Why I still love my OUYA (and don’t care they failed pretty miserably)

The OUYA has had a pretty interesting lifecycle, if one could call it that. I won’t go into the sordid details of their rise and fall (that’s a simple Google search away), but I will admit, when they announced they’d been funded on Kickstarter, I was intrigued.

A home console, running Android, for a mere $100, you say? Sounds like a deal too good to pass up, as long as you’re not expecting them to deliver on any of their promises to revolutionize the home console market (and I wasn’t).

This might sound silly, but I wanted one and one thing only out of the OUYA: emulation. I grew up on the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, PlayStation, N64, and all varieties of Game Boy. I didn’t really keep up with consoles past the GameCube, so I like to play those games not only for the nostalgia factor, but also because what they lack in graphics, they more than make up for in story (in this humble writer’s opinion), so if I could get a small, inexpensive, console powerful enough to easily emulate those games, it’d be perfect!

I didn’t back the Kickstarter, and I waited until people had figured out how to flash a recovery, sideload the Play Store, and fix the overscan issue, but once all those boxes had been checked, I pulled the trigger. Two days later, thanks to Amazon Prime, a shiny, new OUYA was on my doorstep.

I did all the requisite stuff, got everything sideloaded, and proceeded to install my emulators of choice. They ran like a charm. It was bliss, being transported through time back to the mid-90s, when polygon counts were low, but damn, those games were cool.

Yes, the OUYA’s controller sucks. Bad. I knew I didn’t like it when I was using it, but it was functional, to put it nicely. The lack of a Start button seemed utterly absurd, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a middle school band director. Anyway, once I picked up a PlayStation 3 controller, I relegated the OUYA controller to putting the thing back to sleep when I was done.

What sweetened the emulation deal even more was FolderSync. Prior to buying an OUYA, I knew I wanted to keep my save states in a Google Drive folder, so, if I happened to have a minute, I could play the same game on my phone, and the states would sync in the same folder. Why have two different versions of the game going when you can have one?

FolderSync was a little bit janky to get installed (I ended up having to sideload a backup from my phone to get any of the settings to take), but again, once I’d crossed that hurdle, it worked. I could play FF7 or Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together on my OUYA, sync the states, and pick right up where I left off on my phone. For $100, that ain’t bad.

Add in XBMC for OUYA (which lets me do P90X3 without any streaming a la Plex), and this little box does everything I need it to. Let me be clear: I don’t think it meets the potential they claimed it would, nor do I think it’s offering of in-house games are good (I tried absolutely one, some Aliens vs. Predator game, it sucked), but for the few relatively simple tasks I require of it, it knocks it out of the park.

As for OUYA and Friends transitioning to a software-only company? Best of luck, but I think Sean Hollister of The Verge put it best:

What is Ouya without its hardware? It’s not a console anymore: it’s a subset of the Android operating system that will necessarily have fewer games, due to its smaller install base and extra hurdles, than Android as a whole — only without the previous benefits of a single hardware platform for developers to target.

So, yeah. Even more dead in the water than it was before it even launched, when people were claiming then that it’d be DOA. Oh well.

You’ve gotta hand it to the people who had the vision to try, though, even if it ended up becoming a comedy of errors early in the process.

Thanks to them, they took (some) of the hackery and work out of getting a little XBMC/emulator box going for me, and based on the rumblings of the internet, I might be their only happy customer.

Thanks, OUYA and Friends.

Delusions of grandeur

Alright, here we go…

For a really long time, I wanted to be a tech writer. Before that, though, I wanted to be a band director. Like, since I was 14.

In my short life, I’ve been able to do both (and currently still am a band director). However, the pang to be a tech writer never really left, and I’ve always hoped and entertained the idea that if I had the opportunity to write, I’d take it.

It’s something I really wanted.

Getting out of writing wasn’t a really pretty business for me. I was young, I didn’t handle myself properly, blahblahblah. It happens. That never stopped me from leaving comments on posts and whatnot, trying to show I was still around, more mature, and more than willing to come back.

I guess being around doesn’t matter if you have more than a million people reading your stuff, though.

With all of the CES stuff winding down, I decided to make one of my traditionally playful comments, so when a picture of a writing team got posted, I comment, “Put me in, coach!”

That comment got deleted, and needless to say, it made me a bit sad.

I think, ultimately, it was a good thing, though, because it finally hammered the last nail in the coffin of me thinking of being a tech writer (or at least a tech writer for my most favorite network).

It was as if the Universe collectively said, “Move on. It’s over.”

I mulled this post over in the following hours, deciding what that meant to me and how I wanted to handle it.

Like I mentioned before, I wanted to be a band director well before I ever wanted to be a tech writer. When I graduated college, an amazing middle school offered me a job, and that was it. I took the job I was offered, and am employed for it.

I do love it, too. The kids are great, our program is healthy, massive (400 kids!), the district is one of the best in the state… Well, the list goes on.

And I’ve always wanted to be a great band director, too. I’ve always wanted to be one of the best, and that’s something I still actively pursue.

I couldn’t be a great band director if I was a tech writer.

As melancholy as it makes me to admit, I’m shelving the idea of being some big-time tech writer, with lots of readers and fans, and people to comment on whatever I post. I just don’t think it’s in the cards for me, anymore.

I’ll just continue to carve out my little niche here on Google+, or on my blog, try and sell Android merch through Android Etch, and if I can ever find the time, start writing, little by little, for Gadget Fit.

I think I can handle writing for that, as long as I don’t expect it to explode into this giant monster website that people adore. That’s good, I think.

I always knew one of those careers would have to give in favor of the other, and I suppose this was decided a few years ago, but I still can’t help but feel a little weird, finally closing the door on this little idea I’ve had.

Funny, too. I never thought someone deleting my comment would lead to such an epiphany.

Writing for the right reasons

I’ve avoided writing this for a long time. Even now, as I’ve been on break from school (as a teacher, not a student!), I’ve found ways to avoid it. Idle, busy work, really.

Watching TV, surfing the interwebs, there was always something I could find to keep me from getting around to this.

This is a scary post to write, because, well, it (hopefully) heralds my return to writing. And to herald a return to writing, you had to have a departure from writing. And I have, for a while now.

See, writing is something I’ve always loved. Always. From a very early age, I developed this love affair with words, mixing them, matching them, toying with their order, and I realized what power words had.

It helped that my dad’s a writer. He was (and is) an excellent role model, and he helped me refine my writing into something distinctly mine.

Fast forward a number of years, to my junior year of college. I was an avoid devotee of the church of Android, and could spit out specs on command to any family member or friend who would listen. I knew Google was on the cusp of something big, and I wanted to know everything about it.

I never thought of trying to make a career out of writing, but as fate would have it, I landed a freelance gig with Android Central. It changed everything. (Well, at least in my head.) All of a sudden, my words were broadcast out to a huge audience, and that excited me.

I’d never been in a position like that before, but the idea of fame and power and influence overwhelmed me. How cool would it be, I thought, if I made a career of this? Reviewing apps, getting comments, having new phones show up for me to review, well, it made me want that.

Needless to say, I don’t write for Android Central, anymore. In fact, I don’t write for anyone. I did a small stint with Android Authority, but I couldn’t commit, not with the time commitments my full-time job demand of me, and so, I quit.

I quit Android Authority, I quit looking for any freelance gigs, I quit writing altogether. To write and not have readers was a sign of failure, and not writing meant I could avoid that feeling of shame.

Still, throughout this whole ordeal, I wanted to write. But writing as a simple blogger meant I’d have to confront said failure, and if anyone bothered to read, opened me up to criticism.

It was remembering two conversations, one with Phil, and one with my dad, that finally pushed me to writing again.

The first, and more recent, was when I was still writing for Android Central. I think it was when Google had just made moves to purchase Motorola Mobility, and I wrote an (obviously slanted, I think) post on my personal blog, just to see how much traction it would get.

I ended up getting a, “Why wasn’t this posted on Android Central?” reprimand via Skype, but in that, I let slip that I really wanted to see how far it would go. Phil then proceeded to drop sage wisdom on me.

Just write. Don’t do it for the comments or for the page hits, or else you’ll be disappointed. But never stop writing.

The second is my father’s story, which bears some parallels with mine, but takes a much more personal turn, so I’ll paraphrase it.

When he was young and his writing talents were really starting to take shape, he was asked to write something scathing and hurtful to paint someone in a negative light.

Being young, he’d never been asked to use his writing like a weapon, and it disturbed him so much, he stopped writing altogether, because the idea made him so uncomfortable.

As he got older, he came to terms with what had happened, realized the full extent of the power of his words, and slowly worked his way back into it.

At the center of it was regret about having stopped writing, and so he told me, never stop writing.

So, back to me. I’m writing again, finally, because I’m doing it for the right reasons. I’m writing to write, to take a load off, to tell a story. If people read it, awesome. If they hate it, great.

I’m glad to be focused on the process of writing and not the goal of achieving fame, because after such a long hiatus, writing feels really good.

Although I certainly wouldn’t turn down fame if it came knocking.

An open letter to Google+: I couldn’t have done it without ya.

This post originally appeared on Google+. It can be found here.

Bear with me everyone, as this’ll probably come off like a long, confusing jumble of words, but it’s something I really want to say.

When there were murmurs of Google launching their own social network, I was pretty excited. I’ve been an avid Google and Android fan for years, and the idea of Google trying to tango with the likes of Facebook and Twitter was more than I could handle.

When Google+ first launched, it was clunky in places, but still innovative, and despite some of those features being ‘borrowed’ by Facebook, I still thought Google+ was the better network.

Because of my position as an Android blogger, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a lot of Android diehards, especially at Google+’s inception. I was also introduced to other big players in the Android and tech circles, and without Google+, I probably never would have met them.

Fast forward to today. I’m the proud owner of a laser engraving machine, and have finally realized my dream of starting up my little business, +Android Etch.

I raised most of the funds for this through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, but it was in large part shared and supported by my friends that I’ve met here on Google+.

After I purchased said machine, got everything up and running, and fulfilled my preorders, again, it was the people on Google+ (and no where else, really!), that have continued to help spread the word about +Android Etch.

Case in point: I shared a status about reaching 400 +1s yesterday, and how grateful I was. Now, a mere 24 hours later, I have 500 +1s. Why? I don’t know. But there’s a community here, and that’s a really cool thing.

To everyone who has contributed to making my dream come true, either through preorders, purchasing a product after I launched the store, or simply sharing a status, I thank you.

To all the naysayers (I know you’re out there somewhere!), who insist that Google+ is a ghost down, I’d beg to differ. I’ve met so many wonderful people on here that have gone above and beyond to help me make a silly dream come true, that there’s certainly more than tumbleweeds here.

Most importantly, thanks to my family (who I’m not sure would want to be tagged in this post), and to a few friends who have really helped spread the word and supported me from day one: +Derek Ross, +Aaron Kasten, and +Jody Barnes. I couldn’t have done it without y’all.

Google+ is a really special, cool, community, and I just felt compelled to say that, out loud, after everything it’s done for me.

I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was