Hacking Disney’s FastPass

Hacking Disney FastPassWhen you visit any Disney theme park (Disney World, Disneyland, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, etc.) you’ll find that every ride, every attraction and nearly every show includes a reservation system called FastPass+ which allows visitors to book ride times months in advance.

Disney’s FastPass+ attraction reservation system has been rolled out for a couple years now, but a lot of people, theme park veterans included, don’t know how to manipulate the system to get the best times for them. First, let’s quickly cover what what FastPass is and what it isn’t.

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Becoming a Cable Cord Cutter

I Became a Cable CutterYesterday we joined the ever-growing ranks of the cord-cutters, those people who are finally fed up with paying too much for hundreds and hundreds of channels of crappy entertainment.  Over the last few years we watched our Comcast bill go from about $95 per month up to $175 per month with no appreciable change in service.

To add insult to injury we also learned that a number of advertised “Xfinity” features that Comcast offered to most customers were not actually available to customers in our area due to our local branch office using older equipment. The features we did have worked sporadically or failed spectacularly.  Our kids cried more than once when an on-demand video suddenly stopped playing or wouldn’t start.  After our DVR crashed for the third time in three years we learned to watch anything we recorded within 24 hours of it airing or we risked never seeing it.

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A Blog About Life and Death

This is a blog about life and death.

Ahh, the joys of being a parent!

Ahh, the joys of being a parent!

Most blogs are about life. Eating lunch, going to the park, visiting friends, traveling around the world… all those things are part of life.  And many of the things that you’ll find on the internet fall into the same category: things you do in life.  But then you have kids.

Kids force you to go nose-to-nose with your own death.

Becoming a parent is one of the most dramatic life-changing events one can imagine.  Kids mess up your established priority system and become a strange extension of your personal being.  Having a child and becoming a responsible parent forces you to come to terms with what “being human” really means.

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2014 Christmas TV Specials for Kids

I got tired of trying to find a simple list of Christmas TV specials for the kids this year, so I went ahead and compiled my own.

santatvAll times are Eastern Standard Time.  You should probably check your local listings to be sure regional events and sports broadcasts are not preempting some of these specials.  Run through the list, set your DVR and give your kids something to watch while you’re frantically taking care of last minute holiday tasks.  The list is designed to be somewhat readable on mobile devices as well.

Feel free to share, bookmark and leave comments about any other specials you’d like to see listed.

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Rough Times As An App Developer

Every iOS update sends me scrambling to rebuild Santa's Naughty or Nice Scan-O-Matic app.

Every iOS update sends me scrambling to rebuild Santa’s Naughty or Nice Scan-O-Matic app.

I am an the epitome of an indie app developer: I’m a married middle-aged guy with a family and a full time job, but I enjoy building apps on the side and have enjoyed a small degree of success.  And while I enjoy the challenge and thrill of making something that can be downloaded by nearly anyone in the world, there are times when I wonder if it’s all worth it.

The latest Apple iOS update has been rough on me.

Whenever a new iPhone or new software update comes along I am forced to make changes to my apps and then go through Apple’s somewhat onerous publishing and review process again.  In the past few years I have had to recreate all my graphics in higher resolutions, create small updates to fix immediate problems and even had to rebuild my app from the ground up twice.

This latest round of updates has been particularly rough.  My most popular app, a Santa Nice or Naughty Scanner, has been hit particularly hard with this latest Apple update.

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How To Fix an iPod with the Sad iPod Icon



A few years ago I was working on some menial app development projects and I desperately need the twin drugs of an Internet connection and a charged mp3 player filled with groovy tunes just to make it through the weekends without bludgeoning myself to death with a stapler.

I was ready to soldier on through another day when suddenly the unthinkable happened: the music didn’t play.

I pulled my iPod off the charger and noticed the dreaded Sad iPod icon on my screen. My iPod was not working. This made me sad, too.

Beneath the icon was the URL http://www.apple.com/support/ipod/. I went to work and immediately pulled up the web address. Sure enough, there were all sorts of tips on how to deal with the little sad icon, including Apple’s standard cheery “5 R List” of ways to fix your iPod: Reset, Retry, Restart, Reinstall, Restore.

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How To Build A Stone Block Patio or Sidewalk

The first step to adding in pavers is to thoroughly clear and level out the area they will be placed.

The first step to adding in pavers is to thoroughly clear and level out the area they will be placed.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to make a stone block sidewalk for your home is to lay down the stone and pavers without using any sort of concrete or cement. These dry-laid walkways have a lot of advantages over poured concrete. Putting down stone without mortar won’t work in every environment and yard, but if you want to make a walkway or even a patio in an area that’s relatively flat and well-drained then putting down a dry-block sidewalk could work well for your home.

Using stone allows you to customize the look and feel of your walkway much more than you can with cement, laying block without using any sort of mortar is much faster than spreading your own cement and letting it dry and the overall process is much easier for the average homeowner who doesn’t have a lot of concrete experience. You’ll need to be up for some physical labor but the process is pretty easy once you get going. This same process can be used to build stone patios or other flat areas in your yard.

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Batman The Cheetah Caper – A Big Little Book Review

Batman BigLittle Book

Batman – The Cheetah Caper

My son and I have been reading bedtime stories together since he was a baby, so we were excited when we had a chance to increase our personal library with a pile of “Big Little Books” from my parent’s attic. Big Little Books in the late 60’s and early 70’s were a type of pulp reader for young readers which were characterized by being small (only about 4″ square) but thick (several hundred pages) and they usually had an illustration on every page. The Big Little Books I had in the 1970’s were all based around established television and cartoon characters and weren’t exactly Shakespeare. But they had colorful covers and easy-to-read words and my son was immediately drawn to them.

I remember reading them by the dim glow of a night light at the foot of my bed, trying not to wake my little brother who was sleeping just a few feet away. I read them over and over as a kid, but after 30 years I didn’t remember much about the stories themselves.

So when my son and I started reading through my Big Little Book collection for bedtime it was a fun adventure for both of us. We’re big Disney fans so we read through all the Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse adventures first, and then we moved on to a few Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck stories.

We were near the end of our collection before we decided to read the one superhero book we had, Batman The Cheetah Caper. Batman, more than many other literary characters, is a product of his time. This particular story was written by a science fiction and television script writer named George S. Elrick in 1969. The campy Batman TV show debuted in 1968 which means the resulting Big Little book is a professional treatment of an awful TV show written in a book meant for children.

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The Curse of Home Movies in the Digital Age

As a kid growing up in the 1970’s it was always a special treat when my father brought out the portable movie screen, set up the Bell and Howell film projector and told the family to dim the light… it was movie night! My dad would sometimes rent (or just outright buy) old cartoons and films from the local library and then show them right along side our own home movies from past vacations.

Now that I’m a father myself I want to be able to share our own home movies my my kids just as easily as my father was able to with his kids. Camcorders are cheap and digital, smartphones take better video than cameras and we’re all obsessed with documenting everything around us.  So why aren’t we all watching home movies these days?

Because even though it’s easier than ever to record digital video, it’s still nearly impossible to easily view them on a TV.

Though I’ve gone through several cameras and bounced through different video formats over the years I’m still no closer to being able to easily show my home movies than I was 15 years ago.

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Why Your Daughter is Obsessed with Frozen‘s Queen Elsa

elsa1If you have a daughter between the age of 3 and 10 and you live on the planet earth then there’s a pretty good chance that she’s obsessed with the character of Queen Elsa from the Disney’s blockbuster movie, Frozen.  If your daughter isn’t belting out “Let it Go” then she’s surely running around the house, blasting invisible enemies with her ice power.

My four-year-old daughter lives and breathes Queen Elsa. She demands that we read the Frozen storybook every night, she dresses up like Queen Elsa at least twice a day and she talks about Elsa just about every minute. She regularly commands me to be either Olaf the Snowman or Sven the reindeer, depending upon her mood. When she wants to play with her older brother it’s usually as Queen Elsa, not as herself.

But why?

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