Revisiting Disney’s PhotoPass
My friend Chandra recently disappeared off the face of the planet again, indicating another adventure to Disney World. While at the park, she had pictures of her daughter and nephew taken using their PhotoPass service. This consists of Disney Cast Members taking complimentary high quality photos that you can view and download online once you get home.
Of course, Disney provides you with plenty of options to buy your photos, but just a bulk download costs $169, and even though those pictures are high resolution, you’re likely just going to post them on Facebook where resolution isn’t especially important.
Last time she went, I hacked the PhotoPass website to be able to save the PhotoPass photos. However, the PhotoPass website has changed since then, thus requiring a new hack attempt to get the recent photos saved.
Breaking the Code
[The following was done in Firefox 28.0, though it should work in other versions, as well.]
The answer came in Firefox’s config settings. To get to the settings, type about:config in the address bar, then hit Enter. If you’ve never done this before (and sometimes even if you have), you’ll get a warning telling you to proceed with caution. Click “I’ll be careful! I promise!” to move forward.
Now you’ll see a looooong list of various settings that can be changed. To help you find the setting you need, do a search for “context.” Now you’ll see a manageable list of seven lines. The third one down is the one you want to change.
The default setting is “true.” Double click the indicated line to change the setting to “false.” And that’s it!
Now when you view your PhotoPass slide show, you’ll be able to right click and save each picture that you view. You will have to do this for each picture, so if you have a lot it will be a little time consuming. But the pictures are decently sized at 1280 x 850, which is perfectly good for Facebook or other social websites.
Taking the Nintendo 3DS Plunge
Nintendo’s 3DS system is three years old. Although the 3D feature never really impressed me, I love me my Nintendo and the 3DS has proven to be a solid follow-up to the original DS. So I have been open to purchasing a 3DS for quite awhile. However…
When I buy a handheld gaming system, I am very particular about the color. The launch colors are generally horrible, so I always hold out until an “acceptable” edition to my liking becomes available. For example, I upgraded to Game Boy Color when the Pokemon Pikachu edition came out, to Game Boy Advance when the (Japanese) Pokemon Suicune edition came out, to Game Boy Advance SP when the (Japanese) Pokemon Torchic edition came out, and to Nintendo DS Lite when the (UK) green color came out. (I think my original phat Nintendo DS was a standard color, but I had a Pokemon snap-on case to go over it.) As you can see, there’s a bit of a theme.
With the Nintendo 3DS, I hated not only the basic colors that were available, but the glossiness of the system. Blah. That problem was solved when they came out with the Nintendo 3DS XL, which didn’t have the glossiness, but I also wasn’t sold on the larger-size system. And that’s pretty much how it’s been for the last three years. Every once in awhile I’d get the itch to get one and go searching for something newly available, only to find disappointment. That is, until a few weeks ago.
Enter: The Nintendo 3DS XL Yoshi Special Edition.
I knew as soon as I saw it that this was the perfect system for me. Not only is it green, my favorite color, but it has a nice clean graphic of Yoshi on the front with some eggs on the back. ADORABLE. Then I discovered that Nintendo has a promotion where, if you buy a new 3DS and a select game, you get a free download of Pokemon X/Y. And, on top of that, I found a deal on the Toys R Us website where they were giving you a free game with purchase of a system. So I got myself the Yoshi 3DS XL, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7.
But I wasn’t done yet. Getting a new system also means getting stuff to go with it. Namely, stuff to protect it. For me, there are three essentials that go with owning a Nintendo DS of any type: 1) A case to attach directly to the system. 2) A screen protector (bottom screen only). 3) A zipper pouch/case. I hate third party accessories, so I am really particular about getting official, Nintendo-approved items. Luckily, there is a really great company called Hori that makes such things.
Item 1: Clear case cover. Made of clear, flexible plastic in two pieces that fit like a glove over the front and back of the device.
Item 2: Screen protector. A simple, adhesive piece of plastic sized perfectly to fit the 3DS XL screen. Also, a pain in the butt to apply (but so worth it).
Item 3: Zipper pouch/case. There were a lot of good options here, but I eventually went with a Japanese Pokemon Center-exclusive offering.
And hooray! After waiting for all the pieces to arrive from various parts of the country (and one item from Japan), I am now set up and ready to go with my shiny (but not glossy) new Nintendo 3DS XL. Of course, the first thing I did was go into the eShop and buy Virtual Console games. ^_^ I will soon be venturing into the worlds of Animal Crossing and Pokemon!
My friend code is below if anyone out there in Internet land would like to friend me (be sure to comment or send a message with your code!).
Cutting the Cable on Cable
When I first moved into my apartment eight years ago, Comcast offered me a special 1-year introductory price for standard cable. Combined with Internet service, it was a really good price, so I took it. I think the only thing I got out of that year was getting sucked into watching weekend marathons of ridiculous reality TV shows.
Thankfully, for the sake of my sanity, after a year my bill suddenly shot up to waaaaay over $100 and I was like, “Whaaaaat?” So I shut that nonsense down. I was ready to cancel completely, but settled for the local basic package, which, after some math was applied, was only going to cost me about $2/month on top of my Internet service.
Over the years that pricing slowly crept up and, by last summer, what had been a $72/month bill was now an $80/month bill. “Meh,” I thought. Then, in October, Comcast decided that if I wanted to continue to get TV cable service from them, I would have to use a decoder box. I had avoided all previous attempts to get me to use some sort of box and had always had my cable plugged directly into my TV. I liked it that way.
You get a lot of channels on the local basic package, but 96% of them are either public access, shopping, or Spanish. That left me with about six channels that I actually flipped through. My TV allows me to save my favorite channels and just flip through those. The decoder box Comcast sent me only let me watch channels in standard definition and required me to use their cheap remote control with no favorite channels feature.
As my monthly bill had slowly increased I had considered canceling my TV service and going with an over-the-air HD antenna. The nonsense with the decoder box set that idea into motion. I live in a relatively small town and am surrounded by a lot of trees, so when I was shopping for an HD antenna, I figured it was best to play safe and get a higher end model that would be better at pulling in weaker signals. I finally settled on the Mohu Leaf Ultimate Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna (since renamed to the Mohu Leaf 50 Indoor HDTV Antenna).
Getting the antenna set up was a bit of a process, only because it required placing the antenna in several different locations before finding one that pulled all of the stations that I wanted to get. But I finally found the magic spot, and when I did I was very happy with the results.
Now, without any monthly bill, I get my local NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX stations. I also get the CW, a couple different PBS feeds, MeTV, and This TV. Not only do I have all the stations that I want to watch, but the quality of the picture is as good, if not better, than I got over cable. And I get to still use the favorite channels feature on my TV.
As before, any shows on cable that I want to watch I get through the various Internet streaming methods available. All in all, my TV viewing experience is a very satisfying one.
Why I Didn’t Invest in an “Infotainment” System for My New Car
Today I read an article about an update to Ford’s heavily-promoted Sync system. I spent more time reading the article (maybe 10 seconds) than I spent considering getting a car with Sync or a similar system.
When shopping for cheap cars, which is what I do, you really can’t be picky about the included audio system. As previously mentioned, my first car (Suzuki Swift) didn’t even include any stereo. My slightly-upgraded Fiesta S (+ Convienence Package) has a CD player. Said CD player is where the mount for my iPhone lives (the one and only carry-over from my Daewoo). It will likely never see a CD ever.
With the 2013 Fiestas, Sync is only available on the highest trim level, Titanium. That adds $4,000 to the MSRP from the basic S trim I have. That wasn’t going to happen. Sync became standard for all models with the 2014 Fiestas, but that would have still been a more-expensive car. Also, a hidden cost attached to Ford Sync is the annual subscription fee. It’s “included” for your first three years of car ownership, but after that you pay $60 a year. There’s always a catch.
The reason the lack of this feature is acceptable to me is because I already own a phone that can do anything a built-in entertainment system (or “infotainment” system, as the modern music and navigation systems are apparently called) could do. My phone is also more-easily updated and upgraded. Although Ford Sync is updateable, if I am still driving this car in 10 years (yes, please), it will most likely be seen as a clunky and out-of-date technology.
No matter, because I have a setup that works perfectly for me. For in-town commuting I have an old iPod Nano plugged in through an auxiliary cable. For longer trips I plug in my phone for MP3s or streaming radio. I use the app WAZE for free GPS navigation. This may be a little clunkier than a built-in system, but it’s just as efficient and at no additional cost.
As for my car itself, I’ve had it for just over a month now and I couldn’t be happier with it. It is definitely the best car I’ve owned (as it should be, given that it is also the most expensive). It is a joy to drive and I am guilty of trying to find excuses to do so. Unfortunately, treks about town are never that far when you’re in a small town!
My Digital Revolution
I am ready to be over DVDs, but “the industry” just won’t let me quit them.
You know how easy it is to buy MP3s, and then play them with any sort of music player that you want to? Extremely easy. Do you know how impossible it is to buy digital video and then play it back on any player or device that you want to? Absolutely impossible.
Unlike music, any digital video purchased can generally only be played back using a program or device supported by the retailer you purchased it from. Thus, Amazon video can only be played back through Amazon’s movie player (or Roku devices), iTunes video can only be played back through iTunes or Apple TV. Thus, when you purchase digital video from such places, you are usually just purchasing a license to watch the video. If Amazon or Apple were to disappear tomorrow, say goodbye to everything you ever bought. (The same is true of comic books purchased via Comixology, another medium I might be willing to give up. But I digress.)
Not willing to succumb to this scheme, I still insist on purchasing my movies and TV shows the old fashioned way. I don’t even have any interest in going Blu-Ray. For me, it’s DVD or nothing.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not a complete caveman. A few years ago as I ran out of space to stuff more cases into my DVD bookcase in my itty bitty apartment, I knew I needed to figure out some sort of better solution. That’s when I started ripping all of my DVDs to a hard drive and packing the physical discs into boxes that are now stuffed into my storage locker. Now I’ve got my complete video library on a single drive that’s smaller than a hardcover book.
I stream my videos to my TV using a Popcorn Hour A-100. It’s quite out of date now, but it was cutting edge when it was released. Commercially, Apple TV and Roku and other similar devices have shot to the forefront. There are even newer Popcorn Hour models full of bells and whistles that should be exciting. But I can’t help but love the simplicity of my original. And, well, the thing gets the job done.
Now, if only content creators/distributors could get behind selling DRM-free video that I would actually own. Only then could I truly quit DVDs.
Merry Christmas. A fond farewell to Eleven, and a cheerful hello to Twelve.
Welcome Home, Fiesta
Some people get up early on Black Friday to buy a TV, or a DVD player, or some popular toy. Me? I got up early, drove almost all the way up to San Francisco, and bought myself a car. Oh yes, that is how you do Black Friday.
After doing constant research for about a month and wavering back and forth between new or used and a few different makes/models, I had come to the conclusion that a new Ford Fiesta was the best fit for me. And this specific dealership had a couple 2013 Fiestas that had caught my eye. Then, the Black Friday incentives were just too good to pass on.
When I buy cars, I buy them cheap. My first car (2001 Suzuki Swift) did not have air conditioning, a stereo, or even speakers. My second car (2002 Daewoo Lanos) was so unwanted it was still sitting on the lot brand new in April 2003. So, when I found a bottom-of-the-line 2013 Ford Fiesta sedan, I was sure I had found my car. And, when I arrived at the dealership that morning, there was still a good chance that was the car I was going to buy.
However, the heart wants what the heart wants. And, what my heart wanted was a hatchback. This dealership had virtually the same Fiesta as the sedan I was looking at in the hatchback version, and it was calling to me. Both being the same color (violet grey), the only difference was that the hatchback also had the “Convenience Package” option added. I didn’t really need the extra features (just a CD player and remote keyless entry), but… hatchback.
The Swift was a hatchback, the Lanos was not. I drove the Lanos for 10.5 years, and I hope to drive this new car for at least as long. If that’s going to be the case, I might as well get what I truly want. And so I did. Although I had to wait a bit to do the paperwork (apparently, A LOT of people buy cars on Black Friday), the entire process went smoothly and I left in a shiny new car.
As for the color, there wasn’t much choice to be had. But, given the possible options (the Fiesta S model only comes in black, white, silver, or violet grey), I think I got the best one. My favorite Fiesta color (available on higher trims) is lime squeeze, but I had to concede with myself that even though I love it now, that might not be the case if I’m still driving this car in 10 years. The violet grey is both different enough and subtle enough that I know I can live with it for the life of the car.
Now that I’ve been driving it for almost a week, I definitely know that I made all the right choices with this purchase. The car, the color, even driving about 100 miles to buy it. Everything really worked out to be the best possible scenario. And believe me, when I first decided to start considering buying a car, this ending seemed like an impossibility.
Comic-Con 2013: SO SO Happy Hoodie
The Exhibit Hall floor of Comic-Con is full of all sorts of treasures waiting to be found. While there are a lot of typical vendors selling retail products you’re likely to find in any other comic book store, the real treasures are the things that you can’t get in any other store. The things that are using Comic-Con to introduce themselves to you.
This year one such treasure for me was SO SO Happy. They had a rather large booth dedicated to selling their very colorful and creative hoodies. They had some other things for sale, too, but really, it was all about the hoodies. Because of the size of the Exhibit Hall floor, I did not find this booth until Saturday. However, I first saw one of their hoodies on Friday because a 7-year-old in my group had acquired one. (Unintentionally beneficial for their sales, I’m sure, parts of the Exhibit Hall were really quite cold.) Yes, at nearly 34 years old myself, I made a purchasing decision largely thanks to a 7-year-old.
But here’s the deal. At the selling price of $40, these hoodies were a damn steal. I love hoodies, and living in Monterey I need one within arm’s reach 365 days a year. Because I live with a rabbit, many of my hoodies are no longer suitable for public display, so I am always on the lookout for new ones. And for some reason, hoodies are freakin’ expensive! A crappy, paper-thin 50/50 poly/cotton blend hoodie will cost you at least $40 down on Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The SO SO Happy hoodies are a very nice and comfortable weight, 20/80 poly/cotton blend. And since they are targeted (mostly) at women, the sizing isn’t ridiculously huge. I actually had to get a medium. (As a side note, a 7-year-old wearing a too-big extra small size is adorable.)
The extra-fantastic part of these hoodies is that they have dinosaur spikes down the back and on the hood. The style I chose also has ears on the hood. (Seriously, how are these only $40?!) I ended up wearing mine all of Sunday, a day that started at 5am in the line outside the Convention Center to get into Hall H for the Doctor Who panel at 12:15pm (yeah, do the math on that one - 6,000 seats and we only just barely got into the room).
A SO SO Happy hoodie will cost you a little more on their website, plus shipping. At Comic-Con they also gave you one of their reusable bags with each purchase, which costs $4 on the website. In the end, this was my ideal Comic-Con purchase. Not only did I get my money’s worth for the product itself, but I also got something that is practical and can’t be found at any other store.
Happy Birthday, America.