07.18 (2)
redshift: American Body Building sent me a case of energy drinks to try out because of my prior reviews. So far – very impressed. I’ll post a series of reviews as I work through the different varieties.

Energy Drink Reviews – Part 3

This is a continuation of parts one and two of my energy drink reviews. I’m trying to find an energy drink to keep me productive at work without too much sugar.

Sobe Power: 8/10

This is a nice break from the artificial tastes of typical energy drinks. It’s a standard fruit punch flavor but there’s no aftertaste or any hint of additives. It’s a little on the sweet side, but at least that comes from natural sugar. Don’t rely on it for an energy spike because the additives are relatively minor and you’ll have a slight sugar crash. High marks for taste and natural ingredients.

Steaz Orange: 8/10

Steaz is going for an earthier approach to orange flavor with the addition of yerba mate. If you’ve had yerba mate you’ll know what I mean. I don’t like pure yerba mate (or some other green teas) because it tastes a little like grass. However, adding a touch of it to orange juice is a nice combination and balances the sweetness. There’s also a hint of acai, and it’s lightly carbonated. If you want something a little sweeter, Kaboom Orange doesn’t have any tea and tastes more like pure juice. Steaz is good for a change if you like yerba mate.

Emergen-C Health and Energy Water – Dragon Fruit: 7/10

Emergen-C is the strange cousin of Vitamin Water that’s quiet at the family reunions. It’s definitely more of an enhanced water than an energy drink, so if you need a powerful kick, look elsewhere. There are a few things you have to look past – it has a disconcerting pale yellow color, it smells a bit off, and it’s a little thicker than water should be. If you ignore that, it has a nice, subtle fruit flavor and 16 times the vitamins. Seriously – up to 1660% of the daily value of some vitamins like Vitamin C, hence its name. It also has “Okinawa Deep Sea Minerals,” whatever that means. (They might be the culprit for the thickness.) A bottle was pretty cheap and it’s one of the healthiest options I’ve reviewed, while still offering a little sweetness. Worth a shot.

Sobe Energy: 8/10

There’s a hint of creaminess to go with the citrus flavor. The citrus is mostly orange but you can taste some others that add a bit of depth. (The label says lemon, cherry, and elderberry.) It’s definitely on the sweet side since they added sugar to the fruit juice – 66g per bottle total. That’s usually not necessary if you’re using good juice. Otherwise, it’s good – mostly natural, smooth, and the creaminess is a great addition.

Red Bull Sugar Free: 4/10

Tastes like Rockstar Sugar Free, but a little less sweet, so it’s not like being hit in the face with a five pound bag of Smarties. That’s a good thing, and it gains a whole point for it, but this is still very run of the mill. I suppose I should have expected that with Red Bull being one of the original energy drinks. If you want to imagine the taste, just water down some sour Smarties. On the plus side, they carve a bull out of the can’s tab. (Not worth it.)

Rockstar Juiced – Guava: 6/10

So close and yet so far away. This could be really good if it weren’t so carbonated and sticky. The flavor is nice – the guava itself is soothing – but the artificial texture throws it off. It also tastes worse and worse as it warms up. I have to give this drink some credit – it’s much better than the other Juiced flavor, mango/orange/passionfruit. I’ll save that for another review, to be written when I’m depressed.

Vitamin Water 10 – Energy: 8/10

Very light and refreshing citrus flavor. The difference between Vitamin Water and Vitamin Water 10 is that the newer 10 version uses stevia as a sweetener instead of sugar. This gives it less calories, a sweeter taste, and (unfortunately) a little bit of sweet aftertaste. High marks for taste and health benefit, but I have to take away a couple points because of the slight aftertaste and because I wish the citrus were a bit more pronounced.

Energy Drink Reviews – Part 2

This is a continuation of part one of my energy drink reviews. I’m trying to find an energy drink to keep me productive at work without too much sugar.

  • Arizona Green Tea Energy Drink: 2/10

    Tastes like honey. Honey that just fell out of a bee’s ass. A homeless bee that hasn’t showered in a year. Add in a little spoiled cough syrup. Tea could be a great base for an energy drink, but this is not the right tea, nor was it sweetened properly.

  • Monster M-80: 6/10

    80% juice. Tastes like passion fruit, pineapple, and guava. Not bad, but a little too tangy from the pineapple. Tastes a little like cough syrup. In fact, I just had some cough syrup, and it mixes well.

  • Sobe Essential – Berry Pomegranate: 8/10

    Only 7% juice, but very tasty. Raspberry and pomegranate flavor, lightly carbonated. It does have a hint of tanginess, whether from the fruit or the additives I can’t tell. A little too much sugar to be considered one of the “natural” alternatives, but it’s a great option.

  • Rockstar Sugar Free: 3/10

    Tastes like carbonated Smarties. Drinks shouldn’t taste like Smarties. I really don’t know what else to say about this one, except that Smarties are a lot better.

  • Full Throttle Zero: 7/10

    Citrusy, but it doesn’t hit you over the head. Overall it’s pretty nice, but it does have a little bit of funny taste from the additives, and I don’t know who needs so many additives in the first place. Each of the mainstream energy drink brands has a “standard flavor”, and this is probably the best of that lot.

  • No Fear Sugar Free: 7/10

    Mostly grape, a little blueberry taste. Tastes similar to the Full Throttle Zero except for the choice of fruit. A good option but a little artificial.

  • Amp Sugar Free: 7/10

    Tastes like bubble gum. Actually pleasant if you like the idea of drinking bubble gum. Not as many additives as some of the other energy drinks, and has no unpleasant aftertaste. Just bubble gum!

  • Rockstar Zero Carb: 5/10

    Slightly bitter, moderate carbonation. I can’t pick out the fruit flavors because it’s a bit medicinal, and they don’t list which fruits make up the “natural flavors.” I appreciate the lack of aftertaste, but it’s still a bit sticky and artificial. The No Fear Sugar Free has a similar fruity taste but it’s definitely a step up from this.

  • Lo-Carb Monster: 5/10

    Tastes incredibly similar to Rockstar Zero Carb. Really – just reread the last entry. Same artificiality and almost the same taste. I suspect they come from the same original manufacturer. It does add a few extra vitamins, but this is another one you could skip. Mixxd is the best of the Monsters so far.

  • Amp with Black Tea: 4/10

    This doesn’t taste as spoiled as the Amp with Green Tea, but it does have the unpleasant tea/syrup combination of the Arizona Green Tea energy drink. It leaves you with an awful aftertaste for quite a while. The only saving grace is that the honey flavor isn’t as strong as the Arizona, which makes the overall flavor a bit more like a regular Amp… but why not just drink something else?

Energy Drink Reviews

This is the next entry in my series of short reviews. Today: energy drinks.

The goal: I want a drink that will keep me conscious and productive at work, without having too much sugar. I’m not a health nut, I’m just afraid of the diabetus. So, I found all of the natural/sugar-free energy drinks I could and slurped them down over the last three weeks. So you don’t have to.

  • Bawls Exxtra: 7/10

    Slightly fruity flavor. If you like the Bawls taste, you’ll like this; it’s similar but more powerful. It has slightly less impact than Bawls because of the change in sweetener.

  • Bawls Cherry: 8/10

    One of the best cherry sodas I’ve ever had. Doesn’t taste like an energy drink, just a good cherry soda (even though it’s artificial.) If that’s your thing, definitely try it out.

  • Kaboom Orange Buzzzz: 9/10

    Excellent – tastes very much like orange juice. No detectable flavor from the energy components. Has a lot of vitamins and is organic. My favorite so far.

  • Rumba energy juice: 8/10

    Not quite as good a taste as Kaboom Orange, but still good and 100% juice. Tastes like canned OJ – slightly watered down and lacking punch, but still refreshing and you can’t taste the energy additives at all. Other fruit flavors are faint.

  • Red Bull Cola: 8/10

    The cola flavor tastes like Coke but more natural. Uses real sugar and no chemicals at all. Much lighter in color than normal cola. Has caffeine and no other energy additives – fine by me. Basically a really good cola with a bit more pep. Very slight (natural) aftertaste.

  • Monster Mixxd: 7/10

    30% juice. The ingredients say the fruit juice comes from apples and grapes, which is pretty accurate if you can imagine the combination. Pretty tasty. A bit healthier than a straight energy drink but still has all the sugar and chemicals.

  • Monster Khaos: 5/10

    50% juice. This time there are more fruit juices combined, but they don’t add up. The strongest fruit flavor for me is the peach. It comes across as medicinal, and I don’t want carbonated medicine. The juice can’t save this from mediocrity.

  • Amp with Green Tea: 3/10

    This is not natural. It tastes like spoiled grapes and rotten herbs. There is absolutely no green tea flavor whatsoever, and by “yuzu” I think they meant “motor oil.” This has very few redeeming qualities – they added a few extra vitamins, and I’ve had a drink or two in my life that tasted worse.

  • Mountain Dew Voltage: 5/10

    So highly carbonated it’s screaming to get out of the bottle. Try to avoid getting any in your mouth when it does come out of the bottle – you’ll thank me later. It tastes like a blue raspberry freezer pop. I like freezer pops, but the blue raspberry ones are the worst in the box, and I wouldn’t want to drink it.

  • Rockstar Punched – Acai berry: 8/10

    Surprisingly nice. I wasn’t expecting much but it’s actually very fruity (in a good way) from the acai berry. I think the “citrus” name is a bit inaccurate; it’s more subtle and flavorful. Still has a bit of energy drink aftertaste so it can’t get the highest marks, but it’s definitely tasty.

Update: Here’s part two!

Clif Bar Reviews

I prefer a lot of small reviews to a few big reviews. So, I’m reviewing seven types of Clif Bars in the same vein as the batches of Wii game reviews I did earlier.

My goal: a tasty, reasonably healthy snack for breakfast that’s easily transported to work and doesn’t require preparation.

  • Chocolate Chip – 5/10

    Not very chocolaty; they taste more like a chemically processed health food bar. No actual chocolate chips – or they’re too small to see. If you’re after chocolate flavor, try something else.

  • Chocolate Brownie – 8/10

    Much more chocolaty than the Chocolate Chip. Tastes less like health food and more like a snack. And yet it’s still healthy… Worth a shot for anyone.

  • Oatmeal Raisin Walnut – 6/10

    There’s a hint of walnut in this one but hardly any raisin. The oatmeal flavor is very weak – it tastes more like the standard Clif mix. These bars really need something to cover up the default Clif flavor because I’m not finding it pleasant.

  • Chocolate Almond Fudge – 5/10

    I’m noticing a trend with some of the bars – they smell stronger than they taste. This one smells strongly of almond but there’s only a slight hint of almond in the taste. There’s not much fudge flavor at all – nothing like the chocolate brownie. Slightly better than the Chocolate Chip because of the extra flavor, but otherwise the same.

  • Banana Nut Bread – 6/10

    Strong smell of banana, but the taste isn’t authentic. It has small bits of chocolate to try to help the flavor along, but it either needs more chocolate bits or better banana flavor. It fades into standard (strange, tangy) Clif flavor while chewing.

  • Blueberry Crisp – 7/10

    “Blueberry” doesn’t belong in the title, but “Crisp” is it’s strong point. It doesn’t have the faintest hint of blueberry. It does add some larger nuts to the basic Clif formula, which help to add crunch and mask some of the regular Clif flavor.

  • Carrot Cake – 8/10

    They actually got the the texture right – it’s reminiscent of real carrot cake. I’m not sure how they did that in a plastic-wrapped product, but it was a nice surprise. The taste is pleasant and fairly subtle, and doesn’t have as much of the standard Clif flavor, even without another strong flavor to mask it.

My favorites were definitely the Chocolate Brownie and the Carrot Cake. They had the most authentic flavors and textures, and I could probably eat them every morning for a while without getting bored. The others were forgettable because the base Clif formula is pretty gross and they didn’t do anything to separate themselves from it.

Note: I wasn’t able to test any peanut butter-flavored bars because of the peanut butter recall. When more flavors come in, I’ll make another post with my impressions.

Review of Exherbo Linux (From A User’s Perspective)

Exherbo is a Linux distribution led by a small team of opinionated developers. It’s lean, to say the least, but when they give you a solution for something you can believe it’s well engineered and that it does that task well – nothing more.

Technically, Exherbo is most similar to Gentoo. It inherited some of Gentoo’s parts, and a fair bit of the mentality. You get deep configuration and understanding of your system. In fact, it’s required for use. If you don’t understand your hardware and the basic components of a Linux system, you’ll have a hard time getting it running. Don’t let that scare you off, though; it’s an excellent platform for learning.

That said, it’s obviously meant for a subset of users. Let me describe some things about me that led me to Exherbo. I like to understand everything that’s going on at some level of depth. I can’t rest until I understand, and I mean that literally – I’ve been up late most of the week trying to get my wireless working perfectly. I also like a lean system without a lot of moving parts that I didn’t ask for. It’s harder to understand what you don’t know is there. I appreciate performance and stability, like anyone, but I believe they are borne of simplicity.

I’m a long-time Gentoo user, and this reminds me of the early days of Gentoo before the committee. Progress is rapid and parts of the machine are being swapped out as it runs. The developers are passionate about what they’re doing, and if you agree with them, it’s a great place to be. One of the more vocal developers, Ciaran McCreesh, is a good example. He comes off as abrasive, but take his messages without emotion. I usually agree with him and he definitely writes good code. (He’s also a vim devotee.)

If you just want things to work, don’t use it. In fact, until last week, they actively discouraged anyone from using it. That warning has been lifted since I did my install, and they even added some user documentation. (Think of it as crib notes for your install – Gentoo’s handbook run through a compactor.) If you want to learn how your system works, from the hardware all the way to the user environment, give Exherbo a shot.

A side benefit of building a Linux system from scratch (with any low-level distribution) is that you get to see all the amazing work put forth in the free software community.

01.31 (0)
redshift: Oh, to be a bacon man. A man made of bacon.
01.21 (1)
redshift: Today is SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY. Go appreciate a squirrel. Give them a rib roast with acorn topping. They are superior beings.
01.04 (0)
redshift: I recommend Raymond Smullyan’s The Tao Is Silent if you want to think about ethics or metaphysics.

10 Ways to Get Inspiration as a Programmer

Sometimes I fall into the trap of reading about programming and not programming. I can’t always find an interesting project to work on, even though I know there are a sea of opportunities. If you have the same issue, here are some tips that might help.

  1. Hang out with other programmers. This is the best source of inspiration because, naturally, they’ll have ideas that you won’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s just some coder friends, a programming group, or even a conference. The mixing of all those ideas is sure to give you a fresh perspective.
  2. Hang out with non-programmers, too. First of all, it’s healthy to be around people that make you happy or challenge your thinking, whether or not they code. Second, they can give you inspiration from a user’s perspective. What frustrates them about their computer? Can you come up with a solution?
  3. Have a dedicated workspace. If it’s not possible to have a dedicated space, at least make sure it’s quiet and you can focus on the computer. Make it your cave. Make sure your chair is comfortable and supports your back. Make sure you don’t have to get up too often – have a drink handy. The more incentive you have to stay at the computer, the more likely you’ll be to stay and be productive.
  4. Have a good development environment. The software version of the previous tip. I don’t care which editor you use (though I recommend vim) but make sure you’re using one that gives you some power and flexibility. Always use source control – in particular, I recommend you learn git because of the concepts it will teach you. Always back up your work. All of this will prevent the massive demotivation you will experience if you don’t use them and you lose your work.
  5. Keep your ears open. Read the twitter feeds and blogs of the programmers you respect. (Look at my twitter feed if you want – it’s mostly programmers.) RSS aggregators, such as Ruby Inside, or the old-school Planets, can be great sources of news because they add prominent new programmers without you having to search. Pick a few blogs on topics you wouldn’t normally read, and subscribe to them too.

    Yes, this can get you sucked into the trap of reading code and not writing it, but being plugged into the larger coding ecosystem is good for you and can be the source of many ideas.

  6. Read good code. Think of some software you love and look at the source code. What problems did they have? How can you learn from it, or better yet, how can you improve that software? There are many sources of good code, but GitHub has to be one of the best. The GitHub Rebase series on the GitHub blog lists a number of notable new projects if you want some specifics.
  7. Continue Reading »