Now the Xbox is gone, replaced on my desk by a Raspberry Pi, another mystery. But this is two stories, not really related. The Xbox went, after 15 months, to my grandson in Seattle, though shipping it up there felt a bit like an old cliché. After Build 2014 I tried to accept the Xbox into my life. I liked the (idea of the) Kinect, and the fact that it seemed to recognize me (though there was no other user to compare). I did have trouble getting over the fact that I had to pay extra for some things (an Xbox Live subscription to watch Netflix, which could already watch on my computers or my Rokus) but the terms changed and I tried it out. Using a controller instead of touch or a keyboard and mouse took some getting used to. In short, the Xbox worked, but it took up space, and I didn’t see the value in it, except for the Kinect, which I liked more in the idea than the application. So I thought I should try using the Xbox for its original purpose so around Christmas time I bought a couple of games at a Microsoft sale, Forza and Call of Duty: Ghosts. That’s what I ended up with. There was a buying frenzy, overwhelming the site, waits of I don’t remember how long when IE seemed to freeze. I wanted Forza because it’s not a shooter, and there weren’t many of those, but the Call of Duty was just what was available when my mouse click actually worked. It’s nice that Forza shows you how banged up your car is at the end, from hitting walls mostly, I didn’t catch up enough to hit other cars. I longed for a steering wheel. The cars were nice, but the goal of not hitting stuff was rough. Call of Duty: Ghosts was a surprise. I felt at home, literally. The scenery, the vegetation, even the houses of the opening sequence (after the story that probably connects somewhere beyond my reach in the game) were familiar San Diego suburban generic. Poway maybe, or Rancho Penasquitos, or possibly the fringes of my home city, Escondido. At first I wondered if there were versions based in different places, to make more users feel at home, and then I wondered if the locale was actually real, not generic, and if so where it was actually set. I liked that, but I had trouble walking with the controller, getting up and running straight, jumping, evading cars fleeing down the Poway-like street. Again I could have used a steering wheel. I didn’t get to a point where I got to shoot. I spent a couple of weekends before my grandson’s birthday trying to bond with the Xbox, then packed it up and sent it on. Even including the Kinect.  I hear he likes it. WP_20150726_08_59_23_Sm

Setting up the Raspberry Pi was another adventure. The hell of Linux, or Oracle, or anything else that takes more configuration than sense.

This seems to be the time for these memories, so here goes:
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The first time I saw the Dead was the first time anyone saw them, with that name in performance, December 10, 1965. I’d heard of the Warlocks, but not heard them. It was at the second San Francisco Mime Troupe benefit put on by Bill Graham, his first event at the Fillmore Auditorium, which he’d just discovered. “My” band, the one I “managed” (the Vipers, misreported as the VIPs in Ralph Gleason’s story), was there, as was Big Brother, Quicksilver, the Airplane, etc. When I read about the event in Herb Caen’s column I called Graham from the payphone in the house I lived in in Palo Alto (I was not intimidated, he was not yet famous) to volunteer. He said we can’t just have anybody, but invited us up to audition the afternoon of the event. There’s more to that story but that’s enough. Each band took a table, along one of the walls, with the dance floor in the middle.  Ours was on the right, about half way back, I remember the angle.  That night Bill Graham announced the Warlocks’ new name.

It’s good to have the internet to check things. I used to think this next event, which happened 8 days later, was before the Mime Troupe benefit: a Ken Kesey Acid Test (the fourth, according to the Wikipedia chronology) at the Big Beat in Palo Alto. (Tom Wolfe wrote about it, but he wasn’t there: When I got far enough in his book to know that I stopped reading.)  A big dark room, the Dead on a stage at one end, an all-woman band, the Witches, on a stage at the other. Non-stop music. Witches and Warlocks. Light show on the walls.  That’s how I remember it.  I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid that night.

Not long after that, two more Acid Tests, both in January of 1966, one at the Fillmore (not yet firmly a Bill Graham venue), shut down early by the cops. I remember the Hell’s Angels, and ice cream, but that may be another event. I sat on the floor against the back wall, waiting for the friend who drove us there to lead me out.  There’s a tape of this at Concert Vault labelled, incorrectly, as being at California Hall. Then there was Longshoremen’s Hall, the Trips Festival. I don’t remember as much as I’d like to, a lot of milling about, but I remember Pigpen and Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, a song whose lyrics perhaps don’t stand the test of time and cultural shift, but I know I listened hard.

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For me, in fact, the Grateful Dead was Pigpen, Ron McKernan. Most Deadheads, born too late, never heard him live. He was the first of the dead Dead, 1973, a member of the so-called 27 club, which includes his friend Janis, and Jimi, Amy, Kurt, and Robert Johnson.

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A year after the Fillmore events I was in a band, with some of the same people I’d “managed” earlier. I played blues harp, like PigPen. We played here and there, around the periphery of San Francisco, where we lived. I won’t mention what made the band implode, but I didn’t do it. Anyway, one place we played, perhaps near the end, was the Santa Venetia Armory, not far from where Philip K. Dick may have lived at the time. The Sopwith Camel was supposed to headline that night but they didn’t show up and neither did much audience. Something to do with an east coast snowstorm. Who did show up was the Dead, last minute substitute, we didn’t know until we got there. While we all milled around inside before the doors opened to the tiny audience my wife of the time got Pigpen to light her cigarette. This was a long time ago. For me the thing about that night was that I played blues harp on the same stage on the same night as one of my harp heroes. And that, I think, was also the last time I saw the Dead live.

The rest of my story, the bits I tell people now and then, though not necessarily all at the same time: when he was still in high school in Palo Alto Pigpen would come to the dorm I lived in at Stanford to listen to music down the hall with a guy I didn’t know well: Holy Modal Rounders, the Fabulous Wailers, stuff like that. I was told that story, and believe it. This one’s clearer: at the Matrix one night, a famous blues harpist, Little Walter I think (if so it was August 1966, before the Santa Venetia show) performed. The audience was small, perhaps only me and Pigpen, and Little Walter wasn’t happy with his backup band (one of the then famous SF bands, I don’t remember which one, and wouldn’t name them if I did), his own another band stuck at the other end of a plane flight in bad weather in Texas or some place. I sat behind Pigpen, a little to the left. We both paid attention.

Approximately a year after the Santa Venetia show our daughter, my only child, was born. We brought her to our home four blocks down Waller from the Dead’s house on Ashbury.  We weren’t particularly quiet people in those days and we tried what we thought was a novel solution to the baby sleeping problem: we played the Dead’s first album in her room, she slept, we went about our business. This may have been my idea. When she was older she did the Deadhead thing, followed the band to concerts across the country, and met her future ex-husband, a story I know no more about than necessary. From this I got grandchildren, and for that I’m grateful.

And that’s it for me, my time in the 60s for today.

Finally pulled my phone number over to my Nokia, one of my Nokias, the 1020. Now I need to learn how it works as a phone, not just as a camera and internet machine. Ringtones and contacts. Yesterday I accidentally phoned a Facebook contact I had no reason to call, and didn’t know who until I hung up and looked at the history. But time passes.

And I’m finally done with my one-time beautiful flip phone I’ve had for almost 10 years.
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It wasn’t my first mobile phone, but it was my second, and was so much more beautiful than the old one. Blue, almost glowing, compact. I often thought it would be good for throwing, though I didn’t. Dropped it a few times. Wore it in a small camera holster on my belt at my waist, so it was always with me when I was out of the house. Alas. One more down.

As for Twisty Passages, few seem to like that either. As I thought, it was more fun to write than to play. Part of it, in this case, I think, is the lack of scoring or reward, but even more the lack of transition when the view changes left or right. I’m leaving this one in the stores (it’s universal), but I’m thinking about Unity.

I tried my Homeopathic Pill Timer app, never mind why. It works, if not perfectly, but the UI confuses the developer. And, uncertain who needs it, I’ve not pulled it from the store but have hidden it. You can still get it from here, but that’s it, for now. One problem with it is the imprecise timing of notifications, at least in WP8. There’s a window of about a minute as I recall. That was almost enough to stop me from working on it in the first place, but I wanted to get something done, a DVLUP challenge, a free phone, fame, ignominy, no fortune.

There are all kinds of timers, stopwatches, etc., in the store. I haven’t tried any of them. I thought I’d do a special purpose one, a particular use case, and see what happened, go through the process, get it into the store. I’d never done something like that before, got something out where people I didn’t know could see it, try it out, etc. Anyway, I thought it was a simple thing, in concept if not execution.

But if you want a simple, practical, beautifully simple health-care device, you can’t beat the weekly pill box. It doesn’t alert you when you need it, but its presence is reminder enough. Can’t remember if you’ve taken your blood pressure pill today? Look at the box. Is today’s slot empty? Done. Of course you have to know what day it is. But between the time you need to take something every day, and the time you can’t keep track, it fills an important function, far better than any electronic device. (I use mine mostly for vitamins.)

Actually I have four smart phones, not just the 520, 920, and 1020. On Black Friday I walked to the corner Radio Shack (will it still be there this morning?) and bought a moto-e for $50. I was curious to see how it worked. So far it’s another phone not used as a phone, but it has one thing none of my Windows phones have, a Nook app. That’s it. It’s my Nook reader.

A year ago I’d not yet owned a smart phone. Cell phones, sure, a couple since a fire scared us a decade or so ago, but I was a bit slow to commit. I wanted a Windows phone (no need to explain why, it was just good sense)–later, more specifically, a Nokia–but my provider, Sprint, was also slow to commit. So I waited and studied and read up on the API etc. I went to Build twice, 2013 and 2014, expecting I might get one thrust upon me, no more decision dithering, but no luck there. I did get the Surface Pro I’m using to write this, and an Xbox One that looks cute on my desk upstairs, but no new phone. At the 2014 Build I used a paper printout of a barcode to get into the Xamarin after hours party, lugging my Xbox in a cloth bag I’d brought for the occasion.

Now I own three Nokia phones, a 520, a 1020, and a 920. Here’s how it happened. After Build I had to decide what to do with the $500 credit at the Microsoft store we’d been given to see if we could make our own decisions. I liked the extremism of the 41 megapixel camera in the 1020, but there were other possibilities, like a nice Asus 8″ with a Wacom pen, or the possibility of buying something for someone else. So I bought a 520 as a GoPhone at the corner Radio Shack (yes, really, I can see it from my porch).

I bought the 520 because I wanted to try developing something on it, and it was cheap and available, but it’s actually a nice device. I can’t say it either is or is not a nice phone, since I don’t use it that way–I don’t make or get calls much, and I haven’t yet given up my Sprint flip phone–but it’s light, cheap enough to assuage worry, plays 2048 quite nicely, and hooks up to my USB port to test stuff. This was in April, shortly after Build.

Towards the end of the month, just before I had finally to decide what to do with my Microsoft Store credit, I attended a DVLUP Day event at the Nokia San Diego office up the street from my day job. The date coincided with the Microsoft acquisition, which affect the tone slightly, but there was a lot to learn, and the promise of a free phone for all attendees who got an app into the Windows Phone store quickly enough (the ending date waffled a little, or my knowledge of it did). Anyway, the event convinced me to go with the 1020 instead of some other bauble, like that 8″ Asus.

The 1020 is a great device. I chose it for the camera, and use it that way, but it has a phone number, and I can get my email facebook and twitter when I’m not at home now, which may have changed my life a little. But, still, it’s mostly for development, I say here.

The Nokia event was a great challenge, because it got me to go through all the steps with my practice app, which, however simple and specialized, is now in the store. And, after a while (the turmoil of the acquisition?) another phone, a white 920, arrived in the mail, another nice phone, and more than I expected.

So that’s it. Later, development tales.

Here’s what happened. I started a blog, after Build 2014, moving forward. I went to Build expecting, of course, to learn something (Universal Apps) and to mill about with others of my ilk, whatever that is, but also, I thought, to get a phone. I’d never had one, unless you count an i-mate Jasjar from a previous conference, and at the previous Build we got two Windows 8 machines (Surface Pro and Acer 8-inch Iconia) so what was left? Apparently an Xbox One, with Kinect (good) but no bundled game.

Anyway, the Xbox was a source of some adventure while it and I were still in San Francisco (nothing exciting, but a bit of a lug-around), and when I got home I decided to keep it, at least for a while, to see what I could make of it. As it happened, not much. Here were my problems:

  1. it was unfamiliar. There was no keyboard. I’d never held a game controller before, so I had to experiment with the buttons.       There was help somewhere, but I’m not quite sure I found it.
  2. nothing came bundled with it, so there wasn’t really anything I could do, not right out of the box. At Build I watched Titanfall played on a movie theater screen, and that was exciting and impressive, but I couldn’t see spending $60 or so on a game like that when the Xbox itself was “free.” I’m not a shooter, but I would have played Titanfall or any of the others if I had it thrust upon me. I might have bought Forza, though I’m not really a road race fan either, but I couldn’t make up my mind.
  3. Xbox Live: everywhere I went I needed it, even for Netflix, to which I subscribe. Again, Xbox “free,” but a little like giving away the razor so you’ll buy the blades, or the drug dealer’s temptation. A month or so in the Xbox Live requirement was dropped for a few things, but by then I was focused on the phone I got with the “free” $500 Microsoft Store credit we also got, since apparently Microsoft couldn’t decide what to give us, or thought we were capable of deciding on our own.
  4. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole avatar thing.  I’m “Foolish Eel” something or other.

On the positive side, though, I liked the fact that I could log in by being recognized through Kinect. Though, since no one else in my house was interested, I don’t really know if it recognizes me or just a movable object about my size and shape. And, when Netflix without Xbox Gold became available, and I figured out how to operate it with the game controller, it did look pretty good.

This, of course, doesn’t really say what happened to my blog.  But more about that later.

So I trashed my blog.  Proof, if I needed it, that even with WordPress, Azure, and Web Matrix it’s possible to shoot your foot off.  At least mine.  So, time to start again.  Opportunity, or pain in the ass?