- BEFORE: “We’re flying you to Columbus, Ohio for training.” I’m not sure if that’s going to be better or worse than “PowerPoint hell.”
- I haven’t flown since 2010, so this is going to be interesting.
- It will also be interesting to compare this to my recent Amtrak trip to Dallas (see previous post).
- I recently moved, and I’m so glad I got my new driver’s license beforehand due to airport security. The picture on the new license is also of my currently less-fat self.
- Dear Uber driver: This is Texas. Turn on your gol-dang air conditioner.
- TRIP TO COLUMBUS: TSA was quick and pleasant; any delays were self-imposed.
- Then again, not having to do the TSA dance is a point in Amtrak’s favor
- Then again, an Amtrak to nearby Cincinnati would have taken nearly 2 days.
- The rollers on the X-Ray scanner quit rolling so we got held up just a little.
- I got to be zapped by the full-body scanner so I may be a little glowy while in Columbus.
- You’re darn skippy I’m going to savor every drop of this $3.25 airport Coca-Cola Zero
- Does wearing a Green Lantern ring qualify someone as a peace officer? Asking for a friend
- Coughing at the airport and thinking I should have had some Vitamin C with breakfast this morning
- Flying Southwest. Boarding group: C I guess I’m getting a window seat.
- Make that a center seat, which goes to show how long it’s been since I last flew.
- Amtrak seats are definitely better than airplane seats.
- Takeoffs make me a mite nervous, dunno that I’ll ever get used to it
- Seatmates aren’t very chatty but I have a slight headache so no biggie
- Actually, I talked a little with the gal who had the window seat…good luck with the marketing business!
- Other passengers: Read books and stories. Me: Write some 😉
- While I have a spare phone battery, I’m trying to keep from using it.
- I wonder how long it takes the plane to get out of Texas?
- Pretzels and cheese sandwich crackers. Mmm.
- Thing I forgot: Water bottle, which would have come in handy after the snack.
- I feel obligated to share my ‘peanut story’ with seatmates. Sorry.
- We’re all “random weirdos” here
- Complimentary drinks are a point in flying’s favor over Amtrak, but not so much due to the 4-ounce cups that are served.
- Tail’s dragging today; I stayed up way too late getting ready for the trip after driving up from Corpus Christi in the morning.
- I would like to sleep but I just can’t nod off on the plane. Being in the center seat doesn’t help.
- Thought about bringing my tablet along instead of my laptop but decided not to. After trying to type on the plane all squished up I definitely should have bought the tablet instead.
- Slight layover at Chicago Midway International. Part of me wishes I’d bought my fursuit along BECAUSE BEARS.
- Home Run Pizza hit the spot.
- I’m jonesing for some ice cream and I can’t find any at the airport. COME ON MAN
- At a Chicago airport yogurt shop:
“Finally, some ice cream!”
“It’s frozen yogurt, sir.”
“Don’t ruin this for me, please.”
“Yes, sir. It’s ice cream.”
- I just realized I should have worn something Texan but settled for furry instead. Oh well.
- I should have bought a bear souvenir while in Chicago. I HAVE FAILED MY PEOPLE.
- Head attendant on the second flight was kind of a wisenheimer, but he was a funny wisenheimer.
- Seatmates were glued to their phones on the second flight up.
- So was I. Yes, they had in flight WiFi, which we didn’t have on the flight to Chicago.
- Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi had 80s music, which made for a more pleasant flight!
- The presence of Wi-Fi is another point in air travel’s favor, though to get actual Internet you have to pay. I dug the site where you can see your flight progress, though.
- Saw a seatmate playing Solitaire on his phone. Nice.
- Grey and rainy in Columbus. Just as well, given that I’m here for work!
- TRIP HOME: Got an email saying my flight home to San Antonio is delayed a half-hour. Crap.
- Having a company credit card means overpriced airport food is no biggie
- Thanks to my Furry Invasion t-shirt, I got to explain furry to a TSA agent in Columbus, Ohio.
- His coworker helped out, which made me wonder if she had something to share with the class. Hmm.
- Nearly showed up late to my flight home because I thought the plane was delayed (see #44)
- Was relieved to be in Group B for boarding which meant that I may be able to avoid another flight in the middle seat/steerage.
- Plane was only half-filled so I got an aisle seat for the flight home…in the same aisle with a toddler.
- Seatmate had a small dog in a carrier on the floor. Awww!
- Nothing says I’M A FURRY like watching the Walt Disney version of Robin Hood on your laptop for in-flight entertainment
- I was the only one who ordered ginger ale on the trip home so I got the whole can. Score!
- Arrived back home on time, which has me slightly irked at the time goof-up.
- Overall, flying wasn’t bad, though I would definitely take an Amtrak over it if I had the time: No TSA, roomier seats, lounge and dining cars, people appear more relaxed, and the ability to walk around the train make the train a much more pleasant experience.
NOTE: While looking through my drafts, I found this list. I have no idea why I didn’t post it back then. Better late than never, I guess!
If a guy wearing bear ears took your picture, it might be here!
San Antonio’s first furry convention, Alamo City Furry Invasion, took place this past weekend. Many locals (including myself) were excited to have a furry convention in our hometown and I noticed a few things during the furry fun:
BEFORE-Sorry guys, but ‘Alamo City Furry Invasion’ as a name is too long, I’ve just been calling it ‘Furry Invasion.’
- RealmsCon also happened over the same weekend, so I have another reason to not go there.
- Thing we forgot to mention on the pre-game podcast: Parking around the con itself is going to be ‘fun’ especially for those of us not getting a hotel room.
- There was some confusion about the availability of a projector. We were told to reserve the one projector they had, which was odd considering I checked a box that said ‘I need a projector’ when submitting my panel.
- I made arrangements to have one just in case.
- Day before the con and we don’t have an online map
- There have been a few complaints beforehand about the potential parking costs, oh well.
- Took a walk around the hotel Thursday afternoon and it was plenty warm, which doesn’t bode well for our fursuiters.
- Surprised they aren’t doing a ‘print out your email’ thing for pre-registrations, hope that doesn’t slow down registration.
- FRIDAY-Pleasant surprise: Free parking for hotel guests while it was available. I fed the meter.
- I had to make jokes about “Don’t let your meter expire or Judy Hopps will pay you a visit!”
- I see the hotel and Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ pops in my head.
- As always, the guy with the Bluetooth speaker has to have crappy taste in music. I swear it’s a physical law at this point.
- Got into the reg line at 3:38 and waited for 45 minutes, pbbt
- The ‘WE’RE SORRY’ guy in the reg line finally got on my nerves and I had to open a can of manager on him.
- Fire alarm lights go off at 541 on Friday, oh boy.
- Little Kid: “Pokémon!” Dad: “I don’t think those are Pokémon…”
- Just a little sadface over not getting a personalized dog tag…does that make me weird?
- The comic book was a lame substitute, and it’s not good to see staff members with tags
- No furry Westerns for movie night? Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron? An American Tail: Fivel Goes West?
- If I’d have realized there were going to be so many people there on Friday, I would have shaved!
- SATURDAY-Up bright and early so I can shave (see above) and get a parking spot (see #3)
- There were plenty of parking spots with meters around the hotel and even some $1-$2 parking a block away.
- You still have to feed the meter on Saturday? LAME
- Downloadable PDF format for the schedule would have been nice
- Oh wait, the online schedule is different than the printed one, uh-oh.
- That is, assuming you can read it, looks like they used they used 4-point font.
- Nice job of giving credit where credit is due at opening ceremonies
- For fuzzing sake, can we keep fetish gear out of furcons already?
Stop popping your heads and breaking the magic, people!
- They definitely dropped the ball on the schedule. What is most surprising to me is either the staff didn’t notice or they chose to not do anything about it. No bueno.
- How to handle major screw-ups: 1-Apologize. 2-Take no more than two sentences to say what went wrong. 3-Tell us how YOU ARE GOING TO FIX IT.
- I mention the previous item because I heard the same ‘printer guy screwed up the schedule’ story way too many fuzzing times. WE DON’T CARE WHAT WENT WRONG JUST FIX IT.
- Regardless, I got by with a little (okay, a lot) of help from my friends for Furry 101.
- A bunch of quiet people attended Furry 101, there were no questions for me at the end!
- Some parents were there too, and were very complimentary after the fact.
- OMG all the Amber Alerts
- Seems I forgot to turn off the Amber Alerts on my new phone, too. DERP
- Guillermo’s Italian restaurant near the hotel was delicious.
- Had to do karaoke to finally get Copacabana out of my head.
- Forgot about the 20-bar instrumental break in the middle, should have found a dance partner.
- Going to be hard to not wear my Dallas Cowboys jersey on Sunday. GET IT? COWBOYS? 😀
- I wasn’t even aware of the food trucks, need to work on communication, there. Maybe a bulletin board?
- Bedbugs, tire slashing and threats? It’s a party now.
- I won’t lie, my eyes got a little misty when one guy did ‘Free Fallin’ during karaoke. God Bless Tom Petty.
- SUNDAY-To the person who glomped another fursuiter: YOU SUCK
- Apparently fursuiters weren’t happy with the fursuit lounge closing at night. Even by my cranky middle-aged standards, 10 o’clock is WAY too early.
- Another furry watching football? SAY IT AIN’T SO!
- If you’re still telling Tony Romo jokes now, stop talking about football. Just. Stop.
- Had my panel cancelled on Sunday because I was feeling way
oo hungry that afternoon…and they scheduled it opposite closing ceremonies.
- 737 attendees, wow!
- IMO attendance would have been higher but for RealmsCon being the same weekend in Corpus Christi and some folks in Houston are likely still recovering from the hurricane.
- I should probably get a room next year so I’m not dragging my tail home in the middle of the night.
- Overall, it was good but y’all really need to fix that scheduling, guys!
- BEFORE-Starting on this list two weeks before the con. Good Lord, do I need this vacation.
- The mobile scheduling website thingie works much better on my iPhone, but come on guys, no app?
- Even though I now have an iPhone 6, I’m debating using my iPad mini to record the fursuit parade.
- Note to self: Free up iPhone storage before event for ALL THE PICTURES
- I’ll be staying at the overflow hotel a block away this year and praying for no rain.
- BY MYSELF. BECAUSE REASONS.
- Debating getting a haircut, my bear earses look better when I have some fuzz up top, but carrying the Edfro around does get a bit warm.
- /looks at forecast Guess I’ll have to invest in an umbrella
- Got over 10,000 steps in the two days before the con 😀
- THURSDAY/DRIVING THERE – It says something when the tech support nerd is the ‘normal guy’ in the car.
- That is to say: I’m the only one that doesn’t have a fursuit
- Okay, so I might be just a little jealous
- YES MARY I HAVE THE AIR MATTRESS
- Missed one turn in Dallas and getting un-lost was an adventure, as well as costing me a few bucks in extra tolls >.<
- People are worried about the rain but the humidity is going to kick my pants
- Overflow hotel is nice!
- Forgot to bring registration email. Thank you business center!
- Must take pictures of all the fuzzies!
- PROTIP: Hold your camera horizontally to get selfies with fuzzy peoples!
- Hotel WiFi is dog slow, whatever happened to having an Ethernet connection in the room?
- I like the motivational hotel key card: REST UP AND GET BACK OUT THERE
- FRIDAY-Waking up at the same time you normally get up for work when you’re on vacation = BLARGH
- Two Waffle House trips in a row? Yes, please!
- Weather has been slightly uncooperative, but I’m dealing with it.
- WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ZOOTOPIA YET?! *head asplodes*
- Did we HAVE to put the furry smut peddlers just inside the Dealers Den entrance?
- Seeing my cover art on paper (twice no less) made me squee!
- No more throwback ashtrays in the men’s room stalls. I’m just a little sad.
- Looking at the getting-muddy annex parking on Friday afternoon made me VERY happy that I am staying in the overflow.
- Friends with cameras, PLEASE STAHP TAKING PICTURES OF ME!
- Two panels so far, one meh and one bad, no wonder they’re asking for feedback
- Can I give a panel on how to give panels?
- I probably should, especially considering how many people have been asking me ARE YOU DOING A PANEL HERE?
- About to go get some gel inserts because my feet are KILLING ME
- SATURDAY-There’s something appropriate about starting the day with a bowl of Lucky Charms
- Had homework to do too, the annual Furry Survey
- Some interesting questions this year, looking forward to seeing the results
- Went to voice acting panel even though my voice is shot, just couldn’t resist
- Voice acting presenter handed out shinies to participants! YAY SHINIES!
- Okay, so they were ribbons, but still! YAY RIBBONS!
- They don’t seem to have people monitoring the panel room entrances and checking times, are they short on volunteers?
- Finally got to see Furry Psychology all the way through. I will openly admit to internally squeeing when I saw the little shout-out.
- It seems that Twitter is becoming a preferred way for furs to communicate. I’m @randomizer9, by the way!
- Two times you don’t see many fursuiters during a furcon: early in the morning and just before the fursuit parade
- Lucky for me the parade wasn’t longer, my iPad almost ran out of memory!
- Not sure if having a coffee at 10PM was a good idea, guess I’ll find out
- I don’t dance and I don’t drink, so there ain’t much for me to do Saturday night.
- Hmm, use crappy hotel WiFi to slowly upload my video, pay for ‘faster’ and hopefully not crappy WiFi, or ‘borrow’ the business center’s printer’s network cable? 😉
- SUNDAY-Three trips to Waffle House? Why the hell not?
- FYI: We don’t have Waffle House in San Antonio, hence the slight obsession.
- It’s kind of nice to be sitting in Artist’s Alley, I can take pictures of fursuiters as they come by 😀
- A wiseenheimer told me I was going to leave with one book left, and he was right. /shrug
- If you want to be a ‘planner’ you have to plan EVERYTHING
- Checking my pictures for duplicates and realizing half of them are photobombs.
- 620PM and the sun is still out? What order of madness is th…oh, that’s right. Daylight savings time >.<
- At the Scritch n B*ch, slightly disappointed at a lack of taking ownership of the issue and not presenting the obvious solution to #41
- That is to say: WHY DON’T YOU VOLUNTEER SMART GUY
- I think I will next year, there are a few gaps of time when I’m not doing much, like on Saturday night.
- If you feel a need to prefix your feedback by saying ‘I am not whining,’ YOU ARE WHINING
- We’ve put a non cute fursuiter into a cute fursuit…let’s see when happens
- What happens is he sobs: “I DON’T KNOW HOW TO BE CUTE”
- Didn’t have the heart to tell the gal handing out shot glasses that I don’t drink, oh well.
- Realized I forgot to take my Vitamin C on Sunday OH NOES CON FUNK
- MONDAY/AFTERWARDS – Saw one last fursuiter in the lobby Monday morning, he said he was in “power saving mode.” I think we all were by then!
- Final picture count: 339 WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME IPHONE
- Already have my lab coat ready for “Mad Science” next year!
After months of learning to live with Windows 8 on the desktop, I picked up an ASUS VivoTab 8 tablet back in early 2015. Finally, I would get to experience Windows 8 with a touchscreen, just like
God Microsoft had intended!
As much as I like to think that I ‘got’ Windows 8 before, using it with a touch screen was wonderful. No more fumbling with sides and screen corners! The stupid charms on the right side of the screen finally made sense and I could bring them up by swiping in from the right side instead of madly fumbling around for for the magic spot with my mouse! Life was great!
That euphoria lasted for about five minutes until I tried to pull up the News app and it crashed. I checked for app updates in the Store, and there were none to be had. So much for that.
I am totally on board with the idea that there should be desktop apps Just like the ones we have on our phones and tablets. I shouldn’t have to go back to my web browser to do things. Indeed, I would love nothing better than pick up my Windows 8 tablet and left-swipe from app to app to get things done instead of having to go back to Ye Olde Desktop unless I want to.
Unfortunately, Microsoft’s apps suck. Everywhere. They sucked on Windows Phone, sucked on Windows 8 and continue to suck on Windows 10. Until they stop sucking, I’ll find myself going back to my desktop and my browser or using my iPhone or iPad. Don’t like it, Microsoft? THEN MAKE YOUR APPS STOP SUCKING!
Texas’ only furcon, Furry Fiesta, took place last weekend from Feb 20-22 and I had a ball. So, without fur-ther ado:
- PRE-TRIP/THURSDAY: Never been on a 4-day trip that didn’t involve a tent before, time to upgrade my luggage.
- Nothing like that ‘did I forget to pack anything’ feeling, luckily there’s a Wally Martinez (Wal-Mart) near the hotel.
- Weight on Thursday morning: 267 Hope I don’t spend half the event pulling up my pants like at PAX South.
- Then again, that wouldn’t be so terrible 😉
- Thing I almost forgot #1-Nintendo 3DS, Thanks, Oscar!
- Thing I almost forgot #2-Cologne. Insert joke about ‘no female furries’ here
- Thing I almost forgot #3- Apparently my insurance card expired last October. Oops!
- Thing I did forget #1: Ballcap for my Soos cosplay. Doh!
- Didn’t drink caffeine in purpose on the way up, finally had to succumb and stop at the Czech Stop for a soda.
- And some kolaches. Mmm, good!
- New duffel bag has wheels…I feel so WHITE rolling it around.
- I was recognized by someone in the reg line and couldn’t figure out who it was until I heard his furry name.
- Felt honored to call Nuka “Doctor” for the first time. Congrats!
- Room is on the 9th floor. Well, I did say I needed exercise XP
- Full-color conbook! Is niiiice!
- A friend said the conbook was in color last year but I didn’t care because I didn’t have a story in it
- Yay, a fridge in the room…already stocked with overpriced items…BOO
- Karma FTL: Joked about the first guy in reg line being their guinea pig, then I ended up being the guinea pig when I upgraded to Super Sponsor.
- Prediction: Lots of angel dragons this year.
- Private joke: Wolfboy was denied chocolate chip waffles at Waffle House, dude just has bad luck with chocolate.
- Waffle House was great! Now I have another place to stop at when I’m in Austin.
- Bad timing though, we bought a total of 15 people there and there were only 2 workers.
- They did an admirable job, though!
- FRIDAY: Had to get the genuine Waffle House experience the next morning after we swamped them on Thursday night.
- Bought a clip-on tie for a cosplay thinking it would be quicker, but it’s more trouble than a real one >.<
- Cap or ears with cosplay? Ears, of course. Ignore #8
- It says something when Wally Martinez runs out of bags!
- Dafuzz is up with no trash cans on the first floor of the hotel?
- The magic is routinely being broken here. I has a sad.
- Feel funny hanging my ears on my rear view mirror like they’re fuzzy dice or something.
- Semi-retired my ears until I figure out a better way to wear them.
- “I’m sleepy” “Drink some coffee” “I don’t drink coffee” “There’s no better time to start!”
- Took a quick peek in the adult section of the art auction, funny how the quality of the art dropped a little.
- The Corral sends to be much improved this year.
- I gave away paper copies of one of my books to a few folks and it felt good, I hope the recipients enjoy them.
- Had to abandon my lanyard because my badge was blocking my shirt…oh no, I’ve become one of THOSE cosplayers
- Two researchers at the con means two surveys to do. I haven’t had this much homework to do since college!
- Obligatory work-related item: Saw a tech-sounding name on a building and the first thought that popped in my head was “Are they hiring?”
- Got bumped in the head by a fursuiter at the Bucktown Tiger performance but it was okay, he was padded.
- I kinda want to knee people that carry speakers playing music in the nards.
- Learned some photography stuff from a ‘fur-tographer’ 😀
- Heard someone use the phrase “home grown country boy.” Is there any other kind?
- What is a fursuiter without a fursuit at a furry con? Very very sad. Dude got better, though.
- Thing I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing: Tingle-styled zentai suit. MY EYES
- Elevator-con didn’t happen for me, there were a few waits, but they were reasonable. Kudos!
- SATURDAY: “I’m gonna dress as Professor Utonium” “Will you have three girls?” “No, but this is a con, they’ll be around” “Yeah but they won’t be girls” /facepaw
- When doing a panel, make it more about the topic, and less about you.
- Hell, at least have an outline. The last time I went to a panel that was that bad it was held by teenagers.
- Heard a bird cawing outside, not sure if actual bird or attendee
- It says something when I sneeze in the hotel room and someone walking in the hall says “Bless you”
- New thing I’m not sure about: Someone had a friend do a badge of their ‘fruitsona.’
- Two people have referred to me as Uncle Kage. Not sure it’s complimentary
- After my camera battery conked out last year, I used my iPad mini to record the fursuit parade.
- …in landscape. I didn’t want to be THAT guy again.
- Got to portray a not-very-nice executive during the voice over panel. That was easy.
- Nothing like that NOOOO moment when you realize your 3DS wifi has been off for the last few hours >.<
- Next time I think I’ll try a room at the hotel next door because reasons.
- Parking Idea: Paint one side of the parking barriers red so people know not to park next to them.
- Parking Idea #2: Take the back way through the overflow parking onto Quorum, much faster to get to Belt Line Road or the shopping center across the freeway
- Got fur-tobombed while getting my picture taken with a friend, lol
- Thing I forgot #2: Small ice chest to store/chill drinks
- Wore a lab coat for a costume on Saturday (see above) and kinda liked it, especially the pockets!
- SUNDAY: Still no bags at Wal-Mart? Get it together, people!
- Awesome idea: Use cardboard priority mail envelopes from USPS for prints to keep them fresh and un-bent
- Boston Market’s 3-person meal could have easily fed 4 but SO GOOOD
- Whispered “I don’t read Gold Digger” to the Antarctic Press guy because Fred Perry was right there.
- I did buy (and enjoyed) two of his other comics and Furry Tales, though!
- Eyeball con: Some wag went around sticking googly eyes onto random things and apparently having pupils on fursuits is not cool anymore.
- I was right about the angel dragons, but the ‘no pupils for fursuits’ thing is a mite weird.
- Van Morrison’s “Moondance” got stuck in my head after hearing it during the jazz performance Saturday night
- That’s not a bad thing, BUT I DON’T KNOW THE WORDS >.<
- Whenever I see musicians play live, it makes me miss being in a band *sigh*
- Had an impromptu “Be Prepared” singing session in the car and realized I’d forgotten most of the words
- From Sunday afternoon afterwards the con was pretty cool, seemed like most of the hyperactive kids had left.
- MONDAY / POST-TRIP: Woke up Monday to see a layer of snow outside…CRAP
- Okay, ice. I’ve spent 99.999% of my life south of San Antonio and know not of such things 😛
- Got some neat “furries in the ice” pictures though!
- You don’t know which shoes are good for ice until you actualy have ICE
- Well at least I wasn’t wearing sandals.
- For being a small con, I didn’t see some folks on some days. Odd.
- Found a phone, how do we find the owner? Fursuit picture on the home screen of course!
- Drive home had a few harrowing moments at the start, but once we left Dallas things were fine.
- Still fuzzing cold, though; the Excelsior (my CR-V) still had ice on it when I got home.
- Took over 200 pictures during the con, holy cats!
- Bye bye, backpack, hello super-sponsor messenger bag.
- Not looking forward to seeing how many FA notifications I have pending.
- Or work emails for that matter.
- Aww #1: No calendar this year.
- Aww #2: Didn’t get to wear my “Do not feed the bears” shirt.
- Realization upon cleaning out backpack: I have way too many chargers and cables
- Weight on Tuesday morning: 268…so why are my pants so bleeping baggy?
- Saw a Krystal cosplayer and thought: “Hey, a place where Krystal CAN enjoy her sandwich!“
Its been some time since I’ve done one of these (or anything for that matter) so without any further ado:
- Arrived in downtown SA at 930 on Saturday as I was worried about finding parking, luckily it wasn’t a problem at that hour.
- The con did have some good guests, but I’m not into ‘celebrity worship’ much; I attend cons to hang out with friends and be supportive by flinging money at some of them.
- That said, it was awesome to meet Rob Paulsen and get the Pinky half of my ‘Pinky and the Brain’ print signed. 🙂
- Guests that I don’t “get” : reality TV show participants and cosplayers.
- A friend had a decent explanation for cosplayers being a ‘thing’ now: They are our models/supermodels. Fair enough. Still don’t get it.
- It was kinda neat that one could get autographs from all four of the original voice actors from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Cowabunga!
- This is probably the biggest fan con I’ve been to; took me a while to see the whole thing.
- Granted, it wouldn’t have taken quite so long if I hadn’t stopped to say hi to all my friends scattered about.
- Funny moment: I was standing on the loading dock chatting with a friend when Ernie Hudson walked out talking on his cell phone. He stood nearby for a while talking on the phone then just ran off. Dafuq?
- I saw Nichelle Nichols and some other folks walking by shortly after, didn’t want to be “that guy” so I simply waved hi.
- Saw Stan Lee on a news report afterwards, he makes me slightly less ashamed to own a “Members Only” jacket.
- Dear Guardian Knights Comics: Say what you want, but the ‘animal characters’ in “Gears and Bones” are furries. This is not a bad thing.
- Speaking of furries: I saw a few fellow fuzzers walking around, which is always good.
- Even more furries: the cosplay I noticed most often was Rocket Racoon, mostly by women. I have no problem with this.
- I really need to get a good pair of sneakers, my casual shoes became slip-tastic once wet.
- I made a mental note to buy a paleta from the guy that’s usually in front of the convention center before leaving but it seems I missed him. Hijole!
- Craziest T-shirt : “I GOT RIPPED OFF BY [name of other con]” That’s some kind of messed up right there.
- I ran into two candidates for “Patient Zero.” You know who you are.
- Cannot mention this enough: Having a Whataburger within walking distance of the convention center is THE BEST THING EVER
- THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU construction people for restoring the connection from Market Street to 281 northbound.
- I probably wouldn’t be as tired after the fact if I had a job where I walked around at least some of the time.
- Yes, I managed to gripe about work even here. I’M SORRY!
THERE AND BACK AGAIN
It was only a matter of time before I cracked and ended my ‘dumbphone’ experiment. But what to get next? I had already owned two Android phones in the past, both of which became progressively crappier as they got older, so Android was a no-go. I have no desire to own an iPhone, despite owning an iPad mini that I am happy with. Thus, I thought I would give the ‘other’ mobile OS a try: Windows Phone. I went to Ye Olde Electronics Store, picked up a Nokia Lumia 520 AT&T GoPhone, signed up for a $60 a month unlimited talk/text plan with 2GB of data, and hoped for the best.
This is actually my second exposure to a Microsoft mobile operating system. My first smartphone was a T-Mobile Dash (aka HTC Excalibur) back in the dark days of Windows Mobile 6. While it was not a bad device, Windows Mobile 6 was an odd duck and I switched from it to Android once I had the chance. So, I’m back to where I started, as far as smartphones go.
This review is based on my having owned the phone for three weeks, with my last phone being an Acatel 871A.
In terms of hardware, the Lumia 520 is basic: a 4-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 800×480, a 5MP camera on the back with no flash, and WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. On the top left is a standard 3.5″ headphone jack, on the bottom center is a micro-USB charge/transfer port, and volume/power/camera buttons adorn the right side of the unit. Back, Start and Search buttons sit below the screen. (Side note: I really wish Search buttons on phones would go away, bring back the Menu button!) The phone uses a micro-SIM, and comes with 8GB of built-in memory that can be expanded using a microSD card. I like having the power button on the right center, though it took just a little bit of getting used to. The back has a rubbery finish, which I actually prefer, and I believe the screen is glass. The phone is solid without feeling too cheap. The only thing missing in terms of hardware is a front-facing camera and a status LED of some sort: my last phone (Motorola Photon) had a status LED which enabled me to quickly look at it and identify what the last notification was or charge status by its color.
Call quality has been good and I was able to successfully sync the phone with my vehicle via Bluetooth for hands-free operation. The phone’s speaker is quite loud; I don’t believe I have missed any calls yet for not being able to hear the ringtone, a problem I have had with other phones in the past.
I do have a few gripes with the hardware, the screen seems to love finger oils and gets dirty very quickly, so much so that I’m considering investing in a screen protector. While Nokia and Microsoft like to tout the Lumias’ super-sensitive screen, it is a bit too sensitive for me, but it can be adjusted. This is my first exposure to AT&T’s LTE service, and while its speeds have not been as awesome as I have become accustomed to on my Verizon iPad mini it is fast enough to do what I need and even video has worked well.
I’m sure many of you reflexively said ‘WINDOWS, EWW,” upon reading the title of this post, but I like Windows, and thank you for continuing to read. I have used Windows for years, it lets me do whatever I want to with it, and I know how to burrow into it and get my hands dirty if need be. Sure, Windows 8 does leave a bit to be desired, but I’ll take even that over OS X or Linux any day. While Windows is a great big negative for many people, (especially in the mobile world) it is a plus for me.
So, Windows Phone, then. The biggest difference between Windows Phone and its competition is the Start Screen and its use of ‘live tiles,’ instead of icons. Live Tiles display information in real-time, such as the number of emails you have waiting or random pictures of folks in the People tile. The system is pretty flexible in terms of letting you arrange them. One of the first things I did was remove of most of them, particularly the AT&T apps, most of which require monthly fees. I guess $60 a month isn’t enough.
Unlike Android and iOS, which arrange their home screens horizontally, Windows Phone does things vertically: instead of swiping right and left, you swipe up and down to navigate the Start Screen. Swiping from right to left pulls over a full list of apps ordered alphabetically, and tapping a letter in a list brings up a screen with the alphabet so you can quickly find things. I like the Modern/Metro user interface; one thing that I greatly appreciate is that text is actually readable. One beef I’ve had with previous smartphones is how darn tiny text is often displayed, so having big letters I can easily read is great.
While there is a minor learning curve with Windows Phone, the biggest adjustment I had to make is that Windows Phone does not have a ‘phonebook’ or ‘contacts’ app. Instead, your contacts are stored in an app named ‘People’ that can be synced to include your contacts from Facebook, Google, Hotmail or even Twitter. The integration with other services and social media websites is very impressive: When you pull up a person’s information in the People app you can see their latest status update and in addition to the usual ‘call’ and ‘send text’ options you can send emails, post to their Facebook walls, or even mention them on Twitter. Windows Phone does its best to sync your contacts with social media profiles, if it doesn’t catch one, you can actually specify which profile to match up to a contact. Very nice!
Another thing that has impressed me about Windows Phone is how quickly push notifications come: I will be chatting with a friend on Facebook on another device and my phone will beep within seconds of receiving a chat reply. It becomes mildly annoying but is a small price to pay for expediency.
One of the problems I had with Android phones is the lack of system updates: unless you buy a Google-branded phone or a super-pricey one you could expect one or maybe two updates at best, then either the manufacturer calls it a day or the carrier decides to be a jerk and not push any new updates through in the hope you’ll get a new phone. One thing I quickly noticed about Windows Phone is that I could not specify a custom ringtone for app notifications or e-mails. I did a little research and learned that Microsoft had pushed out an update that fixed the problem. I checked for updates, but none were to be found. Crap. Time will tell if that will change, but for now custom notification sounds are a no-go (you can assign specific ringtones to people, though). This is an annoyance, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to survive without my phone telling me “You’ve Got F-ing Mail.” 😉
And now we get to the elephant in the room: Apps. You may have heard that the Windows Store does not have as many apps as the other guys and yes, that is very true. I myself use very few apps (which made it easier to stop using a smartphone in the first place) but even then, there are some notable ones missing, such as Dropbox. Dropbox is a pretty significant omission, but Microsoft is more than happy to provide built-in SkyDrive support as well as a Microsoft Office app.
I like that there is an official genuine Office app included, even if it is a bit stripped down. Microsoft Office alternatives, in my experience, have ranged from ‘pretty good’ to ‘ick.’ So while it is a bit inconvenient to have to migrate my stuff over to SkyDrive from Dropbox, I think it will be worth it in the long run. If you are considering making the jump to Windows Phone and you are an app junkie, it would definitely behoove you to double-check and make sure your favorites are available on Windows Phone. The included apps do their jobs well, but the included HERE Drive + navigation app did get a little squirrelly during a recent trip.
The 520 is responsive, though I will occasionally see a “Resuming…” screen for a few seconds when switching from app to app (Quick tip: holding the ‘Back’ key brings up your currently open apps) but otherwise the phone performs well. I should note that I do not play games on my phone so I can’t vouch for its performance there.
I have been happy with my Nokia Lumia 520 and Windows Phone thus far. There was a bit of a learning curve involved with Windows Phone but now that I know my way around, it is a pleasure to use. While there are a few minor annoyances, my overall experience with the 520 has been positive. The Nokia Lumia 520 is a basic, but quality device that is priced right at $100. That it is a no-contract phone is icing on the cake; unless you are constantly streaming music and/or video, 2GB is enough data for most people.
That said, Windows Phone is not for everybody. If you like customizing your phone, get an Android. If you are highly invested in Apple’s ecosystem or have an iOS device that you already love, get an iPhone. If you are new to smartphones, actually like Microsoft and their services (Hotmail, SkyDrive, etc) I say that Windows Phone is definitely worth a try.
Nokia Lumia 520 gets 4 out of 5 Live Tiles.
The author received no compensation for this review.