengths that outshine any inadequacies. In the same way that people can join together and provide assistance to hurricane victims and their families, there will always be politicians and lobbyists clamouring to defend terrible, antiquated legislation to make a quick buck or gain power and influence. We live in an ever-changing world where absolutely nothing can be known for certain, and knowing and believing that is a very humbling experience. All anybody can do is their individual best to find happiness, while passing that happiness along at any opportunity. If you are currently being presented with a chance to be happy, but worrying about possible negative impacts or fallout that decision may have, you have not fully grasped the idea that the world we live in is a truly random place, wherein incredible and horrible things happen all the time in equal measure.

It is my strong personal conviction that you should always take a chance on love, whatever that may entail. If there is someone in your life that you care about, tell them today before they disappear. If you are passionate about anything in life, you need to attack it with every fibre of your being, or risk losing the chance to be truly happy. If you find yourself worrying about making the wrong decision about something you feel you truly love, then what you should really consider is whether that love is real. The decision to withhold anything from yourself on the basis that somebody might make you feel guilty about it later is just an awful way to live your life. Unfortunately for 85% of the worlds population, guilt-based decision making rules our modern world.

There are certain obvious circumstances, such as those regarding illegality and massive financial endeavour, wherein a desire to do something does not necessarily mean action is warranted, but in the vast majority of situations, moral code dictates that nobody should have the power to hold guilt over you.

To close out the details of this first lesson, it has recently become evident to me that living in modern human society, if you truly love something, you can wait your whole life for something to be perfect, or you can spend your life enjoying every day, bathing in the pool of randomness, and gaining a better understanding of what you truly want. Yes, this is also a recipe for making mistakes, but forgiveness of those small mistakes while attempting to achieve happiness should be rewarded, and not punished. Seize the day, as though every one after Dec. 21, 2012 is just a bonus.

My second lesson, which in some regards is just as, or even more, important, is that everybody has a place in this world. Though I have not yet found my ideal niche, I know there is a nest out there for me that is a perfect fit, and that an impassioned search will yield results.

There are always going to be two kinds of people in the world, those who help, and those who create. A select few people will certainly be both in equal parts, and people who help will definitely create as well, and vice versa. In order to be successful in life, you must either find something you can do that can help out society, or you can create new things that you feel are important. What matters most in either of those domains is the idea of passion.

In my search for a career in a modern world, I have come to the realization that the simple matter of having a university education does not, and should not, qualify you for anything. To actually spend your life doing something worthwhile, you must apply concepts learned throughout your schooling, as well as your life, to something you care deeply about. In trying to make myself appealing to potential employers, I began my quest by simply listing everything I have accomplished up until now. While this is by no means a fruitless enterprise, nobody is ever going to hire a graduate based on the fact that they graduated. Getting a job is much more about timing than it is about qualifications. If you make a good impression on someone, and they are looking to hire right now, you can get that job even if you are lacking experience.

This goes back to the fact that all humans are the same, and here's an example:
If I walk around downtown Ottawa, and I hand out business cards to strangers, telling people that I have a degree in chemistry and referring them to my website, does that person have any inclination to offer me anything? Likewise, if you received an unsolicited phone call from a telemarketer offering you a product you hadn't heard of and telling you it is great, would you accept the offer?
 The answer, in both cases, is probably no. There is an off-chance you run into a chemical researcher who happens to be looking for a research associate, just like there is a chance you own a dry log cabin in the woods and you are offered fire insurance. The odds of finding someone who needs your particular skills get fewer and further between the more education you have. At a certain point, you must demonstrate how you can fill a need in that persons world, and simultaneously show them that you are passionate about what they need you to do.

For me personally, the most important part of this lesson for me was the fact that I need to create more. I help people constantly, and in some cases that help isn't even asked of me, or desired. So I have decided to focus more on creation. In writing this blog (over the last 6 months or so especially), I have come to realize that it doesn't even matter what you create, so long as you are doing so passionately. If you create something you care about, it will benefit you in the long run. If somebody recognizes the importance of your creation, that is even better, but you have to be doing it for yourself as well if you want it to truly mean something.

I have a passion for writing, putting words into cohesive (sometimes) thoughts really makes me feel like I have accomplished something. I also have a passion for other more theatrical creative pursuits, but these are not developed in the way that writing has been for me. I have no evidence to date that anything will come of this, but I will certainly continue to do it as long and as often as I feel so inclined.

I am also going to do my best to make myself appealing to those people who preceded me in entering the adult world, so that one day I can join them in considering myself a true grown-up.

So, those are the lessons I have learned the last 365.25 days or so, I really hope you were able to take something from it, I know I learned a lot in writing all of that out. I sincerely hope, for those of you who are spending time with those you care about right now and over the coming days, that you have told them recently just how special they are to you, and that you will continue to take every opportunity to do so.

tl;dr Love unashamedly and pursue your passions, and you will be truly happy!

Merry Christmas and a happy holiday,

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What should the next hangout be?

Okay, I've gotten a lot of good feedback about the first hangout, and though I know there are a few kinks and issues, as well as some unfortunate timing for a couple of people, I'm very pleased with how it went, and for those of you who are interested, the link to the video on YouTube is right here, and I've embedded it here as well. I'm going to try out a few more things in the meantime to make the information more available and relevant, and it also ended up showing off a few of the more interesting features of hangouts, a marquee feature of Google+. Ideally there would be a way to annotate the video to fast forward to specific topics, but really what it comes down to is participation from you guys. Whether it's asking questions beforehand, or coming and asking during the hangout, on video or through some form of messaging, it makes it much more interesting and compelling if you guys give your say. In that light, I'm going to make a little informal poll to see if there is any interest on a specific topic, as well as to see if there is a time that works better for a larger audience. I might also take it upon myself to do a few shorter videos in the meantime, on more specific, easily digestible topics.

Thanks guys, I really appreciate hearing from you. I will keep everyone updated!

iMessage (a wonderful life, when it works)

Last year, upon the release of iMessage, I described and suggested to friends a method wherein users of iPhone and iPad/Mac computers could receive messages on both their phone and other device, so long as they used their email address with iMessage, since sending an iMessage to a phone number only resulted in the iPhone getting the message. An iMessage email address could be tied to any number of devices, and messages would be synced across all of the devices.

And a year ago, iMessages that were sent using email addresses always seemed to be somewhat delayed in reaching the iPad as compared to the iPhone. While at the time it seemed like that was just a quirk with the iPad and iMessages not being configured quite well for them, I have to change my opinion on iMessages from my previous recommendation.

As of the most recent update to Mac OS X, you can receive iMessages on your Mac from a phone number as well, so long as that phone number is associated with an iPhone using the same Apple ID. The same is true of FaceTime, the Apple video chat application. Same thing goes for iPads as well, phone numbers can now be used to have messages sent to all of your devices.

Starting new conversations from your phone
number is asure way to ensure your
messages will sync across devices.
If you are like me, and think that having two devices at which you can be reached is silly, you should definitely use your phone number as the main hub for all of your messages. While there still seems to be a delay on iMessages to email addresses on iPad or Mac, no such delay is present for phone numbers. Now, I understand that for some people, having your text messages show up on your computer might be cause for concern, especially if you tend to leave your computer in places where other people might come across it. Text messages are generally considered to be one of the more private forms of virtual communication, but if you aren't concerned so much about getting outed by someone reading your conversations (most probably do tend to be fairly vanilla), I would seriously recommend doing this. Really, it is just bringing us one step closer to a universal messaging system.

Read receipts are
really handy!
Finally, there is an option in iOS messages wherein you can send read receipts to the people you iMessage with. This is a very nice option to offer to the people you talk to, and while I have spoken to people who really don't like it, if you think about how often you wonder with a text message whether or not your message has actually been read, you can understand how nice a feature this really is.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Unboxing of the new iPad (4th Gen. Wifi + Cellular)

Welcome indeed!
Okay, so I have been looking forward to reviewing new toys I get, and since I was sitting at my computer while opening my new, 4th generation iPad with wifi and cellular connectivity, I decided to take some pictures of the unboxing process, so I can discuss the iPad, how it has changed in the new generation and what to expect from the new version. I should point out, I owned the 3rd generation iPad from launch day, and it has been my favourite thing since that at day.

The baby is going to get all the attention.
Most people are extremely confused by the new iPad, because the iPad 2 is still on sale in Apple stores. I will admit that if you don't follow the news, it is pretty difficult to understand what is the newest product. Even apple store employees have trouble explaining this. If the progression of iPad naming was linear and consistent, you would have four iPads all named by their generation of release (1st, 2nd, 3rd and now 4th generation iPads all in order). The problem arose when after coming out with the iPad, they called the 2nd iPad the "iPad 2". When they introduced the 3rd generation iPad, they went back to the standard naming convention, and dropped the numeral in the title. So for the last 2 years, you could buy the iPad 2 (the old iPad) or the iPad (the new iPad, which could have been called the iPad 3 and now iPad 4, but is just called iPad). The iPad 2 saves you $100, but is now 2 generations and almost 2 years old. It has a very low resolution screen and runs on an outdated processor. It is well worth it to spend the extra $100 to upgrade.

First, opening the box, you see that everything is perfectly laid out to protect the iPad and its accessories, but also to make it easy and convenient to remove them. Apple always goes to great lengths to make every step of the opening process easy and simple.

After removing the iPad from its protective plastic sheath, starting up the iPad gives you a glimpse of its beautiful, high resolution screen. The process of setting up the iPad requires you to get it onto the Internet to activate it, but aside from that and signing into your iCloud account, the process only takes a few minutes. Soon you will be having fun playing with your iPad!

The 4th generation iPad, on the outside, has very little visible difference from its predecessor. There are, however, several important differences that will have an impact on your everyday use. The only visible, and most important difference, is the lightning connector on the bottom. This is probably the main reason this iPad was released, because it brings all of the newest generation of apple products up to the same connector. This connector is 80% smaller than the old 30-pin connector, is reversible, and does seem to allow for some faster charging than the old connector. Additionally, on the outside, the iPad AC adapter was improved, going from a 10W charger to a 12W one, an increase of 20%, which should allow for faster changing as well.

Another difference that will actually be visible is that the front facing camera was been updated to a much higher resolution, so that you will actually be able to take front facing photos and partake in video chats without having an incredibly blurry face. This is noticeable right away and will allow for a huge improvement in your experience.

The processor in the new iPad is also twice as fast as the previous generation, which definitely makes day to day tasks and loading programs much faster. Additionally, on the inside, the cellular and wifi radios are improved in order to allow the iPad to connect to LTE networks in more places around the world, while wifi performance is doubled compared to the old generation.

Start using iPad: don't mind if I do!
Other than those differences, this iPad is pretty similar to the old one, and you definitely shouldn't worry about it if you have the 3rd generation iPad, you are not missing much. I expect the next generation iPad will have a form more like the iPad mini, and should be the upgrade you hold out for. Whether or not that happens on the old release schedule (around March) or the new schedule (almost a year from now in October), any retina iPad will do just fine until the next upgrade cycle.

Thanks for reading!