The Last Great Smartphone…

note 4

This may come as a shock to many, what I’m about to say. I believe we have reached a pinnacle, a moment in smartphone evolution that will be very hard to overcome. I’m not saying it’s impossible that something will come around that may be just as good or better, I’m saying innovation has come to a screeching halt. There’s nothing new, they talk about the next big thing, but there’s nothing “next big” about it. Hardly anything has changed, those subtle things that changed are not necessarily technological innovations. The rest of the changes are downgrades, they are things that the penny pinchers got a hold of and since they didn’t know what they were used for, they got rid of them.

Recently I sold my Note 4, a decision I would soon regret.

I had decided it was time, after years of using the Note line of phones, beginning with the Galaxy Note and ending with the Note 4, to finally jump ship. I wanted a more vanilla, more pure, Google experience. With that desire, and the price of the Nexus 6 dropping, I sold my Note 4 and bought a new Nexus 6 on Amazon.

After only a few days I began to regret my decision. I instantly missed having an SD card slot. Some people may not understand or relate to this but for me,  the SD card slot is a godsend. In a world of constant media consumption, all in HD formats, memory is a constant constraint. Over the years I’ve accumulated over 18GB of photos, all taken by phones I’ve owned over the years. As I transitioned to a new phone, I renamed the Camera folder to the name of that phone and moved (copied)  it to my new phone. This system kept things, for me,  organized and neat.  Moving to a phone without SD card expansion capabilities this was no longer possible, technically it was, but realistically it was not. Having bought a 64GB version of the Nexus 6, I would’ve had enough space but not much left for other stuff. To the ya but you can use the cloud proponents I say this. The cloud sucks, it uses my data, which by the way is still to expensive, it’s slow and cumbersome. Seriously. An SD Card is so much faster and more convenient. Instant access to your pictures and files, instant.

Next I became frustrated with the loss of my IR port.  This simple feature had become so useful with my note 4. I never had to search for a remote control in the house anymore. The Blue-ray player,  the LG TV,  the Samsung TV everything was easily controlled from my phone. This was especially useful when I’d lost the remote for a Blue-ray player. It was just a feature I loved and used a lot on the Note 4. I know some people did not use the IR port. But for me, it was a great feature that I used a lot.

Soon after, I became increasingly annoyed by the lame battery performance. I could easily go all day with the Note 4, not so with the Nexus.  Once again the need for an extra charger or battery pack became critical.

Since then, I returned the Nexus 6 and picked up a Note 5. It’s a worthy opponent and a review is forthcoming.

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Wireless Charging….finally.

Finally we have come about, I’m finally starting to feel like we live in the future. Charging my phone without connecting an annoying 4 dimensional micro usb cable that never seems to fit in first try, especially in the dark, is a step forward in human evolution.

Recently I acquired a third wireless charger, this time a fast one.

I have been using this pad for a few days now, and I love it. It is made by Choetech and it rocks. Compared to my OEM Samsung charging, pad it is spot on.

Love the build quality and ergonomic design. I appreciate the fact that is very thin and has very sticky pads on the bottom that don’t allow it to slide around on my nightstand. I’ve even used this in my car and the pad did not slide around or move.

Another great feature is the non-intrusive LED light, because of this it has earned the coveted spot on my nightstand. The Samsung pad as well as another QI pad I have, both use really bright and obnoxious LED lights. This makes use of them on my nightstand very unlikely. I can’t stand those bright LEDs in my face. The Choetech pad has one small LED that can be pointed away and doesn’t bother me one bit.

Furthermore, the cable that came with the unit is superb, seriously something as simple as this can really enhance a product. The cable is thick and solid feeling yet very soft and flexible, this is a big plus in my book.

Can’t say enough good things about this charging pad, it looks great, charges fast and works well with my S6 and Note 5. Even the packaging was very well thought out, like something you’d expect from Google or Samsung.

Solid thumbs up from me, I highly recommend this product.

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Breakfast of not-Champions

ImageThis morning, as a result of not having anything else really prepped to eat in the morning rush, I grabbed one of these bad boys from the fridge. I poured some milk in a cup and hit the road. I ate half of one of these muffins and my carpooling buddy also brother ate the other half. When I was punching in my foods for the day into some calorie tracking software, I almost fell over. Seriously I was and still am completely baffled how bad these muffins are.

One such muffin from Costco contains 690 calories. This amount equates over 30 percent of the daily suggested intake, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. That is astonishing to me. I had no idea a simple chocolate muffin could be that high in calories. If you are trying to stay within a certain number of calories per day as I am, a muffin like this can really ruin your day.

What’s more, it contains 38g of fat, with 11g of saturated fat. Top it off with 79g of carbohydrates, 48g of which coming from sugar and you got yourself a bona-fide calorie bomb. After seeing this info, all I could think of was, how great it would be to roll back the clock and skip eating it.

Honestly it’s a disaster of epic proportions. How they can pack 690 calories into a muffin is beyond me. Since I only ate half I’m looking at 345 calories. I could have eaten a breakfast sandwich of some kind, or had some cereal and I’d have been much better off. Not to mention if I had just had some oatmeal and egg whites or some protein powder. Less than 300 calories and much, much better nutrient intake.

This was a real eye opener for me, once you really start looking at the nutritional value of what you are eating you’ll be shocked. That is the only way you can learn and be wise about what you eat. When you accomplish this, you will be better positioned to make smart choices which will lead to a healthier and possibly thinner you.

Be informed make intelligent choices and stay healthy my friends.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Mini Review

ImageFirst a little bit of background. I am a tech nut. I enjoy very much playing with, tinkering with and owning the latest and greatest. As a matter of fact this section of my blog will probably grow quick because I have many things to write about. Furthermore, I have been an Android phone enthusiast for at least 4.5 years and as such may be slightly biased. Lastly, I am totally winging this review. It is the first time I’ve written something like this and I’ll get better with time and experience.

With that said, let’s get right down to it. Ever since Samsung released the original “phablet” I have been intrigued. I picked up the S3 on opening day and within a couple of months when the Note came out I went and got one. Next came the Note II, once again I couldn’t resist the urge and I upgraded right away. And as you can guess as soon as the Note 3 was available stateside I went out and paid full price for one.

The Note 3 is without a doubt my favorite tech gadget I own. It is so versatile, so useful on so many levels that I couldn’t imagine “upgrading” to any other smartphone (except for Note 4, of course) even if I had the opportunity. Right out of the box this Goliath of a phone attracts you with it’s stunning looks. I don’t know what some people say about it looking cheap or toyish. I find it to look sharp, elegant and very appealing, and that’s all before you even power the thing up. When you do, the screen sucks you in. It is vibrant and crystal clear. As a matter of fact that is one thing that has always drawn me to Samsung smartphones. The AMOLED screen is stellar.

So, what else is there? Lets start with the s-pen. This thing is bringing sexy back. It will take some time to get in the habit of using a stylus, again, but when you do you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how powerful it is. I jot things down all the time, from what I’m going to eat for lunch to shopping lists and meeting notes. The S-Note app included is great but I still prefer Papyrus. Set it up so you can only write with the pen but erase with your finger and you’re golden. Go for the pro version and you can create PDFs and upload to an online backup location for instant access from anywhere.

Next thing that immediately (well within a couple of days) struck me was the battery. This thing is not only huge but it lasts. In stark contrast to other smartphones I’ve had this behemoth easily goes all day long without trickle charging. Keep in mind I’m a very heavy user. Currently I sync 6 email accounts, weather, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and others round the clock. I also keep Bluetooth going to use my Jaybird headphone (another review for another time), and GPS on for location services. On top of that I stream tunes from my home server (occasionally) and send texts throughout the day. Still though it lasts all day. This is a huge plus and improvement for me. I remember the days of my HTC Sensation which couldn’t go half a day on a full charge, and that thing had a measly 4.3 inch screen.

The GN3 as it is referred to by some is the best smartphone I have ever used. The features are outstanding, the camera is sharp and amazing. Video capture is hard to believe it came from a “phone”. Features like wireless charging, S-View with the S-view case and Air View when you detach the pen are all amazing. The fact that I can add an external Micro SD card is a huge plus. I can’t understand makers who do not add this most vital feature to devices. You got a camera that takes pictures at 2Mb each, at least, you’re memory will run out pretty quick if you’re not careful. I’ve added a 64GB card to my N3 plus the 32GB built in and I think that is a huge advantage to be able to do that.

One thing I will say, this phone is big. If you have smallish hands or really like using your phone one handed it may not be for you. I use two hand a lot and sometimes I struggle to use one hand. Add to that a semi protective case and you now have a pretty hefty thing to carry around. Still though I carry it in my pocket almost all the time and don’t have too many issues. Just be aware, go hold one in person before pulling the trigger.

As far as I’m concerned there will never be a need for any other phone other than the Note family. I am sold. I don’t even use all the features this thing has and I feel like it is a super device. I shoot off emails with a breeze, I speak text into it, I write text and it converts, I take photos and update social networks. I log into my windows PCs and do whatever I want there. I use it as a remote control for my TV and Wireless mouse and keyboard for my server computer. The list goes on and on, there’s no end to the possibilities.

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Religion for the Sake of Religion

As I listened to a song by a band named Project 86, I started thinking about the pitiful state in which so many find themselves today. There are two lines in the song that really stand out to me.

“Traditions the creation of men
Religion for the sake of religion”

I know or have known people, as I’m sure you may as well, who go to church simply for the sake of going to church. I mean going to church is so habitual that they cannot imagine not going. Well that isn’t so bad you might say, or is it? I mean what good is it to be present every Sunday for every service, maybe even mid week service, but be doing it simply because. What is the rationale behind going just to go?

The rationale is tradition. Because that is what I’ve always done, that is how I was raised; I will continue to do so. This is not, in my opinion, a good thing. The purpose of going to church as far as I’m concerned is to be intentional about serving God. Going to church does not make one a servant. G.K. Chesterton said “Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.” Unfortunately this is exactly what many people think today. They believe if they are there, present, their salvation is assured by their attendance. They assume that taking the time out of their weekend and going to church is sufficient obedience, and will earn them a one way ticket to Heaven when the time comes.

It is sorry state of affairs when people are ruled by their traditions. As a Romanian I am fully accustomed to traditions. Our culture and people are well versed in ridiculous traditions, traditions which they cling to tightly and refuse to put aside. When people are rebuked or “put aside” because they did not follow through or adhere closely enough to a certain tradition, I raise an eye brow. I have to question and wonder if God is really pleased. Did he not call us to love and kindness? Are we mistaken in thinking that God is pleased when we treat each other with respect, gentle heartedness only then are we truly doing His will?

The motivation for everything we do for God cannot ever be tradition, habit or “normal behavior” that we are used to. Our motivation for everything that we do for God, His kingdom, and ultimately our eternal destiny should always come from the heart. It is only then, when we do something because we truly desire it, that we are doing right by God. I believe that only when we desire something wholeheartedly can we be successful and content. If the only motivation to join a church is simply to go, then we will never be happy there. If our motivation for doing something is tradition then that act will not satisfy.

Throughout history traditions have always torn apart families, broken hearts and divided churches. The reason is that there will always be someone coming along who will challenge it. When that happens there is conflict, conflict which often times results is heartache and pain. When we allow tradition to rear its ugly head, we are losing something very precious. We are losing our right to choose. God has given us this privilege of choice; free will and the liberty to choose Him on our own. If we go on being “Christian” because that’s the way it is then we are not sincerely choosing, are we?

I long for a day when we will break away from tradition all together, a day when we will sever all ties to the past and look forward. I foresee a revolution coming. A shift in our way of thinking that will be much more in tune with what God has actually set before us, and not what some people long ago decided was right.

The only authority which we should consult is The Word. Within this vast literary work inspired by God himself we will find everything we need. All that we seek, answers to our questions and wisdom are contained within. Our problem is a lack of desire in learning it, a lack of initiative in studying it. We think that sitting in a garage makes us a car, it doesn’t. We will never learn all that we should; it will never be ingrained in our minds sufficiently by our simple attendance at a church service or two per week.

C.S. Lewis said “the Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us”. This is what I’d like to end on. Nothing that we can or ever will do will be good enough for our salvation. What is good enough, is God’s goodness. By it we have been granted a privilege of being called His own. By His goodness and His alone we are justified, made new and sufficiently good for His kingdom. He makes us good enough, not our traditions or good habits. The things that we do right, the good that we do, comes from our appreciation for Him and desire to please Him.

When will a dramatic enough change come? When will we abandon the traditions which are obviously not working for us and only slow us down? It will only come when as individuals we decide to be different. When we decide on a personal level that we will change and start fresh, then and only then will the change begin. Sure, ya, we can point the finger and blame other, we can say so and so needs to lead a change or break the mold. The truth is though, the change begins with me, it begins with you. My prayer is that God will grant us discernment to know how to begin.

Raz Dihel

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Pages from the Diary of a Sloth

Recently I thought I would start Blogging on a newly created WordPress page. Needless to say it hasn’t happened yet. I thought it would be cool to blog or write about things that interest me and that might be useful for others to read. Time has had other plans for my blogging endeavors. Well, time or the most annoying thing of all, yes more annoying than Jon and Kate Plus 8 or now Will and Kate. Procrastination. Simply put, laziness.

Now I wouldn’t normally admit something like this but I can be really lazy sometime. No don’t try to convince me otherwise. Don’t tell me that I have a lot going on with school and work and a family and other things. Basically, even with all that I apparently still have time to surf the web for a little bit even watch TUF or UFC Unleashed. However, when it comes to doing something more useful I “don’t have the time”. Bologne, or so I’m beginning to think.

Maybe it’s just procrastination. That plague that impairs so many of us from reaching our potential. What is the deal? Why do we procrastinate so much? Roughly 14 weeks ago a professor of mine told us that we have a paper due on the last day of class. This said, last day is rapidly approaching, it is this Wednesday. Lo and behold in all those weeks I never had time to start this paper. Or at least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself now as the paper is due in less than two days. I am so annoyed with myself I could scream, if my daughter wasn’t sleeping that is. No instead I will sit here in silence and work on this wretched paper, because procrastination has once again reared it’s despicable head.

I mean if I hadn’t done this to myself in the past it’d be one thing but this is not the first time, no sir, no mam. This is a common theme, and they say we learn from our mistakes. I wish we did. Maybe we learn from some mistakes, but some just never seem to teach us anything. Well the Bible teaches us about being lazy as well, I guess that’s not enough either. When will I learn? “I have plenty of time to do this” should be a clear sign that I must not wait, I must take care of the matter that very instant. “I have plenty of time” just means I will put it off until the very last minute, often times literally.

So now, rather than waiting for another so called chance to write this note (blog) I am doing it now. While I thought my first blog or note would be about whether or not to blog or some fun and witty commentary about something interesting now it is about my arch nemesis. I’m hopeful that procrastination will take a hike, go on a journey and never come back. I just don’t need it, I’d rather sleep. I’d rather do something more fun like type a note like this. I’d rather read, research, spend time with Nadia and or my wife. So here’s my farewell note to procrastination.

You’re certainly no treasure,

No words could ever measure,

My utmost displeasure,

Of knowing you,

Of loathing you,

Goodbye, so long,

I’ve better things to do.

Well until something more annoying than Kate plus 8 comes along, I will hang up my writing “pen” and go get some sleep. Actually, hopefully, I won’t have the misfortune of only blogging about things that annoy me and I’m sure many of you.

Yup, Slowly. Take your time lazy.

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Hello world!

Blogging. I used to think it was just a fad. Boy was I wrong. Blogging has turned into a huge thing. Opinions, news and everything in-between can now be found on blogs. This is my first post, but hopefully not my last. I will make an attempt to blog about anything that interests me. This my or may not be useful or interesting, nevertheless I’m just looking forward to using these blogs as a notebook to express my ideas and develop my thinking and writing skills.

Hopefully some day there will be many posts on here ranging from religion to technology which prove helpful, inspirational or simply entertaining for other to read.

Thanks for looking, thanks for reading and come back soon.

Raz

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