January 19, 2015

My First Smartphone

We all remember our first smartphones, for the most part. I know I remember my transition from the small brick phones that weighed as much as small bricks. They did the job back then. In 2003, texting was a limited thing still in my world and around all of my friends. We mostly emailed and instant-messaged each other. I think I did that pretty much all through high school. When I started using MySpace regularly, I communicated a lot through that service with my friends. Facebook, same story. It wasn’t until I bought my first smart phone in 2010 that my communication world really changed.

When I got my first flip phone, it was in 2007. I signed up with Verizon Wireless and felt super accomplished. I also had just turned 18 so I was allowed to sign up for stuff all by myself! I felt so accomplished. I even still remember my phone number from that time! I thoguht my phone was the coolest thing in the world. It had music playback capability, a front screen with music controls on it, I could browse the Internet with the built-in WAP browser… that was the life, for sure. Back then, battery life was awesome, too. I could go a couple days without charge while still using it regularly. I made a habit of plugging in nightly, though, as charging cables were still proprietary and good quality connectors were hard to come by.

My first flip phone was the LG Chocolate III. It was bigger than most flip phones of the time, and I loved that. It was shiny, had a great looking screen( for a flip phone) and the interface made it feel expensive. Since this was my first phone that had more than one color on the screen, I didn’t care about things like interface speed, lag, ux, or anything of the sort. It’s likely that a lot of people felt the same way. I rocked this phone for until my next upgrade date, which came 20 months later.

After I got my first taste of what adulthood brought in terms of mobile telephony, I wanted to kick it up a notch. The iPhone was still a really new thing and the iPhone 3G was out, but was an AT&T exclusive. I didn’t want to switch nor did I have the money to shell out for a true smartphone (yet). I bought the LG Dare. With its 240x400px screen, I felt like I was living the high life. Bluetooth, HTML Web browsing, MP3 and AAC support… ahh the features! The Dare (VX9700) was my first entry into touch-screen space and I loved it.

Comparing the size to my current iPhone 5, the Dare was shorter (4.87 vs 4.1 inches), slightly narrower (2.31 vs 2.2 inches), and thicker (0.3 vs 0.5 inches). It’s amazing to think about how far display technology has come where you have a deivce like the Dare with 0.08mp of screen resolution at 152ppi over a three inch screen versus the iPhone 5’s 0.72mp screen at 326ppi over four inches. Talk about a jump in resolution!

When 2010 came, I finally landed my first real smart phone. By this time, the iPhone was still an AT&T exclusive and I didn’t want to pay more money for the same measured service. I didn’t care about what one carrier had over the other. All I cared about was the fact that I would have to shell out more dollars for the same offering; that didn’t sound like a good investment, to me.

Instead of landing the iPhone, which wasn’t all bad as I wasn’t a fan of Apple products beyond the black iPod Nano I had at the time, I picked up the Motorola Droid X. When it arrived via FedEx, I was beyond excited. This was my first phone I could do complicated stuff with. It had a real browser, not some wimpy WAP-based turd. It had apps, too! The concept of Apps blew my mind and my views on my mobile device would never be the same. It had a huge—for its time—4.3” touch screen. With a 480×854 resolution, it was at the top of the smart phone display game, second to the iPhone, of course, which still had a higher density resolution screen.

At the time, though, I had no idea what that meant or why that would be significant to anybody. I was glad I had a device that was fast and had a big, beautiful display.

After about a year, though, I grew tired of this device. It made me feel that way, though, because at the time, Android aged quickly and updates to the software didn’t happen quick enough, if at all. The highest version one could install via traditional means was Gingerbread (2.3). It became clunky and slow and reminded me daily that it enjoyed gulping up battery juice. Even with larger capacity batteries, it didn’t take long before I got rid of it and switch to an iPhone.

After my battle with Android, I promised myself I wouldn’t buy another Android device, again. For the most part, I held fast to that promise. After I gave up my Droid X, my first real smart phone, I bought an iPhone 4S. I was thrilled to give it a shot after I heard so many good things about it from co-workers. I’ll admit it was a bit of a shock when I changed ecosystems. The whole premise was much different and I would grow to learn that was a good thing. This was my first realization that there are some devices I just want to work, no matter what. I don’t want to have to or even think about tinkering with some things, and my phone was the first on that list. It’s this idea that would eventually push me to replace my Windows PC that I hand built with a Mac.

Aside: to this day, I still get comments like “I’d never spend 2x on a closed platform” or “way to spend much more than any of that hardware is worth!” I like to casually remind people that unlike their Windows desktop or laptop, you’ll never hear me complaining about my mac being slow or crashing. To this day I’ve only hard rebooted my mac a couple times. As of this writing, I’ve never re-installed the OS, nor have I had to have it serviced for failing parts that don’t have a definite lifespan.

In 2013, I thought I’d give the Galaxy S4 a try, as I liked the idea of the large, bright, and colorful screen. Maybe that was my downfall, just as certain insects attract their prey with bright and beautfiful colors and or the allure of something great (read: black widow) only to kill them in the end because they made a stupid decision. The Galaxy S4 started killing me shortly after I got it. I was reminded of all the reasons why I disliked android: battery life, poor resource management, too many things that need tinkering to work right. I dumped it after just a few months and went back to an iPhone, where I sit to this day.

My next phone certainly won’t be an Android device. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? Nah. Perhaps I’ll pick up an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S (or whatever the next version is that comes out this fall). All I know is that I bought android as my first smart phone because that was what I had available to me at the time. If I had been an AT&T customer from the start, I may have never purchased an Android smartphone and had an iPhone from the beginning. If that was the case, I might have bought an Android device later on down the road anyway, and fought through the same battles, just in a different time frame. I can’t say for sure what would have happened, but I know that my first smart phone purchase helped shape my technology toolset as it stands now and my continued purchases will help mold my future decisions. Apple has done a good job of building up an ecosystem people don’t want to leave, and I’ll admit I am one of them. It’s comforting to know, however, that there are a lot of people like me who just want their stuff to work. If that means paying more, then so be it. Consider it a no-hassle tax.

January 13, 2015

Running Out of Coffee (Creamer)

This morning I ran out of coffee creamer so I hope this all makes sense, if not… meh. I’m just a week into my new weekday morning routine. If you’re unfamiliar or don’t remember how I described it, it’s simple.

  • Go to bed around the same time every night, with <=30 minutes deviation.
  • Set alarm for ~4 sleep cycles (~90 minutes each) + 20 minutes ahead of when I get into bed.
  • Wake up within 30 minutes of alarm going off, allowing for a couple snoozes or time in bed with the light on to fully bring myself back to reality.
  • Morning cleaning routine.
  • Coffee. Must have coffee.
  • Write. Unless something went sideways with the above steps, there should be time for this. If not, do something else stimulating enough to stay awake while consuming coffee.
  • Proceed with the day.

That’s the idea. Yesterday was a bit rough as I woke up at a more in-opportune time and shut off my alarm. Since my travel to work was going to be different and more forgiving this week, getting up an hour and a half late wasn’t such a big deal. I don’t want to make it a practice though, as this is the whole habit I’m trying to break: getting up at the last minute and rushing.

My old routine was chaotic because it left no time for deviation and frankly was frustrating. I had just enough time to do the bare minimum and that was it. No time to myself, whatsoever. After becoming more and more frustrated with it, I vowed to never do it again. I did some reading on how to “hack” my morning routine and while a load of it was crap or not useful in the least bit, the parts that stuck with me the most were about sleep cycles and morning stimulation.

Sleep Cycles

A human’s standard sleep cycle is roughly 90 minutes in length, from stage one (light sleep) to stage four (heavy/REM/dream sleep). The idea is that if whatever wakes you up in the morning does so as you’re coming out of a sleep cycle and returning to light sleep, you’ll have an easier time waking up. For the most part, that seems to be pretty true. I’ve found it just as easy to wake up when my alarm goes off at 3:30am as it does at 5:00am (provided I went to bed at 9:00pm the night before). I usually grant myself four cycles for anytime I go to bed after 9:00pm and five cycles any time I go to bed between 8:00pm and 9:00pm.

But wait, you say… that’s only 60 minutes, a sleep cycle is 90 minutes! You’re right, it is. With the shorter cycle option, I find I have to give myself a bit of slack in the morning, by roughly 15-20 minutes. In this case, I’ll set three alarms, 15 minutes apart (ex. :00, :15, :30) and make each one more annoying than the one before it. See, I can sleep through a lot of noise in the morning hours once I’ve been through a sleep cycle or two. I’ve been tested and the doctors agreed. After one relaxes a bit in bed and has been sleeping for a bit, a lot of the stimulants and distractions from falling asleep are gone so submerging into deeper sleep is easier and more fulfilling. Thus, as deep as you go into REM sleep, it takes time to come out of it. Usually I’m aware it’s time to wake up when alarm three comes around because I seem to have trained myself to subconsciously understand that alarm one and two are warning shots that my warm, sleep-filled experience is about to end.

The Best Part of Waking Up, Is (Sometimes Not) Folgers In Your Cup.

I find that most of my tiredness (or the feeling of being tired) seems to come from how and when I’m woken up in the morning in relation to my sleep cycle. I executed my five-cycle option last night and with ~7.5 hours of sleep, I feel rested. Of course, I’m wishing I had my coffee, and Starbucks will have to help me out as I drive into work this morning. A good morning stimulant isn’t always a bad thing. Some people can’t drink coffee because it’s too much caffeine and gives the anxiety or they don’t like the taste of it. I get it. I didn’t used to like coffee, either. I still don’t unless it has creamer.

One of my alternatives was Red Bull. I used to buy them by the case from a wholesale store (Costco). While roughly half the price per can as a convenience store or other local grocery chain, it was still Red Bull. It lost it’s luster after drinking one every day of the week, sometimes twice a day. Coffee is warm and creamy (after I add my creamer, of course). In the winter, this is an especially friendly feeling. In the summer, I’m more of an iced tea kind of guy. I’ll go Starbucks and get the largest, most caffeinated tea they have and have them sugar it up—I can’t stand unsweetened iced teas. Usually this is some kind of breakfast/black tea.

As I wrap this post up, I’m really wishing I wasn’t out of coffee creamer. A clear oversight on my part, I knew I was out when I poured, yesterday. I know I could drink it black, but I already said I don’t like the taste of black coffee. Perhaps I’ve been ruined by sweet tastes thanks to the likes of Starbucks and other espresso-shooting vendors. Maybe I have. Sue me. I’ll pay you in Starbucks cards, anyway.

January 12, 2015

Being S.M.A.R.T about Blogging Goals for the New Year

If you’re still with me, I’m on day eight of the #10-days-to-a-better-blog challenge/workshop/event put on by John Saddington of fame. He’s on year 14 of blogging so chances are he knows a thing or two. Today’s topic has to do with coming up with goals in relation to where I want my blogging to go using the S.M.A.R.T. principle. It is outlined like so:

  1. Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  2. Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  3. Assignable – specify who will do it.
  4. Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  5. Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Those seem easy enough. When placed over the idea of writing, it seemed a bit daunting at first but that’s really only because I just started doing so consistently. Here’s a breakdown of how the above translates to me and the whole idea of writing and blogging:

Specific Target Area

I know I can produce quality writing if I just sit down and do it. I’ve never had a problem with that. I enjoy telling stupid stories, giving slightly janky points of view on seemingly random things, and also talking about real stuff that I find important. I don’t care so much if I’m maximizing my potential audience by covering as many topics as possible, because that’s my why I’m posting this—or anything—to my site. I need to focus on actually doing. I say I’ll become a master of X subject and never actually follow through with it. I’ll say I’ll go on more hikes next year because my gut says I could lose a few. I might not be able to control those things in this scenario. I can say this: if a bear craps in the woods, then I’m writing. I’m not talking about telling a story about a bear cutting pipe. I’m talking about the assurance that words will flow out of my mind, through my hands, into my keyboard, through the bits and digital stuff inside my computer, blah blah blah, to where you can see it.


Measurable Progress

My first blog post since I started writing daily was on January 6th, 2014, which as I write this, was six days ago. It’s easy for me to say that since I’ve conquered seven days, including this post, without stopping, I could bust out a whole year. Whether or not that’s true, nobody will know, because I don’t feel like it’s realistic! I’m writing every day because I made a promise to myself that I’d do this challenge and see it through to completion. I never said “I’m going to write at least 365 blog posts over the course of the year, with at least one per day, or I’ll eat my hat.” That’s stupid. Unless I worked for a publication that required articles to be created in the turn-and-burn style, I’d get maybe a month into it and burn out.

I need to make myself a little bit more seriously and treat blogging and writing as a form of genuine expression. Because of my personality, if I’ve been talking all day, I tend to get bored of people and bored of talking. Just like talking, I’d get bored of writing. Why sit down at my computer and but out some words about something that I may care a grand total of zero percent about for twenty minutes when I could sit in front of my T.V. and not even have to think about using my brain. Exactly. That’s stupid. Even in school I enjoyed writing papers not because it was homework (that was quite foul), but that I was writing about a topic. I didn’t write every single damn day and I was alright with that. I hated the topic I was writing about, but I enjoyed the fact that I was writing about it.

Being able to split up my writing adventures to a couple times a week is much more manageable because I can spend more time, perhaps over a few days, and craft a more quality piece, than some lame three hundred words on how tasty Garlic Jim’s pizza is. (side note: it’s delicious.)

My measurement of progress is that I’m writing two to four pieces a calendar week, with two being the hard minimum. I need to still keep myself to a commitment, just like people commit to stop smoking. It’s hard to start, but with a hard limit like dying when it comes to smoking, having a hard limit on how few of times I sit down and put my thoughts on paper must be a thing, no matter what.


If it’s not obvious by now, this goal is mine and mine alone. No one else needs to be responsible for my writing tasks, assignments, topics, or anything of the sort. This is my beast so let me conquer it. By making this a solo task, this is something I can wholly own and have zero fear of something outside that I cannot control mucking it up.


Which brings me to this. As the popular saying goes: s–t happens. It happened this morning when I twisted my ankle in the dark while walking the dog. Could I have done something about it? I don’t know, it was dark. I haven’t figured out how to turn on my night vision eyes, yet. With writing, sometimes life will get in the way and I’m completely OK with that. If I miss a week, then I’ll do my best to make up for it next week. If I know I’ll be missing a week in advance, I’ll put in extra time the previous week and schedule it out. WordPress has this fancy post-scheduling feature. While not as genuine and not as on-the-spot as some would like, I think I’m still totally genuine and real and on-the-spot. What I write down rarely gets condensed, censored, edited for time, etc. I just write. That’s always been one of my stronger traits when it came to writing; I hate outlines and I hate planning my words.

Secret: corporate, politically correct emails are the bane of my existence.


I’m giving my self 1/4 year (13 weeks). If I can sit down and discuss quality topics with quality time at least twice a week, but no more than four, for 13 weeks, then I’m in business. If I make it, I’ll do it again, but add another stipulation. If I fail, I’ll pull back a bit. I think it’s doable. Given the possibility of the next six months to a year changing quite radically and a whole host of new experiences coming my way, I don’t think I’ll have an issue. I’m pretty confident I’ll have enough to talk about.

January 11, 2015


I’m cheating a little bit.

See, I’m doing the #10-days-to-a-better-blog challenge as a starting point to build up my blog, but after I started, I realized the last day of the challenge overlapped onto a day I’m taking vacation and probably won’t be writing much, at all. So I wrote this post, along with my day 6 post. Perhaps it’t not exactly cheating but I’d rather do two in one day than miss a day.

As I start building up this blog, one thing I want to keep track of is the content people enjoy the most and how long they enjoy it for before leaving. I’ve installed Google Analytics and am hoping I get some good data out of it.

This will also include links from social networks, as I am building them with the “utm” variables in the URLs so as to accurately determine via which method people are visiting the site and reading my content.

One thing I know may be surprising is what people find most interesting. Topics, stories, and ideas I like may not resonate as well with others and they might enjoy stuff I don’t cover as often. This is what the analytics should tell me.

New About Page

I was able to stick to my routine this morning and sat down to craft my About page. I’ve never really spent much time working on it so reflecting on who I am and how I got here was actually very helpful in deciding what to write and what to share. Looking back, I can’t really think of a good reason why I didn’t write one before, except for the idea that I just didn’t take it very seriously. 2015 is full of changes, including this one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need some coffee!

Read about yours truly here.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography