Hazel had me up at 6:15 this morning and as I rose from the bed I got an alarm bell from my head, which told me the barometer was pogoing around and that we were steering for a headache. Jen took Hazel and I went back to bed until 9, which was a lovely treat. Unfortunately my head felt worse when I woke up, so I made coffee and took two Advil in the hopes things would calm down.
It’s sunny but cold outside and the wind is howling through the trees, so Hazel isn’t keen on a walk and I’m not keen on getting out to the porch and continuing work, but the show must go on. I’ve got some painting and patching to do, and then we have to focus on the floor. Jen and I assembled a bunch of furniture on Thursday night in the backyard and left it out there to offgas (the oil they used in the teak stinks) for a week or so before we move it inside. Besides Finn’s bed, this is the first new furniture we’ve bought in probably 10 years, and it was fun to put together.
On my desk in the office there’s a shiny black iPhone SE2 in the final stages of pairing with my Apple Watch. They arrived yesterday (Jen and I both upgraded) and they are everything I hoped they’d be: faster, shinier, and the same size as our 6’s. I could actually use the beat up old case from my 6 for this phone, but I think the case has seen enough abuse—and this time Jen and I are going to buy different cases to avoid grabbing each other’s phone.
Pairing the watch was a little rocky last night—it took several tries and failed for various reasons so I let things sit overnight and let the two of them talk things over before forcing them to get married. The getting-to-know-you time seems to have worked because they’re currently planning the honeymoon and picking out appliances together.
After last week’s calamity, I got another MacBook Pro up and running in what must be record time; the FedEx guy dropped off the box at about 12:30 Tuesday afternoon and by dinnertime I had backed up the local Dropbox folder (381GB), installed a fresh copy of Catalina, Office, the Creative Cloud suite, a handful of utilities, and then dumped the Dropbox folder in place so I wasn’t syncing everything over the cloud. Wednesday morning I was up and running by 9AM.
I could not be happier with Apple for the way they’re handling the repair claim. After checking my serial number against the warranty yesterday, I had a human on the phone within 5 minutes, who set up a return with no static. A prepaid shipping box arrived on our doorstep today at noon, and I’ll drop it off at FedEx tomorrow morning to go get worked on.
In stark contrast, AT&T’s upgrade website could not be a steamier pile of shit if it tried. Every attempt to upgrade both of our phones at the same time met with failure; apparently the idea that we might add two things to the cart at the same time never occurred to their engineers. So, I handled each upgrade separately and hopefully we’ll get new shiny new phones sometime in May.
The front porch is ready for a floor upgrade. The last drywall mud got sanded and painted yesterday so I moved a bunch of stuff out of there and set up an order of sanded 1/2″ plywood to be picked up at Home Depot on Saturday. I can’t wait to get cracking in there.
Last night I was sitting on the couch surfing the web, putting off going to bed, and my work laptop notified me that the battery was getting low. I plugged in the power cord and the screen suddenly blinked off, leaving only a momentary flash of green in the upper left of the screen. I unplugged it, reset the SMC, plugged it back in, and got nothing. Figuring it was too late to do anything productive, and too tired to give a shit, I left it plugged in on my desk and went to bed.
This morning it was still dead. No power, no nothing. I’ve only got one brick that goes with this machine (everything else is MagSafe) so I can’t test that; I’m stuck. I do have a laptop being sent to me by one of my former designers, which should be here on Wednesday via FedEx, in which case I can test the brick. If that doesn’t work I can use that machine while I send mine out for warranty AppleCare.
Meanwhile, I’m using a 12-year-old MacBook Pro I salvaged from WRI’s recycle pile to read email through Outlook’s web interface and coaxing Photoshop and Illustrator to do some basic work until the newer machine arrives. SO SLOW.
I’ve been using an iPhone 6 for five years now, and the battery is getting weaker and weaker by the day. It’s been an excellent phone for that period of time, and it’s a testament to Apple’s quality that it’s still functional, running a modern OS, and none of the components have broken down.
The reality is that I’m going to need to upgrade soon—both Jen and I, actually. Apple has a whole suite of iPhones to choose from, starting with the ludicrously large XS Max (stupid name, Apple) down to the 8, which I guess is sort of a supercharged version of my 6. I haven’t kept track of all the permutations of the iPhone, because, well, I have better things to do, but it seems to me that they’ve clogged up the product line with too many models. I don’t know the immediate difference between the 8/8 Pro, the 11/11 Pro/11 Pro XR, or the XE, and while a younger version of me would have investigated the differences for several hours and built a chart to visualize the pros and cons, the modern version of me just doesn’t give a fuck.
Steve Jobs famously axed 3/4 of Apple’s product line back in 2001 when he took the company over, and it was for the best. There were four products with several configurations, and that was it. There’s something to be said for keeping things simple; if I had to advise my Mom on which one to buy next, I’d be caught short.
Apple just announced the new iPhone SE, which has a form factor very similar to my 6 but apparently is faster and better than the more expensive 8. I’ve seen people wrestle modern phones with both hands and I’ve decided that I want to stick with a smaller phone—I have no desire to fumble around with an iPad-sized device, nor would it fit in my pocket—so this size looks perfect to me.
The SE has traditionally been the low cost buy-it-for-Dad phone, with a smaller screen and lower powered processor. This new model has the A13 processor, Touch ID (but no Face ID), a single camera on the back, and is priced out at $450 for the 128GB version. Given current events and my desire to tighten our budget, the iPhone SE looks like a serious contender for the next five years.
I got a new MacBook Pro at work this week, after keeping a 2013 model going for seven years, and it’s taking me some time to get used to the changes. Some of the issues I have are with the machine and some are with the configuration I was given, which I’ll get into here.
From a hardware perspective it’s very nice. It’s a little smaller and lighter than the 2013 model. The bevels aren’t as severe and the feet are smaller. The butterfly keyboard will definitely take some getting used to. I’ve noticed that it picks up random keystrokes here and there; it’s much more sensitive than the old-style scissor switch design. The Touch Bar is an interesting gizmo, and I’ve only just started to fool around with the options it offers contextually. I have to figure out how to turn off all the suggested emojis it wants me to add, and remove Siri entirely. I do really love the touch ID bar on the upper right of the machine, which makes signing in very easy. Having only two USB-C ports on the side is a bit emasculating, but I’ve got a giant dongle on order from Amazon to take the place of all seventeen ports I was used to. And who the fuck decided to get rid of MagSafe and switch to a USB-C plug for power? MagSafe was genius, as were the fold-out ears on the brick to wind the cord. They got rid of that too.
When I originally joined in 2013, there were about 250 employees and they just handed me a box with a new Mac inside. That was fine with me. I might have been one of three or four other people with a Mac in the whole company; I took it back to my office, configured it, administered it and three other inherited machines, and kept things running in my own department with minimal interference for six years. In contrast, we’re now over 900 employees and all the new Macs have been run through the IT department so they can add single sign in and other monitoring software.
When I got it from the IT department they’d set up a master admin account, the first time I’ve ever had to deal with this anywhere. One of their apps controls the Microsoft sign in domain issue, which in theory is nice but in practice is a pain in the ass. Another app is for remote administration, and basically sits in the background listening. The third is a bit of virus software made by a company that was outed for selling its users’ web surfing histories to third-parties in 2018. Its daemon runs in the background and consistently chews up 1/4 of my available CPU at all times. Several times today it spun the fan up so loud I could hear it across the room.
I installed Little Snitch, an app that monitors ingoing and outgoing network traffic to see what is talking to whom and when. It turns out every time I do anything within the Microsoft Office suite, about a million different calls are made to servers all over the world, which seems ridiculous.
In the meantime, I need to seriously consider a new personal machine for home. I’ve got a 10-year-old MacBook Pro that has been adequate for working with email, Lightroom, and other basic stuff, but it’s old and heavy and the battery is tired. And my eyes are spoiled after years of Retina displays.
As I see it, I can buy a new 13″ MacBook variant, but what’s holding me back is the butterfly keyboard and all the assorted complaints it’s generated for the company since they introduced it. I really don’t want to buy a personal machine that might suffer issues, and I don’t want a 16″ machine again—the new MBP design has gone back to a scissor keyboard. Price is an issue, of course, so I’d be getting the midrange machine at best. What I’m not looking forward to is jettisoning an entire ecosystem of USB and MagSafe 2 gear gathered over the years.
I think I’ll probably look for a used model on Craigslist that I can get a discount on. That way I’ll get a USB-C charger for the house and I won’t have to lug this one back and forth.
I spend almost two hours getting to and from work every day, time subtracted from my life that I don’t care to total up, because that figure would make me seriously question my own mortality and then I’d probably want to jump off a bridge. Most of this time is spent sitting on a train, but there’s a lot of other time I spend by myself getting to or from somewhere. I generally choose to fill this time listening to podcasts or music, so having proper headphones is a must. Unfortunately I’ve been skimping on this for years. I’ve mostly been using Apple’s standard earbuds, in their various models, and I guess they work fine. I can hear what I’m listening to, unless I’m under a plane or next to a bus or mowing the lawn, and I can stop, start, and adjust the volume of whatever I’m listening to.
I’m also constantly yanking on the cord as I’m walking, pulling a messenger bag over my head, or working around the house. The dog likes to hook her paw on the cord and yank them out of my ears as I’m putting her leash on. The cord catches on desks, toolboxes, bannisters, and doorknobs. And because they get pulled on all the time, the wires are getting frayed; I’ve got two pairs where the mic/sound control pad doesn’t work anymore, and another where the plug connection is weakened so that it triggers my phone to randomly stop/start/skip whatever I’m playing.
I bought an older set of “wireless” headphones made by Anker several years ago, which were actually two earbuds wired together, and they work pretty good. My two beefs with them were that the cord that connected them was getting caught on my clothes almost as much as an earbud cord, and the fact that they didn’t have a microphone to take calls. They work, and the battery life is pretty good, but they spent a lot of time at the bottom of my bag getting tangled on other stuff.
I see people walking through Union Station wearing AirPods as a matter of course. They are, by all reports, fantastic, but I was wondering if I could find an alternative that wasn’t as spendy but just as reliable. What I settled on was Anker’s Soundcore Life P2, which I got on deep sale through Amazon for a quarter the price of AirPods. They’re a set of noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds that have most of the features AirPods do.
They fit my ears perfectly right out of the box, although they have five other pairs of rubber buds that can be fitted for people with dainty little ears or giant horse flaps. Each one has a small button on the side to turn the unit on or trigger several functions, which I haven’t mastered yet: on/off, start/stop, take a call, talk to Siri. The sound is fantastic. Bass is full, and the highs are crisp, but I also get a full range of midtones. It’s a wide range of sound that I’m not used to after years of tinny earbuds. It’s lovely to walk through the noisy platform area of Union Station next to idling diesel engines and not have to cover my ears to hear what’s playing, and they act as relatively decent noise protection when they’re off.
I used them to call my Mom on Sunday night, and while it worked, I found the experience strange. Because the earbuds had closed off my ear canals, I felt like I was talking inside my own head, as if I’d been talking to her with my fingers in my ears. I found it so distracting, I switched over to a set of wired earbuds to finish the call. Apple announced the AirPod Pro three days after I ordered my Ankers, which are built similarly. I read with interest about the Transparency Mode feature, where you can set them to listen to the surrounding noise, and I wondered what that added to the experience, but I get it now that I’ve been on a call: Transparency Mode opens the outside world back up so that you don’t sound like you’re talking inside a SCUBA mask.
Overall, I’m happy with these, and though I won’t be taking calls with them often (I’ll have to keep my earbuds wound up in my bag for those occasions) I’m cord-free and noise cancelled.