Amazon Fire TV and the state of streaming video players

Amazon announced and released the Amazon Fire TV set top box yesterday. Its technical specs looks impressive, and it’s priced right, but there’s not enough of difference to make me want to switch from our Roku 3 yet. It’s definitely worth a look if you don’t have a streaming box, though.

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The Moov Fitness Tracker

I came across this earlier today on The Verge and immediately recognized its potential. Called Moov, it’s a wearable fitness coach that works with your phone to provide real-time feedback while exercising. It looks very cool.

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Happy Holidays from the Berberichs (2013)

Our family wishes you happy holidays and a wonderful 2014.

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The Whole30 Challenge

Casey and I did the Whole30 nutrition challenge program together from August 1st through today, and it was an interesting experience. While I was a bit reluctant in the beginning, I'm happy we did it. In fact, it's likely something we're going to do at least once a year in the future.

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The death of Google Reader is App.net’s next big opporunity

I’ve been a heavy user of Google Reader for over seven years, so I was a little upset yesterday when I saw that, buried in a “spring cleaning” blog post, Google quietly announced that it was killing retiring the web-based RSS reader on July 1, 2013.

RSS never went mainstream, so Google Reader was always sort of a geeky niche product. But, the people who used it, used it. It was (and is) one of the best way to efficiently scan and consume large amounts of information. If you were the kind of person who still used Reader in the age of Twitter and Facebook, you no doubt depended on it, making the announcement of its closure really sting.

And yet, the end of Google Reader was inevitable. Its user base was tiny in comparison to search and maps, and Google never made an attempt to monetize the product or make use of the massive amount of data it had on users and their subscriptions. Plus, it distracted from the company’s headline social project, Google+.

Life after Google Reader

Google Reader started its life as a web-based feed reader, but over time, its real value became its ability to act as a centralized place that other applications could sync against. Take, for example, the excellent Reeder app for iPhone/iPad. It1 lets me scan through my feeds quickly wherever I am and allows me to read items or take action on them (“star” it, send it to InstaPaper to read later, save the link to Pinboard for archiving and search). New items and read items are synced across all my linked reader applications and the Google Reader web app, so they’re always consistent.

Despite Google Reader effectively killing off competition in the market, there are other web-based feed readers available, so I think we’ll be fine on that end. In fact, I agree with Marco and think we’re going to enter the golden age of RSS readers:

Now, we’ll be forced to fill the hole that Reader will leave behind, and there’s no immediately obvious alternative. We’re finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition in RSS desktop apps and sync platforms for the first time in almost a decade.

It may suck in the interim before great alternatives mature and become widely supported, but in the long run, trust me: this is excellent news.

What we need going forward, however, is a canonical feed store/sync API to replace what Reader had evolved into. That way, any number of web, mobile, and desktop apps could tie into it and share feed information with each other. That is what made Google Reader so great, and so powerful.

The opportunity for App.net

In episode 13 of Glenn Fleishman’s “The New Disruptors” podcast (now my favorite interview show), Glenn talked to Dalton Caldwell, the creator of App.net (ADN). The big revelation for me was the discussion about what ADN really is. It’s not just the Twitter-like application they’ve built in alpha.app.net. It’s really about the infrastructure and tools they’ve built that allow developers to build other, more innovative applications on top of. As Glenn says, they’re more a Amazon Web Services competitor than a Twitter clone.

ADN already has programming APIs for messaging, file storage, and places. I think a “feed” API would a great addition, and allow for some interesting possibilities with the built-in App.net social features.

In fact, I noticed this morning that I wasn’t the only one with the same insight:

Insightful comment by @ablaze on App.net and feeds.

We’ve already made the mistake of entrusting an important piece of infrastructure to a free product. This time around, let’s put it in the hands of someone who’s interests are aligned with customers and developers, and who will charge some money for it. This is the perfect opportunity for ADN, and I hope they take it.


  1. Specifically, the iPhone version 

Strength

I’m going to be honest — I’m not in great physical shape right now. I’m not here to make excuses, but I am going to tell you how I’m going to change this and get into the best shape of my life.

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Sublime Text 2

Being a nerd is an odd thing. We’re really particular about things that never even occur to The Normals. Take, for example, text editors.

For a web developer or a writer well-verses in Markdown, selecting the right text editor for the task is a Very Important Thing. IDEs and GUI applications often get in the way of development, and Word is almost always overkill for writing plain text that’s ultimately just going to be copy and pasted into a text field in WordPress anyway.

iOS Editors

On iOS, there’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to text editors. You want one that syncs to Dropbox and has Mardown editing features? You have 18 to choose from. Me? I alternate between Byword and Elements depending on the task, and have started using Drafts to quickly capture text that I later want to edit later.

Desktop Editors

Text Editors on the desktop are a different beast altogether. I use them for a lot more than writing prose — working with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and scripting languages like PHP and Python are a daily occurrence. For a long time on the Mac there was TextMate, a highly customizable editor that became popular with web devs, but became stagnant after five years without a major update1. My copy never got much use since most of my work gets done on my work laptop and not the family iMac.

The text editor situation on Windows was bleak for a long time. Notepad++ was far better than the built-in Notepad, but was never something I felt like investing time into learning or looked forward to using.

I’ve even attempted to teach myself VIM on a yearly basis so I’ll know more than the basics, but haven’t been able to suffer through the learning curve to get to the point of proficiency.

And don’t get me started on Emacs. That thing is inscrutable.

Sublime Text

This brings us to Sublime Text. I can’t remember how exactly I first heard about it, but looking back through my email shows that I purchased my license for Sublime Text in March 2011, so I’ve been using it for at least 1 1/2 years at this point. It was a respectable version 1.x text editor, but even at the beginning, I was in it for the early beta version of Sublime Text 2. The final 2.0 version was released on Tuesday, and it is magnificent.

When you first open Sublime 2, it looks deceptively simple. Yes, it’s cross-platform2 and incredibly fast, but you don’t see much more than an empty screen where you can start typing text. But dig in, and you realize just how powerful of a tool this software is.

I’m not going to do a comprehensive review here, but I do want to run-down some of the notable features that makes this my favorite text editor.

Customization everything

The hundreds of settings and key bindings are both stored in simple json files that open right in Sublime Text. User files let you protect your customizations from any changes made to the Default file during upgrades.

You can also create macros, snippets, and auto-completions with similar configuration files — even on a per-file type or per-project basis.

Sublime Package Control

Sublime Package Control is a package manager you install into Sublime Text 2 that then lets you find, install, update, and remove other 3rd-party packages within the text editor. It makes adding new functionality super easy.

Minimap

The Minimap gives you a graphical representation of your entire file/document, allowing you to quickly “scrub” to the section you’re looking for.

Goto anything

Ctrl + P triggers the Goto box at the top of the window, which lets you open files, switch between files, jump to symbols or specific lines, or search.

Multi-selection

Multi-selection gives you multiple cursors on the page to very quickly make changes to multiple items.

Extensible via Python

Sublime Text 2 comes with a Python interpreter and console that let you extend the editor through the Python API. Python is a great scripting language and is very well-known, so expect many programmers to create wonderful extensions for Sublime Text.

Sublime Text 2 resources

Here are some good resources for learning how to use Sublime Text 2:


  1. A public alpha release of TextMate 2 was made available in December 2011, but a final version has yet to be announced. 
  2. Sublime Text 2 runs equally well on OS X, Windows, and Linux. 

How I won Twitter for a day

Yesterday morning I broke away from my work and turned to Twitter right around when the Supreme Court was supposed to announce their decision in the Affordable Care Act case. I, like everyone else, was surprised at the ruling, and followed-up with some instant analysis from my Twitter timeline and on MPR.

Shortly after, saw a tweet1 about people threatening to move to Canada because of the Supreme Court outcome (BuzzFeed has a nice collection of examples). I loved the irony of these comments and remembered that I had earlier read somewhere that the U.S. was alone among industrialized countries in not offering universal healthcare. I did some research and found that it was, in fact, true. This led me to post the following tweet:

Upset about today's SCOTUS decision? Want to leave the U.S.? Here's a list of other industrialized countries without universal healthcare:

I thought it was clever, and was happy to see it favorited and retweeted by several of my followers within a few minutes. I was unprepared for what happened after that. Soon, my iPhone screen was constantly on with a steady stream of people retweeting and favoriting it. When I went home for lunch, I had to plug my phone in to recharge it because the battery was getting drained from the constant notifications.

Still in disbelief, I found myself constantly checking Favstar to watch the counts continue to climb. By the time I got back to the office, my tweet had 500 retweets. By 8pm, it had 1,000. As I’m typing this, the count is at 1,450.

Not surprisingly, I got a lot of replies by people who didn’t get the joke, and thought I had forgot my link to the list of countries. I even had a little fun interacting with a teenager who seemed completely clueless, and heard from a small business owner who claims the ACA will put him out of business.

@berberich you won twitter for the day!

It made for an interesting day. I’ve never interacted with so many different people in the 5.5 years I’ve been on Twitter. I’m also not expecting it to happen ever again.

A note about semantics

Even though my healthcare tweet was a joke, it’s important to me that it’s accurate. I considered my quick research to be “good enough”, but it’s worth pointing out that my 138 characters message contains two items that are open debate:

  1. The definition of “industrialized countries”
  2. The meaning of “universal healthcare”

Industrialized countries

As best I could tell, there isn’t a single definition for what makes a country “industrialized” or “developed”. Economic criteria (e.g., GDP) are usually looked at, though human development is now often taken into consideration.

The International Monetary Fund classifies 35 nations as advanced economies, a listing that seems to the most current and representative one available.

Universal healthcare

Is “universal access to healthcare insurance” the same as “universal access to healthcare”? Some would say yes, but I’m not so sure. What is clear is that the Affordable Care Act expands healthcare coverage. Hopefully it will be universal someday, and more importantly, hopefully healthcare will be, too.

Map of countries that provide universal healthcare

The point

Getting past the word-parsing, the entire point is this: The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, spends more on healthcare per capita than all but two countries2, yet unlike its peers, lacks universal healthcare. The ACA doesn’t get us there yet, but it’s a start.


  1. I tried going back to find the original tweet, but I wasn’t able to locate it. 
  2. Norway and the Netherlands 

Surface and Metro – Microsoft’s Last Big Hope

Microsoft held a big press event Monday evening to unveil their next big product – a tablet PC they call Microsoft Surface1. It’s a big gamble for them, but, it’s one they badly need to take in order to stay relevant. Also, Surface looks, really, really nice.

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Kellen Roger Berberich

Two weeks ago – May 2nd – Casey and I welcomed the newest member of the Berberich family – Kellen Roger. He was born at 3:54pm, weighing in at 8lbs 5oz.

Camera Roll-65

Kellen’s older brothers are quite happy to have him join our family, too. For the record here are their ages right now: Kael – 6 1/2; Asa – Almost 5; and Jonas – 19 months.

Camera Roll-73

I was able to take over a week off from work in order to spend lots of quality time with the family and to help ease the transition of adding another person to our daily routine. I’m back at work this week, but we’re lucky to have Casey’s mom here with us to help out with the older kids since Casey has a newborn attached to her most of the day.

Camera Roll-101

As always, you can find more photos of Kellen on Flickr.