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Brandon LeBlanc

Thoughts on nerdy and geeky things from around the web

Yes, better emoji is coming to Windows 10

The Verge did a piece today that takes a closer look at Google’s new emoji coming to Android with the Android N update. The post pokes fun of Microsoft for lack of better emoji – specifically on the animals. But the article neglected to look at the new emoji coming to Windows 10 with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. These emoji made their debut for Windows Insiders in Build 14316 for PC and Build 14322 for Mobile. I thinks its only fair to compare one unreleased OS update with another – right? So I decided to help The Verge out and rounded up a bunch of the new cat emoji and the octopus emoji:


For a closer look at the new emoji coming with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update – check out this post over at Emojipedia!


My very first Kickstarter

Today I received my very first Kickstarter project: the reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphic Standards Manual. This manual is pretty awesome and perfect for design nerds. While I may not necessarily be a design nerd, I do love and appreciate design. I also love NASA and the history behind NASA. So when I discovered this Kickstarter project – I didn’t think twice about funding it to receive a copy of this manual. It felt like owning a piece of NASA history.

The manual itself gives you a look at the design used by NASA from 1975-1992 which includes NASA’s (in)famous “Worm” logo. This essentially served as the brand guidelines for NASA for a long time. For example – it goes into detail on what was the correct placement of the NASA logo on spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle.

My first experience with Kickstarter has been fantastic. I can’t wait to find other cool projects are out there to fund!


The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phases

Captain America: Civil War arrives on May 6th, 2016 and is the first movie in “Phase 3” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel has been releasing movies in their cinematic universe in different phases. To get ready for Captain America: Civil War, I thought I would pull together all the movies in their phases and the order in which you should watch them so that you get the most out of Captain America: Civil War.

Click here to view the list of phases for the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

I have fallen in love with what Marvel is doing with their cinematic universe and love how their pulling together all these characters but also telling individual stories in a shared universe.


Bryan Fuller named showrunner for new Star Trek series

In case you missed it, CBS announced plans back in November for a brand new Star Trek TV series which will make its debut January 2017. And today, it was announced that Bryan Fuller will be co-creator and executive producer of this new CBS Star Trek series — essentially the showrunner. Bryan launched his career writing episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. He has gone one to many high-profile projects in recent years including creating the show Pushing Daisies and serving as executive producer and writer on NBC’s Hannibal and also the first season of Heroes. Admittedly, I haven’t gotten into these new shows Bryan has been working on but I’ve had friends talk about these shows and how much they have liked them. I think Bryan is the perfect person to bring a new Star Trek TV series to our screens. Here is a quote from Bryan from today’s announcement:

“My very first experience of Star Trek is my oldest brother turning off all the lights in the house and flying his model of a D7 Class Klingon Battle Cruiser through the darkened halls. Before seeing a frame of the television series, the Star Trek universe lit my imagination on fire. It is without exaggeration a dream come true to be crafting a brand new iteration of Star Trek with fellow franchise alum Alex Kurtzman and boldly going where no Star Trek series has gone before.”

He’s a fan of Star Trek and has clearly proven he can write really good stories. I am hoping he brings back some of the modern day allegory in stories that made Star Trek compelling and thought provoking. Star Trek hasn’t always been about epic starship battles. For example, Star Trek really put an emphasis in the “science” in “science fiction” by addressing some scientific theories in storylines.

I encourage all Star Trek fans to give Bryan your support as he brings this new Star Trek TV series to life. Let’s give Bryan a chance to bring something to the table before offering up nerdy fanboy criticisms.

Now the big question is what direction will Bryan go with the new Star Trek TV series?

Will it take place in the same universe as the new Star Trek movies (fans call this the “JJ-verse” )— creating this shared cinematic universe for Star Trek like what Marvel is doing?

Will Bryan jump ahead and reboot The Next Generation in the same universe as the new Star Trek movies? A reimagining of TNG could be pretty fantastic. Try to think about how a modernized and updated Enterprise-D would look? Because the new movie universe reboots the Star Trek timeline — Bryan would have tons of freedom going in and making twists to TNG storylines. Things could turn out way different for the TNG characters.

He could also stay in the current era seen in the new Star Trek movies and tell the tale of another starship. Remember, there are other constitution class starships in Starfleet. Could be neat to follow the adventures of another crew in a constitution class starship. Could pave the way for some of the Enterprise crew to show up in the show.

Or he could completely go in a different direction, creating an entirely new universe and unhinged by any canon what-so-ever.

I personally would like the show to revolve around the crew of (a) Enterprise in some form. The Enterprise has always been a key character in Star Trek and seeing her return to TV would be awesome.

But we’re getting a new Star Trek TV series in less than a year from now which, as a Star Trek fan, excites the hell out of me! This year Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary as well. And new Star Trek movie Star Trek Beyond comes out later this year too. 2016 is going to be a very interesting and fun year for Star Trek.


Analyzing the new Star Trek Beyond trailer

Today, Paramount Pictures officially unveiled the trailer to Star Trek Beyond – hitting theaters in 2016. As a Star Trek fan – I am beyond excited (pun very much intended)! If you haven’t, give watch the trailer:

I have probably watched the trailer over a dozen times this morning and I thought I would give my own personal analysis of the trailer with some questions that I came up with in my own mind that I’m looking forward to seeing answered when the film comes out. This analysis is of course sprinkled with some of my own opinion too.

The Enterprise is attacked.

“We got no ship. No crew. How are we going to get out of this one?”

In the trailer, it appears that the Enterprise gets attacked and ripped apart by a swarm of alien “spikes” while in orbit of a planet.


My guess is that this happens early on in the movie and sets up the main plot. It doesn’t look like the swarm alien spikes are piloted by anyone (they look too small) and looks as though they work together with some level of intelligence or programming.


At some point, it looks like the Enterprise is boarded by the aliens responsible for the attack. Is this our first real good look at Idris Elba’s character which is the movies big baddie? We hear him in the voice-over but it’s still unclear if we’re looking at his character or not. To me – these new aliens look like a cross between a Jem’Hardar and Reman. Overall, I think they look pretty awesome but I was really hoping to see more of the Klingons.

“This is where it begins, Captain. This is where the frontier pushes back!”

I think this line spoken by Idris Elba’s character is really important. This undoubtedly references Star Trek’s famous “Space, the final frontier”. At the end of Star Trek Into Darkness, the Enterprise crew began their 5 year mission. At what part of the 5 year mission does this movie take place in? The beginning? Middle? The end?

UPDATE 12/16: Director Justin Lin did several press interviews on the new trailer and provided some answers to some questions. Star Trek Beyond takes place two and a half years after Star Trek Into Darkness.

And did something Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise do that resulted in the attack on the ship? I really, really like the line spoken by Idris Elba’s character because the heart of Star Trek is about exploration of space and that exploration can be dangerous. Clearly, Kirk and the Enterprise run into something very dangerous here. Was Kirk ordered by Starfleet to investigate something here? A missing starship perhaps?

UPDATE 12/16: So apparently one of the big concepts in Star Trek Beyond is that we have Kirk and the Enterprise crew out exploring space and pushing the principles of the Federation. But what happens when Kirk and crew stumble upon a group of people who have a very different perspective and point of view that doesn’t match the Federation’s? This is where the “frontier pushes back”. Here is how Justin Lin describes Idris Elba’s character who is called “Krall”:

“When [Idris] came in, he had a lot of [prospective] projects and when I talked to him about this character, it wasn’t about this or that it was about building or having a philosophy or point of view. And I like his character because his character is really challenging the way of the Federation’s philosophy and there are a lot of things that when I was growing up I wanted to see.”

One of the things I have always loved about Star Trek is the philosophy behind it and the characters and what happens in the situations where two good and valid philosophies of characters don’t match. Hopefully this comes through in Star Trek Beyond for a fantastic story.

Is the Enterprise destroyed?

The trailer shows various points in which the Enterprise crew are in escape pods and exiting the escape pods on a planet’s surface. And you see a scene in which Kirk is looking out from his escape pod watching the destruction of his ship. You can clearly see it is the Enterprise. And clearly she is being destroyed.


So I have mixed feelings about this. I was actually hoping for a Star Trek movie in which the Enterprise is more front-and-center and stands her ground in battle. The Enterprise was practically destroyed in Star Trek Into Darkeness, so here we are with the Enterprise pretty much getting destroyed again. Why does the Enterprise being destroyed have to be a key plot point? However, from a plot perspective with this movie – Kirk as Captain in an escape pod watching the destruction of the ship he loves and inherieted from his father-figure Captain Pike hopefully tugs a little bit at the heart strings when watching this play out during the movie. So does this mean by the end of Star Trek Beyond, Kirk and crew will get the Enterprise-A?

The Enterprise crew is scattered.

After the Enterprise is “destroyed”, we see clips of the crew scattered around the alien planet they were in orbit of. Scotty avoids falling off a cliff and McCoy and Spock find themselves face to face with the same alien spikes that took down their ship. And Uhura and Sulu find themselves in some sort of alien mining camp.


I think the scene in which the Enterprise crew is at this alien mining camp (I am assuming its some sort of mining camp) is important to the movie. And could be tied into the reason why the Enterprise was attacked. Did Kirk and crew stumble upon this group of aliens using the crews of starships passing by as slave labor for whatever their mining? Oh, and can you spot Keenser in the above shot? I can! Poor Keenser.

Getting the band back together.

At some point after the crew escapes the Enterprise, Kirk gets his senior officers back together. And since they have no ship – they’re going to need a ship…


We see quick shots of the crew on the bridge of another ship. We see Kirk in what might be a captain’s chair, Uhura at a computer station and Sulu and what is probably the help (with a viewscreen in front of him).

NOTE: If you look closely at the patch on Spock’s jacket in the above shot it says “U.S.S. Franklin” (Noted by Trekcore). So what kind of ship is the Franklin? Looks to be a older Starfleet ship. What happened to its crew?


And we see Scotty in what looks to be the engine room of the same starship trying to get things working again.

Back to the Enterprise?


I am pretty sure that’s the top of the saucer of the Enterprise. The wreckage is still smouldering. So at some point during the movie after the Enterprise is destroyed – Kirk and crew return to the Enterprise (or just Kirk and Spock?). I would assume the Enterprise has something really important they need.

I can’t figure out if the scene I mentioned above where the Enterprise is boarded happens as she is being destroyed or after she is being destroyed where Idris Elba’s character, in persuit of Kirk, finds his way to the Enterprise too.

The Enterprise crew has help.


This is Sofia Boutella’s character who appears to be a friend to the Enterprise crew in helping stop Idris Elba’s character. It’s unclear how her character ties in with the story so this piece is a bit of a mystery. Was she part of a doomed starship that was attacked and forced into slave labor like the Enterpise crew? 

“I know why you’re here. Why we’re all here.”

And she knows something important!

Those of you unfamiliar with Sofia – she played the woman with swords as legs in Kingsman: The Secret Service. So she’s pretty bad-ass.

Overall – I’m pretty excited about Star Trek Beyond. Lots of questions though! I wonder when Paramount will release an official synopsis for the movie.

Feedback on the WordPress Twenty Sixteen Theme

Last week, WordPress released WordPress 4.4 “Clifford” along with a brand new Twenty Sixteen theme. I am currently hosting my blog on now and thought I’d give the new theme a try. It’s a great theme for me but its not without a few issues. Check out some notes I wrote on my blog running the new Twenty Sixteen theme with Microsoft Edge:


In case my handwriting is too sloppy, here is the tl;dr version:

  • Why is there a black frame around the entire site in my browser? This looks really weird to me. I want to turn this off.
  • How come the site header title text uses such small text? I want to be able to easily change this.
  • And why is there so much spacing on the top and bottom of the site header title text?
  • On the sidebar, why is there so much space at the end of every widget?

The problem I am seeing is that by being on, I have my hands sort of tied a bit in exactly how much theme customization I can do. Or at least, the ease in which a theme can be customized. I’d like to tweak the Twenty Sixteen theme to address some of the issues I’ve noted above. I’m looking into that right now. If there is anyone out there who contributed to the Twenty Sixteen theme for WordPress – I’d love to speak with you!

Thoughts on Instagram

I’ve been wanting to talk about my use of Instagram for a while. This post isn’t meant as a rant against Instagram nor do I have any negative feelings toward Instagram. I totally get why people use it. This is mostly about how it doesn’t fit with my own online behavior and why.

I have been sharing photos on Instagram off and on for about 2 years now. Over those 2 years, I’ve struggled to figure out exactly where Instagram fits in with the rest of the social media services I use. I primarily use Twitter and Facebook. I sometimes want to share a photo to Twitter and not Facebook, or to just Facebook, or to both. Instagram of course allows you to pick where you want to share whatever photo you are posting. But Instagram is its own thing too — just like Twitter and Facebook. You post a photo to Instagram, people can “heart” a photo they like and leave a comment on a photo you post. But if you share that photo to Twitter or Facebook, you get separate “likes” and responses to that photo in addition to the ones on Instagram. For me, I realized I was managing engagement on photos I’m posting to Instagram in multiple places. I have some people leaving comments on a Instagram photo on Facebook or replying to me on Twitter, and then some people commenting on Instagram.

For me, I realized I was managing engagement on photos I’m posting to Instagram in multiple places.

Unlike others who are heavy users of Instagram, I don’t have a big audience there. The audiences I talk to online are on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, this is more public where I can engage with lots and lots of other nerds and geeks like me. Facebook for me tends to be more private and personal — with a lot of engagement happening with family and super close friends. If I want to show off some new nerdy thing I have added to my collection, I’d most likely share that to Twitter. If I want to share some cute photo of my puppy, I’d share that most likely to Facebook. (Sometimes I’d share the same photo to both.) So I essentially share photos I post to Instagram to one of these to get the photo in front of people I want to see it. So why wouldn’t I just publish photos directly to Twitter or Facebook depending on who I want to see the photo?

So why wouldn’t I just publish photos directly to Twitter or Facebook depending on who I want to see the photo?

The other issue for me is how Instagram makes photos look. I know a lot of people love the “old-school” feel with Instagram’s filters and squared look. Originally, Instagram locked you in to sharing squared photos but now they support showing photos in portrait and landscape orientation. But when I share my photos, I want my photos to look as great as possible. When I share photos directly to Twitter — they look great. When I share photos directly to Facebook — they also look great.

Speaking of Twitter, when I share an Instagram photo on Twitter — the photo doesn’t even show up natively in their timeline forcing people to click through to Instagram to actually view the photo. This is what it looks like when I share a Instagram photo to Twitter:

This is what it looks like when I natively post a photo directly to Twitter instead of using Instagram:

If you want folks to see something and having have to jump through hoops (clicking someplace else) just to see it isn’t a great experience.

So in thinking about this some more, I’ve decided I won’t use Instagram to share photos to Twitter. Photos I want seen by my Twitter followers I will just post them to Twitter. However, I’ll still use Instagram to share photos to Facebook. This leads me into some feedback I have for Instagram. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, I would love the see some synergy between how Instagram exists with Facebook. Why can’t Instagram’s comments use Facebook’s commenting platform? Why can’t the “hearts” on Instagram photos be the same as “likes” on that same photo on Facebook? Why do I have to manage these two independently of each other? I’ve had this argument with several die-hard Instagrammers who completely disagree with my suggestions but I find it weird they are so separate. Those die-hards like having their little Instagram community separate. This, to me, doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts on Instagram. How do you use Instagram and handle posting photos to Instagram and sharing them to other places?

This post was originally published on Medium on October 22nd, 2015

Fix “popping” audio issue on HP Spectre X360

I have noticed when playing audio such as music from Groove Music in Windows 10 that there would be “popping” from the speakers on my HP Spectre X360. To fix this, I went into the DTS Audio Control Panel app, clicked on “Listening Experienced” and *unchecked* “Audio Enhancements”. The popping went away. I tweeted about this and had some folks on Twitter confirm this worked for them on their Spectres as well.


RSS readers

John Gruber on RSS readers:

“RSS readers exploded in popularity a decade ago, and Dan is right that their use has died down dramatically. But I think “RSS is dead” is the new “email is dead”. And I know from my server stats that an awful lot of people still read Daring Fireball in an RSS reader — many of them using NetNewsWire. For me, as a news junkie, an RSS reader is something to get worked up about.”

I completely agree (emphasis in bold above mine). I’m a news junkie as well and my RSS reader is extremely important to me. When I see someone doing something interesting with RSS – I do get worked up about it. Right now, I bounce between two RSS readers: Digg Reader and Feedly (I use the app Nextgen Reader on all my Windows devices to access my feeds). I really like Digg Reader’s integration with Twitter for their “Digg Deeper” feature which brings up popular articles people I’m following on Twitter are tweeting about. My RSS reader is as important to me as Outlook is for email. I am constantly reading up on new articles that come through all day long. I also use Flipboard to read up on news too but I tend to be someone who likes the way RSS readers treat RSS feeds you are subscribed to like email – with most recent articles that get published coming through by newest post first, etc. I triage through my RSS feeds like I do email.


Remembering Windows 95

20 years ago today – Windows 95 was released. Windows 95 was the most significant update to Windows ever made at the time – ushering in the transition from 16-bit architecture to 32-bit architecture and introducing a completely brand new graphical user interface designed to make Windows much more consumer friendly. I was only 12 years old at the time but well on my way to being the computer nerd I am today. I thought I’d share some of my favorite memories of Windows 95 in honor of its 20th anniversary.


There are two things about Windows 95 that were big deals at the time for me when Windows 95 was released: it’s new UI and the Internet.

First – a little bit of backstory. In the early 90’s, my dad brought home our family’s first PC: a HP Vectra 486U. It ran Windows 3.1.


It was with this PC that I fell in love with Windows. My dad’s job at the time dealt with a lot of computer stuff and I learned to do things on the PC by watching him do things. I had tons of fun. But Windows 3.1 wasn’t exactly intuitive or easy to use. And I quickly got bored with MS Paint. I wanted to do a lot more. You had Program Manager that would be your go-to spot for all your applications and then File Manager to manage your files, etc. But Windows could be so much more easier to use. As a kid – I wanted Windows to enable me to do more.

When Windows 95 came out, my dad and I upgraded our PC together. When I say “together” I really mean I watched him go through the setup experience. And when the upgrade was done and the PC booted into Windows, I can remember being blown away by the new UI. It had a Start button! What did the new Start button do? A taskbar! This was all new! No more Program Manager! So how do I get to all my programs? How do I manage my files? I was so excited to learn the new Windows. I dove right in. The Start menu for me was the single best thing about Windows 95.

The next best thing about Windows 95 was how it made connecting to the Internet and browsing the web much more easier. When Windows 95 came out, I had already been “surfing the web” and checking email. In Windows 3.1, I remember having to use a command line to dial-in and connect to the Internet. With Windows 95, you could do this simply by double-clicking on a connection icon you setup for your Internet service. It also came with a brand new web browser called Internet Explorer. However, my dad didn’t like IE at the time so we kept with Netscape as our default web browser. But even Netscape was better on Windows 95 (they released Version 2.0 after the release of Windows 95). I do remember moving away from Eudora and using the inbox e-mail client Windows Messaging for my e-mail (as a 12 year old and one of the very few kids to even have an e-mail address at the time, I didn’t get much e-mail though).

After Windows 95 was released, I got a huge kick witnessing friends and family all of a sudden in the market for PCs. The PC market exploded with Windows 95 because it made using PCs and connecting to the Internet really easy. And I quickly became the kid everyone wanted to help them learn how to use their PC and the Internet – and I loved it.

Windows 95 helped people DO more with their PCs and I think at its heart – that’s what Windows is all about. And it’s great that Windows 10 has gone back to this.


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