CincySteve’s 9th Annual Bracket Bonanza

It’s time for CincySteve’s 9th annual NCAA March Madness bracket bonanza!

You’ll have to sign up for a free CBS Sports user account (if you don’t already have one) to fill out your bracket

After you get logged in at, the group password is 1234

It’s open to anyone and everyone, and it’s free. Whether this is your first time or you play every year, anyone can win regardless of how much/little you follow college basketball. Let me know if you have any questions. I’d recommend having your picks saved by Wednesday night (March 17) just to be safe.  The deadline is Thursday morning.

March 14, 2010 at 8:21 PM Leave a comment

Foursquare vs Gowalla

The battle of location-based social media apps has begun.  The two heavyweights in my opinion are Gowalla and Foursquare (or 4sq for short).  Though Foursquare has been around for a while, it was only accessible to those in a limited number of cities until the first week of 2010.  I had been stalking it for some time hoping it would add Cincinnati to the list of cities.  So when Foursquare finally became available across the US last week, I immediately signed up and added the iPhone app.

As for Gowalla, I’ve been using it for over a month now and have continued to increase my usage over the past several weeks.  Unlike Foursquare, Gowalla hadn’t required the user to be in a limited number of cities to use it.  Though I’ve had the apps for a relatively short time, I think I’ve gotten a good feel for each.  Here’s my findings:



  • By far the best thing going for Foursquare is the user submitted tips/comments for a location.  Both apps answer the question “where are you”, but this feature helps give Foursquare more substance by answering “so what?”  I was very impressed when I checked into a restaurant and immediately received a notice that one of my friends had been there and added a tip to try the tater tots and $1 burgers on Wednesdays!  The ability to immediately see recommendations (or warnings) is fantastic, and unfortunately something that Gowalla does not currently offer.  The iPhone app also provides a link to Yelp for each location.
  • Competition/Stats.  Though rather trivial, it is fun to obtain points and badges for checking into places and then “compete” against your friends.


  • My biggest complaint about 4sq is the poor utilization (or rather enforcement) of GPS.  The iPhone app gives the ability to check into places that are quite a distance away from your physical location (Gowalla requires you to be so many meters away or you can’t check in).  Furthermore, their website provides the ability to check in anywhere in the US (whether you are actually there or not).  For an app that stresses competition through checking in and earning points/badges, I would expect 4sq to be a little stricter here.  Perhaps the issue is that not all smartphones have GPS.  In that case I would argue against watering down the app by catering to ill-equipped phones.  The primary idea here after all is location-based.  If you are not physically at a location, you shouldn’t be able to claim you are.
  • It is annoying that the iPhone app requires a user to know the physical address before they can create a new location.  While keeping a record of addresses is helpful, it could certainly be added after the fact and shouldn’t be a requirement as it is rarely common knowledge or easily available when checking in.  Again, GPS enabled phones should have no problem getting an accurate read on location. (Note: The most recent iPhone update now makes adding a physical address optional, yay!).



  • The true fun of Gowalla involves discovering and “re-locating” items.  When you check into a location, you may be surprised to find a virtual item ranging from a Big Bag o’ Swag, to a Slice of Pizza, to a Muscle Car.  You can then drop those items somewhere else.  What makes this great is the history that stays with each item.  You can see all the previous owners of an item, where they got it and all the places it has been dropped along the way.  It reminds me of Where’s George.
  • Shiny!  The graphics, user interface and ease of use are brilliant.


  • The app is only available for iPhone.  There is a mobile web version for Android users and apps are are being created for other platforms.
  • Lack of comments/tips.

Bottom Line: I’m currently using both apps to check in when I visit places.  After about a week, this has already become burdensome.  Still, I hate to commit to one or the other just yet, as I doubt this battle will end any time soon.  I think it would benefit both apps to come together and form the ultimate in location-based social media.

January 13, 2010 at 9:48 AM 1 comment

Netflix Sells Out

I heard the prediction months ago but didn’t want to believe it.  Now today the rumor has become an unfortunate fact: the bigwigs over at Netflix are a bunch of sell outs.  Netflix customers will now be forced to wait 28 days after a new Warner Bros. DVD release before it will ship out.

This new agreement is unfortunate, unacceptable and won’t work.

Unfortunate because Netflix has typically been viewed as a company that just gets it.  They provide a great service and give great customer service while doing it.  That’s why I’ve been a member for over 3 years.  They’ve now gone from “sticking it to the man” to becoming the man.

Unacceptable because I for one will not tolerate it.  The media says it is only a matter of time before Netflix reaches similar deals with the other major studios.  Of course I have older movies in my queue, but my primary reason for having Netflix is to watch the newest releases on DVD because I rarely go to movie theaters.

It won’t work.  The studios are simply doing whatever they can in the wake of declining DVD sales.  And Netflix is ignorant for getting into bed with them.  Netflix may be getting a cheaper price now by selling out, but this will only come back to bite them.  Furthermore, this new agreement will not make consumers go buy more DVDs.  If someone wants to watch a new release and can’t get it through Netflix, they’ll go to a Blockbuster store, use cable/satellite on-demand services, or watch it online.  So why would I justify paying a monthly fee to Netflix if I have to spend additional money with a 3rd party to watch the movies I really want to see?  Answer: I won’t.

Bottom line: I’ll be canceling my membership with Netflix.  And I doubt I’ll be alone.

January 6, 2010 at 5:23 PM Leave a comment

Things Come to Those Good People Who Wait

I was the only kid I knew who refused to “sneak a peek” at presents, even when the opportunity presented itself without fear of getting caught.  Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy surprises.  And if nothing else, I hated the thought of wasting my genuine state of shock and happiness on myself.  I believe the person who put effort and resources into giving me a gift should be the one witnessing my true surprise and not just some 2nd rate re-enactment.

Fast forward to adulthood.  My views on receiving presents haven’t changed.  And those same feelings have carried over to the everyday, trivial aspects of life.  When I start up a television show I’ve recorded on my DVR, I’m baffled as to why the first 5 minutes are spent showing me what is going to happen.  Newsflash: I am already watching your show… I no longer need to be “sold.”  What is the point?  The only explanation I can come up with is they didn’t have enough actual content to fill the whole time-slot.  In which case, I (and reason) would argue to work a little harder to generate that additional 5 minutes, or at least put in some extra outtakes or background footage rather than showing me what I will eventually see anyway in the next 25 or 55 minutes.

Unfortunately, television doesn’t hold a monopoly on this insanity.  When I receive a movie in the mail from my good friends at Netflix, at least I can (and of course do) ignore the entire plot that is inscribed on the DVD sleeve.  I’ve already added the movie to my queue and had it mailed to me.  I think it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m committed to watching it at this point.  The only result that can come of reading the CliffsNotes is to spoil surprises.  And I’m not just talking about unexpected “O Henry” endings.  This applies to major events that happen right from the start but still catch you off guard.  I trust the director can deliver his vision to me just fine without reading your synopsis prior.

To give an example (and yes, the following is a spoiler so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t seen it): I received Reservation Road starring Joaquin Phoenix in the mail a while back.  Avoided the DVD sleeve, started watching the movie, and I was completely shocked to see a child get hit unexpectedly by a car.  This plot line didn’t occur at the middle or end of the movie, it happened at the beginning and was the foundation for the entire movie.  And, you guessed it, it was written clear as day on the DVD sleeve (I always read the sleeves afterward so I can see what would have been spoiled for me).  So, if you read this paragraph or the DVD sleeve before watching Reservation Road, sucks for you.  You knew it was coming and were probably even on the lookout for it.  You’ll never truly feel the genuine surprise that scene produces.

But the DVD sleeve is only the beginning.  I’ve recently noticed a few movies that force you to watch an abridged version of the film during the menu screen.  Just so we are clear A) this cannot be by-passed, this happens between the time you hit “menu” and the option to select “play” comes on the screen.  B) though admittedly short, a chronological series of images and sounds from the film from start to finish is still in my opinion the movie.  My only options were 1) spoil the movie by watching the 20-second version of the it, or 2) divert my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears and hum.  Obviously, I chose the latter.

Bottom Line: A movie shouldn’t be a scavenger hunt, simply trying to find what you read in a preview.  I’m a big boy now.  If the show or movie that I’ve already committed to watching sucks, I’ll stop.  Don’t waste my time or make it suck by revealing it for me before I even start.

July 30, 2009 at 11:02 PM Leave a comment

Intelligent life found in Cincinnati

Who needs SETI?  I just found proof of alien lifeforms hovering over Cincinnati, OH.

(don’t forget to view “Satellite” mode, and zoom in)

July 14, 2009 at 6:31 PM Leave a comment

Free TV episodes are great… but sometimes you get what you pay for.

I’ve been watching television shows online for as long as networks have gotten a clue to start offering them.  In the past several years I’ve encountered networks that wanted to make things difficult (ie downloading special software/plug-ins for their “superior” media player).  But in the end it was just a simple download, maybe a browser re-start, and the show would play just fine.  That is until today.

Of course the claim for these “indispensable” downloads is that it provides the best picture, though I never saw an advantage over standard plug-ins.  I suppose their idea of a “better viewing experience” is the ability of their enhanced media software to embed impossible-to-avoid ads.  Which is understandable, because they need to make money somehow to keep it free for the user.

But when this enhanced software is so convoluted that it doesn’t work, nobody wins.

Which leads me to today.  I’ve watched shows on as recently as a few weeks ago, and it worked just fine.  Long story short, I tried 3 different browsers (firefox, safari, IE) on 2 different machines (PC, Mac) and everyone of them resulted in the same thing: a blank gray page.  Any required plug-ins were downloaded and installed, even restarted the browsers and the computers.  Still didn’t work.

So I watched hulu. ABC_LandingPage_WITHBETA

Bottom Line: I’m not the type to be beaten (especially when it comes to technology), so I went back to and scrolled down a bit and saw the “New Full Episode Player BETA.”  The beta option was beneath the default player and in a smaller font size, with a note claiming that I am one of the first in America to see it (which is better than the alternative of no one in America seeing anything on the standard player).  The beta played just fine.  Note to ABC developers: spare America the frustration and make the beta the default.

July 13, 2009 at 10:26 PM Leave a comment

Blaming AT&T Is Easy, But Not Always Right

I’m the first to call out a company that I think is defrauding, screwing over, or simply practicing douche tactics.  Complaining is my favorite.

But the recent online lynch mob going after AT&T over the inflated cost for existing iPhone 3G customers to upgrade to an iPhone 3G S are baseless.  Though it looks good on the surface to cry “unfair”, the complaint is ultimately unfounded.

The primary argument being offered up at Twitition is that “AT&T should give existing customers the same rate for the new iPhone 3Gs that they do for new customers. New customers or not, another 2-year contract is being made.

A cursory glance at the statement makes sense.  But unfortunately the math is, for lack of a better word, “fuzzy.”  If I got an iPhone 3G 11 months ago (which I did) and signed a 2-year contract, then I have only fulfilled 1 year of my 2-year agreement (with me so far?).  If AT&T gives me a new subsidized iPhone 3G S now and gives me a new 2-year contract (as the argument above states), then they just lost out on 1 year of trying to make up for subsidizing the cost of my previous iPhone 3G.  AT&T will NOT add 2 years onto your existing 2 years (that would result in a 4-year contract which is not allowed).

Basically, if you got a subsidized iPhone 3G, you did so in exchange for a 2-year service agreement so AT&T can actually turn a profit (to re-invest in such crazy things as building a bigger and faster network).  Another fun fact that seems to be getting overlooked, is there are 3 pricing options:

  1. New and Qualifying
  2. Early Upgrade (those who bought the iPhone 3G in the last year)
  3. No Contract/Commitment

So even if you’ve only fulfilled 1 year of your 2-year contract, you can still get the new iPhone 3G S for a slightly less subsidized (no contract) price.

Bottom line: This is what cell phone companies do to provide cheaper hardware.  All carriers, not just AT&T.  And all phones, not just the iPhone.  Otherwise everyone would still be paying the much higher, unsubsidized cost of the original iPhone.  I’m fine with keeping my iPhone 3G until next year when I will be eligible for the subsidized rate on an even better iPhone.  And if I change my mind and realize I desperately need video, voice control, etc; then at least I took the time to understand why I’m being asked to pay a premium to upgrade.

June 11, 2009 at 11:56 PM Leave a comment

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