There are several tomatoes coloring in the greenhouse, and I am READY for them. The cherry plants are still producing fruit randomly; every week I go out and bring a handful in for the girls. I’m going to have to go out and consolidate a bunch of stuff this weekend and finally put the panel in the back wall to keep things warm overnight. Winter is coming…
Here in the office I finally took the time to go through some drawers and bins and boxes full of old computer gear and set aside a bunch of crap to get rid of: ancient CD-RW drives I scavenged from old towers, a pair of AirPort Base Stations that date back 15 years, miles of old Cat-5 network cabling, first-gen iPod FireWire wall warts, old manuals…there’s certainly more to get rid of, but I’ve found that if I’m going to keep old machinery it’s critical to have the gear to support it. So I’ll still hang on to the AirPort Express that will talk to the G3 Powerbooks that will still run OS9 so that I can access design files from 1997…
One of the things I dug out of the archives is a Sony Watchman MD-10, something that came out of the unclaimed personal property of a repo when I was in college. I took it back with me junior year and it allowed us all to stay current on Seinfeld episodes when we were on break during late night classes. For its time it was an amazing little device, and I wish it had DC input, because as I recall it ate AA batteries pretty fast. It’s useless these days with the advent of digital broadcasting; I could theoretically hook a digital antenna up to an RF modulator and broadcast local analog signal to it, but it’s really not worth the trouble. Interestingly, Gizmodo just did an article on this very model a few months ago; I share the author’s hesitation to get rid of his.
Hazel has been battling various side effects of the medication she’s been prescribed for side effects of medication she was prescribed since we’ve had her. To recap: she was given all manner of vaccinations as a puppy, some of which she developed allergies to, and they started breaking down the blood vessels in her ears. We were prescribed different medication to help with this condition only to find it lowered her immune system, causing her to break out with warts across her body. We got the ear thing under control, finally, and her dermatologist decided we were going to take her off that medication and switch to a different one. It’s been a month or so since the switch, and her ears are still clear and the warts are finally disappearing. Meanwhile, the Easy Lead we bought a couple of weeks ago, while not her favorite object in the world, makes walking her about a million times more enjoyable. We’re doing about three miles daily, a long walk in the morning and a family walk in the evening, and it seems to be great for everyone’s mental health.
After fucking around with multiple different approaches to installing OX El Capitan on my 14-year-old Mac Pro, I decided to give up on janky scripts and poorly written directions and just clone the copy of Leopard I had running on it before to test that the SSD was viable, which did work. Now I’m going to have to buy a copy of 10.7 Lion from Apple (it is not available as a download anymore for reasons I can’t fathom, and among the hundreds of archived backup and install discs I’ve got in my collection, I don’t have this installer) and put a clean copy of the last officially compatible OS on the drive.
There’s a wealth of information out there about Mac Pros out there, which is super handy for keeping the original 2006 version I own (and the 2010 version I use at work) running smoothly. It’s hard to believe my work tower is that old, but it still cranks along happily, earning its keep. I see people complaining about the high cost of pro Apple gear, but if I amortize the purchase price over the time I’ve used it, it’s an incredible bargain.
Tomatoes are officially in season here in the greenhouse and the girls haven’t been able to keep up with the harvest. We have a bunch of Cherokee Purples ripening on several different plants, and they’re all about due to be picked. I pulled several beautiful Chef’s Choice on Saturday with a bowl full of cherries. At the same time there are several basil plants getting fuller with the heat.
Along with a fancy camera, there’s another tool that’s equally important for any photographer: photo processing software. In my early days of shooting I used Photoshop exclusively, and fixed and saved photos one at a time. In the mid 200’s, Apple and Adobe came out with products that were designed to catalog and process photos in batches, so that a photographer could download a couple hundred shots from a camera and quickly browse through them all for the best picks.
Apple’s Aperture was a great product during the years they supported it. From a UI/UX standpoint, it was incredibly intuitive to use as a beginner, and only offered tools as the user gained experience. I used it happily and built several fast, powerful workflows to process photos—especially handy when I was shooting daily. It was discontinued in 2015 and I used it for several years afterward until I was forced to switch to Lightroom. I had nothing but praise for the frontend of the application, but but the filing job it did behind the scenes was so fucked up I’m only now digging out of the hole it put me in.
Two weeks ago I bought an enormous 8TB NAS drive for our basement server and consolidated all of our photos to the new drive. This included an existing 4TB photo drive and two external drives I’ve had bumping around my desk for three years (shame on me). Most of that work involves manually moving photos into properly organized folders. This is, in practice, as boring as it sounds, and should have been done years ago.
See, the way that Aperture did things for a while was to dump photos into a dated folder not based on the date the batch was taken but the date it was imported. Sometimes it split photos up, out of order, and put them into subfolders with long date-stamped names—sometimes 30 or more folders in one main folder, and most often empty. Later, after an update, it stuck random photos in successively named folders called “Roll XXX”, with no connection to date or batch.
What I want is to catalog photos by each year, month, and day they were taken so that I can see a photo from a particular batch without depending on photo processing software, and so that I can tell immediately if I’ve got multiple copies of a photo on the same drive (something else Aperture liked to do). There were a couple of cases where I had five or six copies of the same batch of photos for no reason.
So, I’m going through each year’s folder and splitting out the months and days and re-filing everything, and it’s taking forever and giving me carpal tunnel syndrome as well as a satisfying sense of accomplishment, because when this is done, I’ll have a real sense of what’s here and what’s missing—and then I can go and look for the missing files in my binders of DVD backups.
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.