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Nerd Things by Brandon LeBlanc

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.

HP Vectra 486U

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.

Collecting Designer Series Greg Capullo action figures from DC Collectibles

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been the masters of DC Comic’s Batman series since it re-launched in 2011 as part of the “New 52”. Scott serves as the writer for the Batman comics and Greg is the artist that draws the stories. I’ve been a HUGE fan of their run with Batman. They’ve done some fantastic stories such as Death of the Family, Court of Owls, Zero Year (a reimagining of how Bruce Wayne became Batman) and Endgame which features the epic final battle between Batman and The Joker — for good. Now, they’re hard at work on a brand new storyline that features an All-new Batman, new characters, and new villains — which has been interesting to read (I’ll write more about this in another blog post). I’ve been collecting the DC Comics Designer Series Greg Capullo action figures from DC Collectibles which do a great job celebrating Greg’s fantastic artwork on Batman. I’ve nearly completed the entire collection! I’m only missing Two-Face.

Designer Series Greg Capullo Batman Action Figures

I also discovered that DC Collectibles sells action figure base — which you can order here from Amazon for $12 for 20 bases. I just got these today as well and they work awesome (however, I have an issue where the Catwoman action figure doesn’t like to stand properly with these bases).

At SDCC 2015 last week, DC Collectibles unveiled two new action figures to come as part of this series — Wonder Woman and Endgame Joker. You can bet I’ll be picking these up one they are out but apparently we’ve got a long wait for these as they won’t hit until next summer.

UPDATE 3/14/17: I finally found Two-Face and picked up the rest of this line-up! I’ll post a follow-up about these figures at some point. 

Electric cars need to be cheaper AND have more range

I recently purchased a new car — a 2015 Ford Focus — and love it. And I am a huge Ford fanboy. However, it’s not the electric Ford Focus. Just a regular fuel-powered version. I briefly considered the electric version but the biggest reason why I didn’t choose it was because of it’s range — only 76-miles. I like to drive and go on road trips — that wouldn’t work for me. And I certainly couldn’t justify the price of 30k for a car that had a range like that. No way.

Ford Focus Electric

I caught an article today on MSN that featured electric cars that promised the most range. If you go through the slideshow — you can see there is a HUGE gap in range between electric cars by BMW, Chevy, VW, Nissan. Mercedes. Fiat, and Kia and several Tesla models. Everyone else is building electric cars with a range of around 80 or so miles. But Tesla jumps up a 200 mile range. Ford wasn’t even on the list. Sigh.

I started thinking about this a bit. If I want a electric car that has a range of 200+ miles — I would have to pay over $50,000 to buy a Tesla. So you’re either stuck with being able to afford a electric car with shitty range, or dishing out a lot of money for one that has great range. This puts electric cars out of reach for the majority of consumers. This issue needs to be solved.

Tesla Model S

I think the automotive companies need to really think hard about (and truly invest in) improving the range of their electric vehicles at the same time keeping the car affordable to most consumers. The first automotive company that does this really great will help spur a sort of electric-car-revolution I think. Yes, Tesla is certainly helping push this. And rumor has it, Tesla’s Model 3 will be priced at $35,000 and have a 200-mile range. That’s a great start but I think more can be done.

A electric car with a 200-mile range at around $25,000. Yup.

Tesla clearly has the edge here. Their technology has proven it has the range needed for a good electric car. And they have made their patents for all their technology available for anyone to use. So why isn’t more automotive companies taking advantage of that to develop better range electric cars? Ford recently opened their patents to competitors too

Ford says by opening up their patents to competitors, they want to help “accelerate industry-wide research and development of electrified vehicles”. But Ford… you only make an electric car with a 76-mile range!

Ford should seriously consider utilizing Tesla’s patents to improve their own electric cars. Seriously. As should other car companies.

Ok so I digressed a little from my original point of this blog post but as I mentioned, I am a Ford fanboy. I want a electric car. I want it to have awesome range. And I want it to be a Ford.

The reality is, ALL car companies should be doing more — whether its utilizing Tesla’s patents or doing their own R&D — to improve the range of electric cars and make them more affordable to consumers.

The Batman Exhibit on the Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Batman by DC Comics. I have always been a huge Batman fan as a kid and loved Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. I’m currently reading the latest Batman comics. And yes — I’m also excited to see Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. As part of the 75th anniversary of Batman, DC and Warner Bros. have been doing a variety of activities to celebrate. One of those is a special Batman exhibit as part of the Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour. I’ve done this tour at the Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank a few times and it is simply awesome. But with the new Batman exhibit only running through the end of this year, I had to get down there. And I did.

The Dark Knight by Brandon LeBlanc on 500px.com

They had all the costumes from all of the Batman movies all the way back to Tim Burton’s Batman first Batman movie in 1989 right up to The Dark Knight Rises. They also had props from all these movies and all of the Batmobiles (although the Batmobile from Batman and Robin was not out for some reason when I did the tour). I was in Bat-nerd heaven. It was amazing to see all this together and in person. As you can imagine, I took quite a bit of photos.

You can check out my entire set of photos from the Batman exhibit at Warner Bros. Studios here on 500px.

Giving Medium a try

Me in a lava tube at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Isiland.

I have decided to give Medium a try. There is something appealing about simply logging in and writing without worrying much about themes and managing everything. I’ve been itching to write more on my personal blog but often get bogged down worrying about how everything looks and fiddling with the theme which takes away from time I could be spending just writing stuff I want to write. I’ve seen some excellent articles/posts written on Medium and I’ve also heard good things about Medium. So. We’ll see if this is something I can stick with. Hopefully the next thing I write on here is much more substantial! In the meantime, if you have any tips and tricks for working with Medium — let me know!

The Official Star Trek Starships Collection from Eaglemoss

As a die-hard Star Trek fan, I have always wanted to see small scale models of all the various starships seen in the various Star Trek movies and TV shows. And a company called Eaglemoss is doing exactly that.

Official Star Trek Starships Collection from Eaglemoss

Called the Star Trek Official Starships Collection, Eaglemoss is producing highly detailed die-cast models of popular starships from Star Trek paired with a magazine for each starship. The magazines give you all the details on a specific ship including awesome background and design work from the shows or movies.

Inside Starship Magazines from Eaglemoss

You can buy these issues with the starships in stores like comic book shops, etc. But Eaglemoss also lets you sign-up for a magazine subscription. And this is REALLY awesome. They release 2 starships every month and with a subscription, you can get those two starships delivered to you. Having a subscription essentially means you are part of the “Collector’s Club” and that brings benefits:

  • You get digital copies of the magazines.
  • A binder for all your physical magazines.
  • On your 6th shipment of issues/starships you will receive a U.S.S. Enterprise dedication plaque (these are the bridges of most starships in Star Trek).
  • On your 10th shipment you will receive the future U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D as seen in the episode “All Good Things…”
  • On your 16th shipment, you will receive a (giant) Borg Cube that lights up.

As part of having a subscription, another really good perk is you’ll also receive variant model starships. Recently, they released Deep Space Nine as Special Issue #1.

DS9 Special Issue

The starships are actually made with a combination of die-cast metal and high quality ABS which are then hand painted to get the right details. And the details on these starships are incredible.

Enterprise-D Eaglemoss model

For example, on the Enterprise-D you can see windows, escape pods, and the hull paneling.

Romulan Warbird Eaglemoss model

On the Romulan Warbird, you can see varying colors of green on the ship and all the tiny windows.

Klingon K’Tinga-class Eaglemoss model

And look at all the detail on the Klingon K’Tinga-class battlecruiser!

Voyager Eaglemoss model

I have noticed however that the level of detail can vary between the starships. You saw all the great details I noted on the above starships but when you look at the U.S.S. Voyager, you’ll notice that the detail isn’t as good. You don’t see painted windows for example.

I pre-ordered a subscription right before the Star Trek Collection launched in the Untied States so I am receiving the latest and greatest starships as they are released in the United States. I received my 5th shipment (U.S.S. Defiant and Borg Sphere) last week. For my next shipment, I am expecting to get my U.S.S. Enterprise dedication plaque, the U.S.S. Reliant and Akira class starship. Over 70 starships are planned. You can see the list here. I highly recommend a subscription if you’re a Star Trek fan like me!

I did want to offer up some additional thoughts and feedback to Eaglemoss and general thoughts about having a subscription.

Eaglemoss launched the Star Trek Collection in the U.K. first then the U.S. a few months later. So there is a few months of a gap between U.K. subscribers getting their starships and the U.S. subscribers. I believe Eaglemoss is a company based in Europe so it makes sense that they would launch in the U.K. first but it feels like the gap between the U.K. and U.S. is really big and could be smaller. Folks in the U.K. have already reached their 16th shipment and receiving their Borg Cubes while here in the U.S. we’ve just had our 6th shipment. Unless for some reason I’m behind on my shipments, seems like a big gap to me. I pre-ordered before the U.S. launch to make sure I get the latest and greatest starships once they hit. I see a lot of shit on their Facebook page from folks complaining about this very issue (and doing so very rudely). I think an easy solution to this is simply better customer communication overall.

On Special Issues, for Special Issue #1 which was DS9 — we (in the U.S.) were supposed to get DS9 right around the holidays but subscribers received an email from Eaglemoss saying that DS9 would be delayed. This was great customer communication. However, Eaglemoss has announced Special Issue #2 which will be the U.S.S. Enterprise as seen in the J. J. Abrams movies and a date for the U.K. and Ireland (March 6th) but no date for the U.S. First off: I would love to see more direct email communication with subscribers to keep them informed on releases. Second, it would be great to have communication as a U.S. customer on when I should see Special Issues since its a perk of the subscription, right?

And finally, I need to say that Eaglemoss’ customer support has been phenomenal. I’ve had a few shipments in which starships arrived broken. My first shipment actually arrived with the engines disconnected from the Enterprise-D for example:

Broken Enterprise-D

Eaglemoss promptly responded to me via email and replaced the shipment with new starships. This has happened a few more times and each time, the customer service in replacing the broken starships has been great. My DS9 Special Issue came with a broken docking pylon. But I ended up being able to easily glue it back to place and all is well. These starships are well built but are small and have tiny parts connecting things together due to their size. As they are tossed around in transit, some damage is bound to occur. In my opinion, this should not reflect poorly against Eaglemoss. I applaud Eaglemoss for their support in this regard.

So I stand by my recommendation on getting a subscription if you want the most kick-ass detailed collection of starships from Star Trek ever made.

Note: Photos of the starships used in this blog post were taken of my collection using my Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone.

I have a doppelganger

It appears I have a doppelganger. Another Brandon LeBlanc. In Canada. Who is using my Hotmail address to sign up for all kinds of things like the PlayStation Network, a World of Warcraft account and most recently a Rockstar Games account. I’ve transitioned away from my Hotmail email address as part of the migration to Outlook.com a while ago but I still get emails sent to my Hotmail address as it is still part of my account (it’s an alias). So it continues to be annoying to keep getting these mails from accounts being set up an email address that is mine and has been mine for many years.

What I don’t get about this is that this has been occurring for about a while now and this other Brandon LeBlanc hasn’t realized this clearly isn’t his email address.

Even better is that the accounts this other Brandon LeBlanc has created with my email address lets me request a password change for many of these accounts — which I do — and then proceed to shutdown or deactivate these accounts. The act of resetting the passwords on these accounts alone disables their use from this other Brandon LeBlanc and should be some sort of hint when he tries to log in to these accounts — and can’t — that something is up.

He’s even had some HR person from someplace he has worked send a paystub to this address probably containing all kinds of information he wouldn’t want some other random Brandon LeBlanc (me) from seeing. Fortunately for him, the paystub was sent as a password protected PDF. But through this email is how I know he is from Canada (the place that sent the paystub is located in Canada). Oh and this Brandon LeBlanc also bought an iPhone and had his receipt emailed to him (me) from a Canadian Apple Store.

When will this Brandon LeBlanc finally realize that this email address is not his? Anyone else have something like this happen?

And no: I am also NOT the lawyer for the Silk Road dude.

My first tweet

I downloaded my tweet history from Twitter. Here is my first tweet:

Update 1/26: It seems I have been able to get embedded tweets working.

Why are people I don’t even know adding me as a friend on Foursquare?

What is the deal with people that don’t even know me trying to add me as a friend on Foursquare? I use Foursquare to check-in and share with my friends and family certain activities like dinner at a nice restaurant or visiting a Microsoft Store. When I check-in on Foursquare, those check-in’s can be seen by people I am friends with on Foursquare and also on Facebook as I share check-ins to Facebook as well. But I only want to share this with my friends and family — not at random with just anyone. Sharing my location isn’t like sending out a tweet that can be read by anyone anywhere on Twitter. I’m trying to understand the “why” behind getting random friend requests from people I don’t know on Foursquare. Why would a person feel the need to know where I am checking in — especially if they have never interacted with me ever online or in person? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Location-based social networking is meant, in my opinion, to be more refined and focused around close personal friends and family. It is not meant to be used in the same fashion as say Twitter is where something you tweet can be viewed so broadly. And if I ever were to want to publish a check-in and have it seen by just about anybody, I’d share it on Twitter. So… to all those random people trying to add me as a friend on Foursquare please stop. Your best bet for connect with me is by following me on Twitter. Your friend request on Foursquare will be ignored.

P.S. I wrote a blog post last year about staying safe while checking in online. The post is definitely worth a read for those of you diving into location-based social networking like Foursquare.

My first blog

I stumbled upon backup files of my first blog from 2004 this evening and had a good laugh. At the time, I had not found my “focus” yet in terms of blogging which of course eventually became Microsoft and Microsoft-related technologies (my first “real” blog was MSTechToday.com).

I designed the website by hand using Microsoft FrontPage 2003 and a bunch of HTML coding. I wasn’t using any sort of blogging platform like WordPress. My “blog” was simply a collection of HTML webpages I linked together unsophisticatedly. Because there wasn’t any platform behind the website, whenever I wanted to add a update ( essentially what would be a “blog post”), I would create a new webpage, upload it, update the frontpage (index.html) with some sort of update linking back to the new webpage. Not really the most efficient way of doing things. I’m very thankful WordPress came along!

The content of my first blog was, as you can see in the above screenshot, a collection of just random life stuff. In 2004, I was a sophomore in college and worked at the local shopping center (a JCPenney store). The last “entry” or update I posted was 8 years and 2 days ago today and was an inside joke with a fellow co-worker.

The website was designed with my favorite colors at the time — I recall really liking greys and shades of blues. I also incorporated elements of my life into the design such as my family dogs, my bird, me and a banner ad for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon (new at the time). I did all the graphics work using Microsoft Image Composer 1.5. I loved this app. It originally shipped with Microsoft FrontPage 2000 which, if I remember correctly, was the only way to get the app.

It’s interesting looking back at this and remembering how much I enjoyed not just posting stuff to a website but working on the website itself. I had a lot of fun. In 2004 I was just beginning to realize how powerful a website and eventually a blog could be to reach people and share thoughts and opinions that would lead to discussions and engagement with people all around the world. Blogging is a powerful tool even today.

Of course, I look at my website from 2004 and my blog of today and really do think I need to update my blog’s lame design.