Googlebar Lite 4.9.10

November 1, 2013

I’ve just released a new version of Googlebar Lite, which includes a fix for search word buttons in Firefox 25. If you spot any other problems, please let me know. Here’s the full change log:

  • Simplified a number of service calls using the Services JavaScript module
  • Bug Fix: Word search buttons should now work properly in Firefox 25

Googlebar Lite Problems in FF 25

November 1, 2013

Googlebar Lite is currently experiencing some problems with the search word buttons in Firefox 25. This is due to changes made to the underlying interface to the find bar, which I use to do the actual search operations.

I am currently working towards fixing the issue, and I hope to have a new release available sometime soon. Please be patient as I work on a fix. If you spot any other issues, let me know!

Exploration in Gaming

October 10, 2013

For a little while now, I’ve been playing and enjoying Terraria, a side-scrolling exploration game (somewhat similar, from what I hear, to Minecraft). Its 16-bit vibe really hits the nostalgia button for me, not to mention that it’s just plain fun.

That said, I think the single most attractive feature of this game is that you get to really explore a computer-generated world (no two of which are alike!). It’s the exploration factor that attracts me most. Once I hit the “hard mode” portion of the game, it starts to feel like a grind to me. The discovery of brand new places and items is my carrot on the stick; once I’ve fully uncovered the map, the game loses its luster.

I think the same thing can be said for a number of other games I have enjoyed in the past, including ones like Skyrim. The expansive world is just plain fun to explore; there’s always a new cave, or city, or ruin to find and explore. Quests can keep things interesting, but it’s seeing new places that really gets me excited.

Are there any games out there that are, to some degree, solely about the exploration? I’m pretty sure that Dear Esther fits that bill (and I have yet to play it), but I’m wondering if there are others I’ve missed. I have to believe that purely exploration-based games have a market (see Beyond Eyes, for example). If anyone can provide recommendations for titles in this space, I’d love to hear them.

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SciQuarium Photos

October 7, 2013

I’ve just posted a small photo set from a visit my family took to the SciQuarium in Greensboro back in August. If you have children, it’s a fantastic place to visit. The animal and fish collection there is very fun to look at!

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NC SECU’s Car Buying Service

September 26, 2013

Let me get the crux of this review out of the way: the car buying service offered by the North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union (of which I am a member) rocks. Before I get to the details, allow me to provide a little background.

I’ve been driving a 1999 Mazda Protege since June of 2000. The Protege is an extremely reliable car, but mine was really starting to show its age: rust was visible in a few places, the pin stripes on the side were flaking off, and the car had gotten quite loud on the road (the wind and road noise were pretty unbearable). Having talked about getting a new car for a year or two, I finally decided to take action. In searching for a new car, I had a few essential criteria:

  • It should be a four-door sedan
  • It should have a quiet and smooth ride
  • It should be a step up in quality from my Protege

I ended up test driving five vehicles, all in the same size and price class: the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. All of these vehicles have their own strengths and weaknesses (e.g. the Mazda 6 was the sexiest on the outside, but had a rather loud and “active” ride), but I was able to whittle it down to two cars: the Altima and the Camry. I ended up choosing the Camry (though it was admittedly a tough choice; the Altima is a pretty nice vehicle).

Once I knew what I wanted, I started looking at local dealers’ prices. My dad reminded me that our credit union had a car buying service, so I looked into it, mostly out of curiosity. Their process typically works as follows:

  1. You select the make, model, and year of the car you’re looking for.
  2. You select the color and options you’re interested in.
  3. You provide some contact information and submit.

Once the credit union has your information, they’ll look for a car that most closely matches what you asked for. They’ll then negotiate a price for that car, and will let you know what that price is. The turnaround time for this entire process was only two days (I submitted the request on a Monday and had a quote the very next day). My primary goal was to get an anchor price that I could use when negotiating with the local dealers.

The quote I received for the car I was interested in was way less than I expected it would be; nearly $5500 off the sticker price! Not only that, but they offered me nearly double what Carmax would have given me for my Protege! Needless to say, I was stunned at how competitive the deal was. Car shopping is an intimidating process and the negotiation phase was something I wasn’t looking forward to at all. This service shortcut that headache altogether!

I decided to not even bother trying to negotiate for a better deal elsewhere. I’m sure there are people who could have gotten a better deal, but I decided that my time and efforts were worth something, and SECU’s offer was very tempting. The car was delivered to my local SECU branch (they can deliver to your house, if you so desire), and most of the paperwork was handled for me. I essentially drove to my bank and swapped cars with the driver who delivered it (after signing the requisite forms, of course).

All in all, I would definitely use this service again. I’m so impressed with how easy it all was, and it took the most frustrating aspect of car buying out of the equation completely. If you’re a member of a credit union, I highly recommend checking out this kind of service if it’s available. It just might be the way I handle car buying from now on.

Googlebar Lite 4.9.9

September 22, 2013

A new release of Googlebar Lite has just been posted. Here’s the change log for this release:

  • Bug Fix: The dictionary search feature should work properly again
  • Bug Fix: Corrected a minor Javascript variable declaration issue
  • Bug Fix: Corrected a styling issue with highlighted search terms

Improved Mobile Experience for Photos

September 6, 2013

I’ve finally gotten around to improving the mobile browsing experience for my photos. There are still a few nits I might try to improve (I hide EXIF information on screens smaller than 1024 pixels in width, collection previews don’t scale on the smallest screen sizes, etc), but it should be a much better experience than before. This should also hopefully help those of you who don’t have very wide screens.

Let me know if you spot any problems or have suggestions for improvement.

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Fort Fisher Photos

July 3, 2013

I’ve just posted a new photo series showcasing Fort Fisher. This day trip involved a visit to both the aquarium there, as well as the state recreational area. I have now visited and photographed 25 state parks in North Carolina!

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California Academy of Sciences Photos

June 25, 2013

I have finally gotten around to posting the final photo album from my trip last month to California. This time, the album showcases the California Academy of Sciences, a fantastic museum within Golden Gate park. The aquarium at this museum is stellar (easily one of the best I’ve ever been to), and the various other exhibits they have on hand are well worth seeing. If you’re ever in the San Francisco area, make sure to see this attraction. It’s well worth the price of admission (which is admittedly pricey).

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Japanese Tea Garden Photos

June 19, 2013

A fourth photo album of my trip last month to San Francisco has been posted, this time showcasing the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park (in addition to a few random sights in Golden Gate Park). Though small, the gardens are very peaceful and serene.

I have one more photo album from San Francisco in the wings, and it’s my favorite one, so stay tuned!

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