2013 Free Wallpaper & the Best of 2012

2013wallpaper_screenshot_crop2

Happy New Year Everyone! I’m excited for the year 2013 and I hope you are too. Thanks goes out to my new subscribers and to the ones that have stuck with me for the past 3 years. 2012 was a major year for me filled with highs and some powerful lows, but I’ve learned that it’s how you respond to those lows that makes a difference. I accomplished some of my goals from last year and some will be a continuous effort, like blogging more (at least once a week) and producing a monthly wallpaper. Here’s my design for the month of January celebrating the new year. I wanted something strong and dark, but at the same time pops. I also wanted something that both genders could appreciate. My wallpapers so far have leaned toward the feminine. The font I used was Old English Text MT and the outlines were constructed in Illustrator and brought into Photoshop.

2013 Free Wallpaper 1920 x 1080

2013 Free Wallpaper 1920 x 1080

Whether it’s due to color profiles, some system setup, or the fact that I’m working at different scales, the image in my psd file is slightly different from the final result. I’ve included a screenshot. I like the stronger red tones.

2013wallpaper_screenshot

A new year triggers a review of the previous in a culmination of “Best of” lists. Here are a few “Best of 2012” from some blogs I follow:

From up North – Best of Digital Art & Typography
bestof2012_fundigitalbestof2012_funtypography

Line25 – Best Web Designs of 2012
bestof2012_line25

Good.is – The Best Smart Products of 2012
bestof2012_goodis

Architnect’s Top 12 for 2012
bestof2012_archinect

Blogspoon Graphics – Greatest Tutorial Hits of 2012
bestof2012_spoon

Digital Arts – Best Creative Tech for 2012

JUST Creative – Popular Posts of 2012

Wising Everyone a Bright
and Prosperous New Year!!!

 

 

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What I learned the hard way about the Samsung Galaxy Precedent

Samsung Galaxy Precedent

I’ve been with Straight Talk (Walmart’s phone service) for over two and a half years now and I’ve had very little problems. They offer an affordable unlimited talk text and data plan with no contracts, but there is a downside. If you would like a new phone, you have to purchase it full price. There are no extra special deals or free upgrades. Well I decided it was time for me to get a new phone. My Samsung Freeform was showing it’s “old age” and experiencing technical difficulties. I’ve had it since I’ve been with Straight Talk. Here began my first jump into the smart phone/android world.

Why did I choose the Precedent?
It was affordable – Straight Talk was offering it at a deal of $70.00 with a gift card.
I’ve seen it described as a good entry level phone for the android – Little did I know that they didn’t just mean “entry level” is fine for first time users. Which leads me to…

What I don’t like about the Precedent:
Insufficient Internal Memory – It has precisely 384 MB of internal memory which I didn’t think would be an issue because it has a microSD slot that supports up to 32gb of extra memory. I bought a 32gb microSD card. What I didn’t know was that the programs that come with the phone take up most of the internal memory, not to mention the updates. When I try to download an app from the Google Play Store, it automatically downloads to the phone’s internal memory. So after a couple of heavy duty apps I would get a low memory warning. Here are some simple and not so simple fixes I found:

Download the App 2 SD app – It helps streamline moving apps to your sd card among other useful features. See description. Keep in mind that some apps will have to remain on internal memory or else they will not work properly. Also once an app is moved to the sd card the menu shortcuts disappear. In my case I couldn’t access the apps at all.
Change the default download location – This requires downloading  free developer tools, connecting to a computer, and running some command prompts. See How to move almost all Android apps to SD card (no root required)
Rooting the device – This gives you administrative access to the phone’s operating system. You can delete or edit files that you normally wouldn’t be able to and arrange to reserve parts of your microSD for specific functions.  However this does require some advance knowledge and if things go wrong your phone may become a brick. See How to Root the Samsung Galaxy Precedent on Straight Talk (One-Click Method)

Poor battery life – Since I’ve gotten the phone, I’ve had to charge it everyday, sometimes twice a day. I went to battery usage to see what could be optimized and most of the programs that are running down the battery are beyond my control (unless I root the phone).

Customization not ideal – When space is an issue, I don’t need programs like Google Books, nor do I care too much about the Facebook app, but I can’t get rid of them (unless I root the phone). I downloaded an awesome app called Zedge that offers a huge selection of free ringtones, wallpapers, alerts, etc. This issue may just be with my specific phone, but when it restarts and/or dies everything I’ve downloaded from Zedge disappears.

What I like about the Precedent:
The features I grew to love actually aren’t specific to the Precedent. I like the Swype text input feature and being better connected to gmail. I will admit that the size and weight of the phone is decent. It doesn’t feel awkward or cumbersome and the screen display is excellent.

Would I recommend the Precedent:
No. Unless none of the above things I mentioned bother you. I’ve learned my lesson. I want to return my Precedent and look for another android device that fits my needs and my price point. Time to bump up my budget without breaking the bank.

How Low Can You Go?

This park goes so low that it’s underground. The Delancey Project, more widely known as the Lowline, is an idea conceived by Dan Barasch and James Ramsey to convert an out-of -service subterranean trolley terminal into green space. In an established city like New York, a huge plot of green is hard to come by and this terminal offers approximately 60,000 sq. feet (that’s slightly bigger than a football field). I keep using the word green, but that isn’t the color you would normally associate with the word underground, probably more along the lines of  gray, brown, or black. That’s what’s so genius about this project. Dan and James have developed a way to bring sunlight into the space that allows for plant growth and  no it’s not a skylight.

Their idea actually reminds me of  two tin cans and a string. It’s two dish-like solar collectors connected by a fiber optic cable. One collector is above ground that gathers sunlight, concentrates it, and then reflects it via the optic cable. The light is then emitted from the other collector below ground. The light waves which are distributed do not include harmful UV rays, but support photosynthesis. They’ve already built a working prototype.

Actually, you may have already heard of the Lowline. From the time of the idea’s conception Dan and James have gotten positive support from the city, local businesses, and it’s citizens. They launched a campaign on kickstarter to raise $100,000 to build a full scale mock-up in an abandoned warehouse and they reached their mark in little over a week. Now they’ve raised the bar even higher. Here’s what they intend to do with more donations:

100k: (DONE): they can build a September tech demo
150k: they can keep the demo up as long as possible, to enable more community engagement
200k: they build the September demo AND conduct 1 of 4 engineering studies for the full-scale park
300k: they build the September demo AND complete all 4 engineering studies for the full-scale park

If this is a cause you may be interested in supporting, visit their kickstarter page. Donations are open until Friday, April 6th, 2012.

“The Delancey Underground project envisions a year-round programming series, which invites the community into the space in new ways. From art exhibitions, to farmers’ markets, to educational series, to special events and promotions– this space will be more than a space. It will generate community, and it will inspire in the way beautiful environments can inspire.”

Why I Want A Kindle Fire

First off, this is not a review of Amazon’s Kindle Fire ($199). I have in fact never even held the Fire, so why do I want one? The main reason is because I can check out books from my local library on it for free. Yes you read that right! I go to a Volusia County Library at least twice a week to check out books, magazines, TV episodes, and movies. Do I have time to read/watch everything? No, but it doesn’t cost me anything (except a few cents in gas) and I think it’s amazing that my membership extends to a device like a Kindle. Well, you can check out books with an iPad too. That’s true, but the Fire doesn’t have the $499+ price tag.

The iPad 2 by Apple

But you can do so much more with the iPad! That may be true, but notice I said I WANT the Fire, I don’t really NEED either device. I have actually used the iPad and it is a pretty robust device, but quite frankly it would not replace my laptop. Right now,  my most used computer programs are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, all of which can’t be used to their full extent on the iPad. In addition, if I had a Fire/iPad it would rarely leave the house. When I travel, most of the time I’m the driver and if I’m not, then I’m sleeping or talking to other passengers (no leisurely train commute here, sigh). When I arrive at my destination, it’s usually to perform some function that also doesn’t require a Fire/iPad. Pushing my cart in the grocery store while engrossed in a thriller may cause some problems. Clean up aisle 10! Besides I would rather put $500 towards buying a new laptop.

There is also the issue of size. The Fire is smaller than the iPad which could be negative or positive depending on your point of view. A little birdie told me that Amazon may be planning a bigger Kindle. Read the chirps here.

So why not get the regular much cheaper Kindle if all you’re going to do is read? Well I wouldn’t just read. I do check out movies/TV shows from the library too. Although video is not offered for the Kindle by the Volusia County system, the Kindle Fire has apps like Netflix and Hulu or you can subscribe to Amazon Prime. The $79 per year Prime Membership includes:

  • FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items
  • No minimum order size
  • Unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime instant videos
  • A Kindle book to borrow for free each month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

I would even use the Fire to play a game or two (or 10). Simply, I think the Kindle Fire is a good value. We’ll see if my sentiment changes if I ever get one. It’s not really high on my priority list. There’s still joy in actually holding a book. By the way, I highly encourage you to check out all the resources your local library has to offer. I decided to write a post on this because the topic has come up a lot for me recently. If you want to hear from someone who has actually used the Fire then read Digital Desi, a site dedicated to this device. Do you have a Fire or an iPad? Let me know what you think?

Students Teach Themselves? That’s Crazy!

Or is it? One of my favorite movies is called Accepted, starring an ensemble cast including Justin Long and Jonah Hill. Bartleby, played by Justin, has been rejected by every college he’s applied to (even his safety school), much to his parent’s dismay. So he implements an elaborate plan to make one up. Congratulations, he’s been accepted to South Harmon Institute of Technology! Only problem is, several hundred other kids were accidentally accepted to South Harmon too. Ooops! For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, STOP and watch the trailer below, the rest of this article depends on it (not really, but it would be nice if you did).

 

What does Bartleby do in the face of this academic dilemma? He visits an actual college and decides that South Harmon should be nothing like a traditional institution. He asks his students, “What do you want to learn?” He lets them set their schedules and decide the curriculum. They become the teachers and they figure out what projects they would like to spend their time on. Yes, it’s a smart and funny work of fiction, but what if I told you there’s a real place where these ideals exist.

Welcome to Hyper Island, a place where the students teach themselves. Hyper Island is an English-based program created in 1995, by 3 media professionals who were concerned about the quality of knowledge that recent graduates possessed when entering the workplace. They believed the problem was a result of traditional mainstream education in which students had little influence over what they are taught and their learning experience was controlled by a teacher. At Hyper Island there are no tests and no homework. Students work on real life projects with actual clients, solving real industry needs. Their methodology is that you “Learn by Doing.”  To quote their website Hyper Island is about:

– Active participation, driven by passion
– Learning by experiencing, doing and reflecting
– Being open to the idea of failure; it is often our most powerful learning tool
– Working and developing as part of a team, both as a leader and a player
– Using interactive media as a tool for implementing growth and change
– Developing the capacity of people to be self aware
– Understanding group dynamics
– Real clients, real needs and real lifelong learning

Hyper Island currently offers the following programs: Learning Designer & Facilitator, Digital Media, Mobile Applications, Interactive Art Director, Ecommerce Business, Motion Graphics, and Interactive Media Design & Management. They have locations in Sweden, but they encourage applicants from all around the world. Here is Hyper Island in A Nutshell

 

Don’t feel like this type of methodology has merit? Here are some Hyper Island Statistics:

 

Everytime I watch Accepted I find myself cheering for South Harmon Institute of Technology. Granted it was originally created for all the wrong reasons, but the end result was people who were excited about learning and had the passion to increase their knowledge and skills  in subjects that were important to them, hands-on. In parallel, I cheer for Hyper Island. Their unorthodox (yet sensible) methods may not be for everyone, but it’s nice to know you have the option.

 

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