Life Lincoln Photography

Pretty Lights Analog Future Tour – Lincoln NE

Pretty Lights came to Lincoln on November 15th as part of his Analog Future Tour. Unlike other electronic artists, this show had real live musicians playing along with Pretty Lights.  The keyboards and horn players were pretty cool.  This was a more laid back show in comparison to Bassnectar but this is to be expected.  It was a long show at over 3 hours of music playing.  I enjoyed it for sure.  All photos and video below were taken with my Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

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Huskers Life Lincoln UNL

On the Big Screen

I took the photo below at the Nebraska vs Michigan State football game on November 16th in Lincoln, NE with my Samsung Note 2.  I used the new HDR feature of #Snapseed to edit the photo, and I posted it to Twitter.  Later that night I had a few people tweet me saying that my photo made the big screen at the Nebraska Volleyball game.  Pretty cool!

 

2013-11-19

Cars News Travel

My Experience Driving the Nürburgring

I am a fan of European cars, so to drive a lap on the Nürburgring has been on my bucket list for a while.  On a recent vacation I was able to tick this one off on the list.  For those that don’t know, the Nürburgring is one of the most famous, complex racetracks in the world.  It is 13 miles long, and has 73 corners, many off camber.  The track elevation changes often, and a dense forest runs on both sides of the track. All of these complexities earned it the nickname of “Green Hell” in 1968 after British racing legend Jackie Stewart won the German Grand Prix there and coined the term. Today the track is used by automotive manufacturers from around the world to test their cars and fine tune suspension, as well as set lap times for bragging rights.  Most of the time the track is open (for a fee) to the general public to to lap their road legal vehicles.

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I did lots of research online about what I needed to know before going to the track, how best to approach it, and what car to rent.  I learned many european rental companies will ban the driver for life if the standard rental cars are taken on the track (GPS verified).  Too many burned up brakes and worn out tires.  Many forums suggested renting from RentRaceCar.com, and they happened to have a car that fit my needs.  I choose a VW Sorocco Cup+.  It was advertised as beginner friendly, it had a DSG gearbox, and had 2 seats so I could take a passenger.  The car had a stock 220hp motor, Bilstein suspension, semi-slick tires, racing brakes, and a half rollcage.  It was perfect.

My Car for the day

Before coming to the track, the internet suggested I practiced on a simulator.  I was very lucky to find a friend who let me borrow his PS3 for a few weeks to practice the track.  (Thanks Frank!) It made a huge difference.  While I didn’t have the track memorized, I at least recognized all of it and knew what to expect in the tricky parts.  Gran Turismo 5 did a good job of representing the track.  There were differences though.  In real life the track was pretty narrow and the elevation changes were much greater than I expected.

 

Early on a Saturday morning we set off for the track, driving from Cologne, Germany. The weather ended up being perfect: sunny, 55 degrees, and low winds.  When we got to the track it had just opened for the day, and was still a bit damp with dew and fall leaves.  I filled out the minimal paperwork, was briefed on operating the car, and rules of the track.  After that I was handed the keys, and off I went for my first lap.

 

I rented the car for 2 hours, and did a total of 4 laps.  My first lap was by myself, no one in my family wanted to be a passenger and I was ok with that.  Since this was my first track driving experience, on one of the most complex tracks in the world, and the track being damp in some corners I took things pretty cautiously.  On the track you keep to the right, and signal with your right side blinker to let faster traffic pass on the left.  Keeping a constant eye on your mirrors became pretty important.  The first lap went without a problem,  I was surprised when my mom said she wanted to be the first passenger.  I never expected it, but I said yes as long as she didn’t say anything.  Her lap was pretty exciting as an Aston Martin passed us in a corner and nearly ran into us. Eventually the entire family went on a lap as a passenger.  Traffic did increase a lot as the morning went on and the track dried out.  I was glad we got there early.  On the track, you encounter just about every type of car imaginable.  On the same lap I passed a Porsche 911 GT3 briefly, and got passed by a Chrysler Town and Country minivan.  There were lots of 911s, and M3s that were pushing hard.  In addition to sports cars, there were 7 Series, SUV’s and even compact cars packed full of people making laps.  The famous karussell lives up to it’s reputation, definitely fun.

Below is one of my laps from the ring.  Remember this was my first time on a track and the track was damp.  To me it looks pretty slow to what I remember.

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The paddock was truly a car lovers delight.  We pulled up in our rented Hyundai i40 estate.  Parking next to us almost immediately was a modified 997 Porsche GT3.  After my first lap on the other side parked next to the Hyundai was a new Aston Martin with a lady in the passenger seat, dressed the part to be in an Aston.  There was also an Aston Martin club from France that was at the track for the day.  The Porsche 911s and BMW M3s in the lot were too numerous to count: new, old, stock and modified were all represented.  There were also a handful of Ferrari F430s, a 612, and a couple of Lamborghinis.  The BMW Ring Taxi M5s were also making lots of laps too.  On the more rare side of things, there was a Mercedes Mclaren SLR with duct tape, and a newer Radical getting lots of attention.  I could have spent a long time taking photos of all the comings and going.  We did meet family from Florida who was in the military at the track doing laps.  One of their children was lucky enough to get a flying fast lap from someone in the lot who overheard.  It sounded amazing.

I am so grateful for having the opportunity to be in the area and visit the track.  It really was the highlight of my trip.  I would recommend it to anyone who had a love for cars and wants to drive on a track.  If you have any questions leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer them.

Life Lincoln Photography Review

Bassnectar

On Friday, October 27, 2013 I was able to go see @Bassnectar in concert at Pershing in Lincoln.  Having enjoyed Bassnectar for awhile and hearing about his great live shows, it was exciting to see it come to my home town.  The show had some really unique things, and in total it was great. The sound was unbelievable.

Security

The security to the show was nearly as extensive as at an airport.  They required everyone to take everything out of pockets, have a pat down (not as invasive as an airport), and lift up your shirt to look at the waistband.  Despite this, they allowed sealed water bottles in (they took the caps at the door) and bags after looking in them as well.  My observation while waiting in line was this caused a lot of people to consume anything they were hoping to get into the show before going in.  This did cut down a lot on substance use inside the concert, but of course the concert still smelled like an EDM concert.

 

Koan Sound

Usually opening acts don’t get much attention, Koan Sounds was the opposite of that.  They got the crowd going and were a surprise for me.  Being from the UK, their music was a bit different and more like a club.  I am definitely going to check them out.

 

Bassnectar/The Sound

Bassnectar’s set was over 2 hours of constant music and dancing.  He had 1 giant screen behind him supported with 4 smaller pillar boards on the sides.  The video was very colorful and synced to songs. Some were random fractal designs, others were moving video or stylized bits from music videos.

 

The music was a great selection of new and old Bassnectar.  One of the things I like about Bassnectar’s music is it incorporates pieces from lots of styles of music, and this showed in what he played. It was similar to some of his recent mixtapes. It’s the Bassnectar we know and expect to hear.

The sound quality was unbelievably clear and dangerously loud.  It brought new meaning to “feel the music”.  I had read a little on the Meyer Sound system being used.  I thought some of it was hype, but the system lived up to its reputation.  Never before have I been to any concert that was as loud, but super clear, as this one was.  You could feel the music in your body way more than you typically would at a rock show. As a long time follower of Bassnectar on twitter, I knew that he recommended ear plugs; I was very glad I had my Etymotic Research ER20 in my pocket.  These are unique in that they evenly block volume in sound without distortion or changing pitch. They make it so you can talk to someone near you without yelling.  My guess is this was the loudest and most bass heavy concert that the old Pershing building had ever seen.

All photos below were taken with my Note 2.

 

Reviews Tech

DIY Tablet stand with PCI Brackets

I received my 2013 Nexus 7 a couple of weeks ago.  One of the things I miss most is that my old case that allowed my tablet to sit up at an angle on a table for video viewing or reading.  I have a new case on order but it is going to take a few more weeks to get here.  I went searching online for cheap stands I could make and I ran across several ideas and combined a few with what I had.

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To make this I took a blank PCI Bracket I had in my desk and bent it in the middle a bit so that it would stand up.  I then bent the 90 degree angle portion a bit more (125 degrees I would guess) so it would grip the edge of my 2013 Nexus 7.  (Since it’s so thin it’s pretty slick).  For as simple as this is it works well, and it even works for my Note 2.

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News Review Reviews

Nexus 7 2013 and Chromecast Mini reviews

Nexus 7 2013

I have been a very happy original Nexus 7 owner since day one, but the tablet has gotten quite a bit slower as it ages.  It seems this is a problem with the I/O and android 4.0+. (4.3 is said to improve this, btw).  I decided to upgrade mainly because of the increased storage (upgrade from 16gb to 32gb) and better screen.  So far I am not disappointed at all.  Below are my quick thoughts. Great full length reviews are also online from The Verge, Anandtec, Engadget, Android Central, and others.

 

Pros

  • The screen is a game changer.  Colors are great, it’s bright, and the high resolution (Think “Retna”) looks fantastic.  It’s an improvement in everything.

  • Blazing fast. Everything is much faster. Even the processor itself is faster. I think the biggest difference is the faster storage.

  • The build quality seems to be a large improvement. Despite being plastic it really seems like a solid construction.  It also feels much thinner in the hand.

  • Standby battery life seems to be improved over 50% when on WiFi.  I no longer need to charge it nightly.
  • Notification LED is a nice touch.

 

The Questions

  • Why is the power adapter on the Nexus 7 2013 edition smaller at 1.35A vs the Nexus 7 2012 edition which was 2.0A?

 

Cons

  • Audio – The speakers are a bit of a disappointment.  While stereo is nice, I was really hoping for more volume. I like to listen to podcasts or stream radio stations while in the same room, and the volume is just not that loud.  The internal noise when headphones are plugged in is vastly improved as well.

  • Google needs to differentiate in the Play Store between the versions of Nexus 7.  Currently by default they are just listed as “Asus Nexus 7” and the last date they were used.  Google should at least change the icon of the new Nexus to reflect the one they are using on the box and in promos.  You can go in and rename devices, but users should not have to do this.

  • Touch on my tablet seems to be a bit off once in awhile.  I am going to have to investigate this further to see if its an app problem or maybe a hardware issue.

  • There seem to be some GPS issues with certain apps.  This looks to be more of a 4.3 problem than a hardware problem in the new tablet.  Over time apps should update and this will get fixed.

Chromecast

When this was announced it was a surprise for pretty much everyone.  At $35 this is pretty much a no-brainer.

I had been looking for a way to get music to my receiver in the living room but be able to control it from my tablet or phone. Ideally I wanted the music source to be from my Google Music account, since I have everything uploaded there.  Initially I thought this would be an app and I would plug in my tablet to act as the server, but control it from my phone.  Turns out the Chromecast has this feature and it works really well.  From my tablet I can power on the receiver (TV can remain off) and  start music playing, all from anywhere in the house.  It’s pretty slick. I have my Chromecast hooked up to my Yamaha receiver in the HDMI 2 position with AC power.

Chromecast

There are 2 methods of the Chromecast streaming content.

Mobile Device to Chromecast

Right now there are only a handful of apps that officially support this.  Youtube, Google Music, Google Movies, and Netflix.  It’s really easy to use; you start a video or song playing and then hit the Chromecast button, and within about a second it starts playing on your TV/Receiver.  What is actually happening here is the Chromecast is playing directly from the cloud, allowing you to use your device to do other things, like social media etc.  You can create queues, pause, next, etc from your mobile device.

 

Computer to Chromecast

Computer to Chromecast works a bit differently than Mobile to Chromecast.  Computer to Chromecast requires you to use the Chrome browser, and install the Chromecast plugin.  From there it allows you to share a tab to the Chromecast.  You can display the text of a web page or most video.  The computer is transcoding this information and then sending it to the Chromecast over wifi, so it does take some power on the computer side.  I tried this on my i7 920 desktop and things worked well.  I tried a few websites (Crackel, JaylenosGarage, Vimeo) and everything worked.  There is also a trick that you can open local media files in Chrome using CTRL + O and these cast too.  The MP4 files that were H.264 encoded played well.  I also tried some MKV files I had and the video in these played well, however the audio did not.  Hopefully this is something that is added in the future.

Pro’s

  • Low Price, Small Size.  At $35 this is a no-brainer, Since I ordered early I received 3 months of Netflix as well, which makes it even cheaper. It’s a small dongle that fits about anywhere.

  • Setup could not have been easier with the app on my tablet. My one tip is if you have a long complex wifi password, email it to yourself first, and make sure you copy to your clipboard before you start the setup on the phone/tablet.

  • To steal a famous quote, “It Just Works!” It just works, as Google said it would. It’s only likely to get better from here.

 

Cons

  • AC adapter. This is one of those styles of adapters that can cover up the plugin next to it. On the positive side, Google did include a nice piece of velcro to keep the extra cord nicely bundled.

  • Limited native app support right now, but this should get better since the API is open.

  • No support for Mobile Chrome to Chromecast. Hopefully this will be added soon. I have a feeling that it was due to most hardware not having the power needed to transcode video fast enough.

 

The future potential of the Chromecast is huge.  While it’s not a Roku or Apple TV replacement quite yet, it’s still very useful.  At the $35 price level, you can’t complain about much.  It makes getting Youtube and Google Music/Movie content to your TV/Receiver super easy.  Beyond that, being able to quickly move a chrome tab from your desktop to tv is easy too.

Homeownership Lincoln News Review Reviews Tech

Wide Range Broadband Review

I have talked with Lincolnites citywide who share similar frustrations with the ISP options in town.  The big guys tend to overpromise, underdeliver, have over utilization problems, and reliability issues.  For me, the last 6 months have been worse than average, with huge fluctuations in speed, especially during peak times.  I had techs out, replaced modems, talked with support and there just was not much that could be done.  On top of this, new fees and a fairly high bill have been enough for me to start looking at other options.

In Lincoln there are not a ton of options.  Lincoln has a fairly limited market.  We have one cable provider and one traditional POTS phone provider.  There are a few resellers but they mainly use the infrastructure of the first two, thanks FCC.  There have been other options, but they typically have not been able to offer the price/performance ratio I was looking for, especially delivering a faster upload speed.

The Solution

Wide Range Broadband (WRB) is a small, locally owned and operated ISP, wanting to give Lincolnites another option to get Internet, phone and TV service.  When I first ran across them in late 2012 they didn’t have service in my area, but this has recently changed as they expand to cover more of the city.  View a coverage map here. WRB is a point to point line of sight Wireless ISP (WISP).  They use a RF technology and mount an antenna on a high point of your home and then run CAT5 inside.  More on the install later.  They are using fiber for the backhaul between their current 5 towers in town.Their main provider is Level 3 who dumps to the internet in Dallas TX.  The transmissions from the antenna to the providers tower is encrypted using 128 bit AES, which is a great thing.

Rooftop AntennaThis is the rooftop antenna on my house.

The Install

The install at my house took about 1.5 hours on a weeknight.  It was refreshing to have an appointment time that was not a 4 hour window.  During the install, Aaron, the company owner,  installed an antenna on my rooftop.  They had a lots of options, and I chose to put it on the side of my chimney.  Another common install point was the PVC exhaust vents many roofs have.  This is a good choice if you can’t put holes into the structure. The install is similar to a satellite dish install, with the mount actually being from a satellite dish.  From there he ran a length of outdoor rated CAT5 wire down the eave of my house and inside, with the rest of the service wires.  The antenna and CAT5 blend in pretty well, I think.  You can see them if you’re looking for it, but if not it blends in pretty well. Inside there is a simple small POE injector that plugs into electricity and a patch cable to your router.

Performance

I will admit I was a little skeptical at first of a wireless point to point service.  I have two pretty heavy users (Gaming, Streaming, Online Backup and more) in the house, so low lag and performance is a must. Point to point systems of the past are associated with having problems when there is weather, and high ping times.  So far I have not found this to be the case.  I am on the top residential package (21×5) and am seeing download speeds between 18-20mb/s and uploads of between 5-7mb/s   Upload speeds to seem to vary some, but they don’t dip that low, and are still significantly faster than I was previously receiving with my old ISP. Higher speeds are being seen at non peak times. The speed test screenshots speak for themselves. There are no bandwidth caps with the service either.

Speedtest

Service is dependent on distance from the towers, and according to Google Maps I am about 2.5 miles from the tower.  My housemate reports his ping times when playing online games are about 1/2 or 1/3 less with the new service.  Ping times to Google during peak hours are less than 30ms.   Youtube and Netflix performance are a lot better; much less buffering and no throttling. So far we have not had any thunderstorms roll through to see how that affects the service.  WRB told me that rain or snow would not affect the service.  So far in the one storm we have had I didn’t notice any performance differences.

After having the service about a week, I can easily say it’s the best ISP experience I have had in Lincoln and the best value.  The top package is quoted as a (21×5) for $60 a month.  With my old ISP I was paying $65 for (15×1) and that was not being delivered, so this is a much better value. Other packages are available as well with various levels of speed and price. I also like supporting a local company.

WRB also offers a referral program.  If this post has made you interested in signing up please let them know LiquidRetro referred you.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below or find me on Twitter at @Liquidretro and I will reply back.

UPDATE1: I just wanted to write a quick update on the performance in the crazy weather Lincoln has had in the past 2 days.  On Tuesday some very significant thunderstorms rolled through town.  These brought with them some intense hail, that did cause a problem with my service.  After talking with the ISP they acknowledged a bit of downtime due to the weather. The hail had struck some of their antennas.  This was unexpected and they were looking deeper into the cause of the problem.  Good news is the outage only lasted about 20 minutes.  During the rest of the rain in the later thunderstorm there were no problems.  Today Lincoln has received a at times heavy wintry mix of precipitation   I have not had any problems with reliability or speed.  Speeds are still nice and fast.

 

Food Homeownership Life

Food Photos 1

It’s been a while since I updated the blog so I figured I would post a few photos of things I cooked recently.  Enjoy.