Posted on March 1st, 2020
We may be at the beginning of a pandemic, but the bullets are still flying... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Hertz! Michael Hertz has passed away. He is largely responsible for one of the most beautiful and elegant map designs you'll find. It's the New York City subway map, which sought to simplify and clarify the depiction of the various lines by making them easier to understand...
There were other versions of this map over the decades, but this modern version from 1978 is the one most people today are familiar with. It was proceeded by an equally beautiful (yet slightly more confusing) version by Massimo Vignelli...
My first dozen times visiting New York City I ended up buying a new fold-out pocket subway map each time because I always forgot to bring an old one with me. Now, of course, I've just got the map on my iPhone. But I'll always have a place in my heart for the map I used for decades to get me around the city.
• Nygaard! Another designer who passed away that's definitely worth noting? Jens Nygaard, the guy who created the LEGO minifigs...
As somebody who started with LEGO before the minifig was introduced, this was absolutely a game changer. Prior to the minifies, which I believe I first got in the LEGO Space sets, we just drew a face on a stack of bricks. The "official" people of the LEGO Universe were a fantastic addition to the toy which took it in a fantastic direction that continues to this day.
• Dyson! Completing the trifecta of those who passed away this past week... Freeman Dyson. This brilliant mathematician, physicist, and astronomer (among other things) was such a huge influence on me that my pen-name, Maach Allon Dyson, was in honor of him. Because, seriously, just look at some of his accomplishments from his Wikipedia page. Though the thing that he's likely best known for... especially by me... is the Dyson sphere...
The idea is that a technologically advanced civilization would have the ability to maximize use of energy from their sun... by surrounding it with a sphere or a sphere of rings or a sphere of panels or something like that. It's a mind-blowing idea that would require mining materials from a huge number of celestial bodies (such as comets and asteroids) in order to construct. Pretty fantastic stuff.
• Apps on Parade! I ran across this video and had to laugh at just how frickin' brilliant it is at showing the sheer absurdity of Adobe's "Creative Cloud." I pay $57.34 per month to use exactly four of them... Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat. I also use Lightroom Classic to catalog my photos, but it's not something I need to have. Which means I essentially use less than 1/10th of the apps I have to pay for...
I would be willing to bet that this is the case for at least half of the people paying for Creative Cloud. Hardly getting our money's worth here, but that's what happens when you've got a lock on the industry. My only hope is that eventually another developer... most likely Affinity... will get to the point where Adobe will not be the only option for me. But until then? Blergh.
• Manga Mac! Apple released a clever new commercial which shows various times that Macs have appeared in Japanese manga animation. It's pretty great...
Just makes me want to rewatch the hundreds of manga that I've loved over the years.
• New Horizons! And speaking of ads in Japan... Nintendo really knows how to hit all the feels in their advertising...
The new version of Animal Crossing called Animal Crossing: New Horizons drops on March 20. It's one of those games that always starts out interesting, but I grow bored with fairly quickly. There's only so many fish and bugs you can catch before it gets old. Though maybe the online collaboration will keep it interesting for longer? I don't know that I want to spend $60 to find out.
And with that, bullets have come to a close this fine Sunday. Wash your hands!
Posted on February 21st, 2020
As I mentioned just over a year ago AND way back in 2011(!), I have a massive number of files archived on old media. As I said at the time, "At some point Real Soon Now, I need to transfer all my older files to Amazon's online storage. Then it doesn't matter if I can't read CDs or magneto-optical, or ZIP, or JAZ, or SyQuest... all I have to worry about is whether or not I can read the format that the files are in."
Turns out that today was the day.
I had an image file from 1994 that I absolutely could not do without, and so I ended up having to drag my old PowerMac G3 (from 1997) out of the basement at work so I could figure out how to get the files off the darn thing. It was the latest Mac I had with SCSI on it... and the only Mac I had with both SCSI and ethernet!
Say what you will about Apple, but their computers are reliable as all get-out. The thing turned on immediately...
Though I'm kinda glossing over what it took for me to get to this point.
First I had to find a display that would work. I have a fairly big one with the correct connector, but I wasn't sure that a Mac this old had enough video memory to use it. And so here I am with this teeny-tiny CRT monitor that crackles from time to time, which means it will likely explode (implode?) any minute now. But hey, all I'm doing is looking at files, so it's all good.
This was pre-USB, so I had to look through a mass of boxes full of cables and keyboards and mice to find ADB-compatible peripherals. Easier said than done. The first mouse I tried had a ball that had shrunk and no functioning button. The first keyboard had characters that refused to type.
The first several times I booted it up, it would stall for some reason. But each time it would get a little further. This was weird, but eventually it was booting up all the way.
And then it told me that my computer's date was at 1956 or something like that, so it took another few attempts at booting up before I could manage to change it. After that I had no problems booting... but a real headache trying to get everything running.
Attempting to figure out how to make SCSI devices mount without conflict is all voodoo to me. You just have to keep trying until something works. Then, what works for the Jaz drive doesn't work for the Magneto-Optical drive, so you have to start all over again.
While the computer had an ethernet port, I could not speak to any server on the network. It was still using AppleTalk over Ethernet, and that had been turned off ages ago. So how was I going to get my files off of JAZ and Magneto-Optical SCSI disks? Turns out the answer was FTP, baby. This ancient Mac had Fetch 3 installed!
Also installed? WARLORDS II (!) One of my favorite games of all time. It's been ported in various ways to various platforms, but it never seems to work the same. I guess now I've got a way to actually play it again if I really want to...
One thing I had forgotten about from the good ol' pre-OS-X days was having to allot memory for your apps...
Guess that what happens when you're running with a whopping 160MB of memory! Happy those days are over.
Interesting to note that the "secure internet" is not browsable in the three browsers I had loaded on this machine (including Netscape and Internet Explorer). But if I go in an turn off the security certificate redirect on Blogography, there it is...
My sites which are not secure load surprisingly well...
But the display was a bit wonky, with stuff floating way down the page. Which, let's be honest, is not surprising given that I was running Internet Explorer.
Eventually my files were found, I got them transferred to an FTP server, and all was good in the world (after I found out that Stuffit makes a .SIT archive extractor for modern Macs).
And that was the excitement for my Friday.
Posted on February 17th, 2020
My arm crippling arm pain has not relented. I can keep it at bay by laying in bed, propping it so it doesn't move, and doing
To say this has cut into my productivity is an understatement. But it's either that or be hopped up on truly unhealthy amounts of painkillers. Even just Ibuprofen in wild amounts for too long can cause kidney and liver damage or stomach bleeding. And so... I'll take a big ol' pass on that.
But here's the problem... doing nothing, as enticing as that may sound, is just so boring!
I never "just watch television" or "just watch a movie." Sure there are some television shows or movies that I pay more attention to than others... especially foreign language media where I am having to read subtitles... but even then I've got paperwork I'm working on or have my laptop nearby. I just have to. But now that writing or shuffling papers or typing on a computer can potentially be excruciating, it's not quite the option it usually is.
In an attempt to find middle ground, I've been trying out Apple's speech dictation technology to type stuff into the computer. It's both shockingly good and shockingly frustrating at the same time. You can't really dictate words while watching television or a movie. But otherwise? It works great. Mostly. But when it doesn't? It makes me want to scream.
This entire post has been dictated while travel videos are playing silently on my television. Surprisingly, there have been few errors. But just try typing an ellipsis as three periods instead of that stupid ellipsis character (... instead of …). You cannot. If you say "word period period period," then Apple will type "word. Period." And if you've read my blog for any amount of time then you know I gotta have my triple-period ellipsis.
Which is why I think I'll just end this here instead of getting to a point where I must type another one.
Posted on February 7th, 2020
Every year the Six Colors blog on all things Apple issues a report card. For the past week I've taken time when I have a free minute to make up a report card of my own.
I should start out by saying that I remain disappointed that Six Colors doesn't have a "Customer Service" section on their report card. If they did, I would give Apple an F- or whatever the lowest possible score is. The two horrendous incidents I endured in 2019... both of which were 100% Apple's fault... were so trauma-inducing that I STILL haven't been able to sit down and write out a blog entry on what happened. Every time I start, I get so overwhelmed with seething hatred that I have to stop. Maybe one day. But, suffice to say, Apple "customer service" is so downright horrific that the very thought of it has me questioning if I ever want to buy anything from Apple ever again.
But on to the report card...
Over the past five years I would have given Apple a D. Their shitty, shitty "butterfly" keyboards on their MacBook Pro laptops were a fucking disaster, and everybody hated them. But Apple being Apple felt that everybody was wrong and kept using the stupid things. They finally came to their senses and released a MacBook Pro with a "scissor" keyboard in 2019 and it made all the difference. I'm still upset that they removed Firewire, USB-A, and MagSafe from a so-called "pro" laptop, but I guess Apple is going to remain being Apple and ain't going to stop any time soon. The giant trackpad I was anticipating liking actually ended up being a negative, because it takes up a huge amount of space and is easy to touch when you don't mean to. Also? I have a hard time selecting text with it or click-dragging, something I've never had a problem with before.
When it comes to the desktop Macs, I have to drop Apple down a grade. They are so focused on the high-end Mac and iMac that it feels like the "models for the rest of us" are getting shafted. And don't get me started on the Mac mini. The original idea for that was to give people on a budget a way to afford a Mac by bringing their own periphreals. But now? The cheapest model is $800. EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS! If this is meant to be an entry model which is priced to be budget-friendly, it fails spectacularly.
When it comes to MacOS X, which is apparently included in this category, I am indifferent. It feels like MacOS has been stagnating for years. Nothing overly-exciting or truly fresh and new has been released in what feels like forever. To me, MacOS X Catalina was actually a step backwards. My MacBook Pro comes with a fingerprint sensor for TouchID. You would think that this means you are done with entering your passwords. You would be wrong. I am constantly entering my fucking Apple ID password. CONSTANTLY! It is fucking embarrassing just how bad Apple is at security. They put on this huge show of how they are encouraging people to use stronger passwords, then completely sabotage it by making people have to enter these longer, more difficult passwords over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Who the fuck is going to use a complex, hard-to-crack password when you have to keep entering it over and over again? Nobody. Apple's claim to be making strong passwords more common is 100% bullshit. If anything, Apple's piss-poor handling of passwords encourages easier-to-remember, easier-to-crack passwords.
I love, love, love the latest iPhone. The phone part is all the same... just a bit faster is all... but the camera is sublime. The camera is everything. I wrote extensively about the iPhone 11 Pro and its miracle-camera here. If anything, my opinion has only gone up since I wrote it. Between Night Mode, Deep Fusion, three lenses, and the amazing quality of it all, I almost never use my DSLR any more. Why would I drag it around everywhere when I can take shots like these with my frickin' phone?
Amazing. If this keeps up, in another couple years most people won't even think about buying an actual camera.
iPad is an amazing, amazing tool. Drawing and painting on it is a sublime joy that still amazes me. And, as they release newer models of iPads and Pencils, it just keeps getting better and better. Where the problem lays is with iOS for iPad. It's just so darn bad. I have been trying and trying to figure out how the gesture-based multi-tasking works, and just when I think I understand it something happens which makes me realize that I absolutely don't. In all honesty, this aspect of iOS for iPad needs to be completely gutted so they can start over from scratch. Just burn it to the ground and start over. The user interface is a place where Apple usually excels. But this? THIS?!? Complete shit. It doesn't matter how good the hardware is when the OS driving it is this cumbersome. And so I averaged them together to get my grade.
I'm probably not qualified to comment here because I don't own an Apple Watch and have no plans to buy one. They are just so darn thick that I find them uncomfortable. Why they aren't investigating putting the battery in the band somehow or doing something to make them thinner is a mystery. Because if you've got a thin wrist like I do, it's just not a very good option. It's a real shame too, because I really like the health features. That being said... if a chunk of money lands in my lap, I might bite the bullet anyway because there's just so much good stuff to be had so conveniently.
Apple seems content to let AppleTV languish, and it's really too bad. The interface is abhorrent. So horribly difficult to use. Have a ton of movies? I hope not. Because you'll spend a lot of time scrolling and scrolling. But what's worse is that Apple content is just plain shitty to stream. Constant buffering errors, drop-outs, and pauses. And before you blame my fiber internet (which is what Apple does)... I don't have this problem with ANY OTHER SERVICE when streamed on my AppleTV. Not even with Disney+ or Amazon Prime streaming on Ultra HD!
Then there's Apple's idiotic attempt at doing away with logins by tying services you purchase through them to your Apple ID. I say "attempt" because the shit DOES NOT WORK. I can't tell you how many times I've subscribed to a streaming service through the AppleTV in my living room then can't use it on the AppleTV in my bedroom. And since you don't get a login, there's absolutely nothing you can do... EXCEPT NEVER, EVER, EVER SUBSCRIBE TO ANY STREAMING SERVICE THROUGH APPLETV! As if that weren't enough, if you subscribe to a service through AppleTV that doesn't have a desktop app, you can't watch it on your computer. You could probably watch it online through the provider's website if you got a login from AppleTV, but you don't so you can't. It makes no sense... NONE... as to why you'd ever go through Apple.
And don't even get me started on the shitty, SHITTY fucking remote they bundle with the thing. It is the single worst remote control I have used on any product ever. Constantly grabbing it by the wrong end. Constantly having trouble navigating content. Constantly losing the little fucker in my couch. I HATE it. And I mostly hate AppleTV, even though most third-party apps are pretty decent... and those gorgeous screen savers are sublime.
I don't subscribe to Apple News+ or Apple Arcade, and only have Apple TV+ because I get it free for a year. I subscribe to iCloud, but it's so horribly priced that I only buy the bare minimum for iPhone backup. The only plus is that iCloud Drive is content to just be a cloud drive, which is more than you can say for DropBox, who keeps adding the most ridiculously shitty and bloated services to their cloud drive that I just don't want. About the only thing I can truly comment on here is paying for Apple services. For weeks I've been getting a pop-up on my Apple Wallet asking me if I want to link my Apple Cash as a payment method at Apple. I absolutely do. Except it fails when I make the attempt. EVERY FUCKING TIME!
Why in the hell do they bother asking if it doesn't ever work?
I fucking hate HomeKit. It's a flakey, incomplete, crusty asshole of a technology. After waiting forever for compatible devices to come out, I started buying them... then immediately stopped because the experience was so bad. Rarely worked well. Sometimes didn't work at all. I'd recommend that Apple just give it up already, but they just joined a consortium with Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance, so maybe they're on the right track now. Hopefully this will at least result in a workable technology, because I am totally ready to have my home automation built into iOS.
My score is comparative. When compared to every other tech company, Apple reliability is pretty darn good. It's not perfect, however. I've had to replace hard drives in two Macs in two years because the internal drives started failing.
Where do I start? I hated iTunes. I railed against what a profoundly shitty app it was and how bad my digital life was with it. Then they released the AppleTV app for MacOS and the Music app for MacOS and they are so fucking horrendous that I find myself longing for iTunes again. The TV app is the worst of the bunch. Try finding anything. You can't. Can't find the content you own easily. Can't find new stuff to buy AT ALL. When I go to the "movies" tab, for example, there are a bunch of things that AREN'T EVEN FUCKING MOVIES...
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Everything from Photos to the App Store to Books to Messages have serious problems and Apple doesn't seem to give a shit just how bad an experience it is.
As I'm not a developer, I can't really comment here. Except to say that I still question Apple's App Store policy of taking 30% of in-app purchases. That seems high considering all they do is process payment. Credit card charges aren't nearly that high, and it seems an absurd percentage in exchange for the convenience. In-app purchases should just be another reason why developers love developing for iOS. As it is, many developers just don't use it because the cut is too high. Want to buy a comic book in Comixology? Sorry. Have to go to the website and buy it that way because Amazon apparently doesn't have margin enough on books to give away 30%.
Apple seems increasingly willing to suck up to the Trump Administration... wanting to play nice to get tariff exemptions, I'm guessing. From not speaking out against outright lies about President Trump convincing Apple "to open a new plant in Texas"... to Tim Cook (WHO IS GAY) sucking up to Cheeto Jesus even though he has been rolling back LGBTQ rights at every opportunity, I am disgusted to my very core on this. The only reason Apple gets a D instead of an F is that they seem to continue to improve working conditions and environmental aspects of the company abroad. Still a lot of room for improvement (and it's happening way too slowly), however.
And that's the end of that. Nobody wishes I could have given Apple better scores than I, but things are sliding so badly in so many areas that I really didn't have much choice. The lone exemption being the iPhone, which is better than it's ever been.
And one of these days... I promise... I will finally unload on the heinous state of Apple Customer Service that I had to endure. It is one of the most mind-boggling, mind-blowing things I have ever experienced in "service" and that is saying a lot considering the crap I've had to put up with over the years.
Posted on February 2nd, 2020
It's National Football Day, but it doesn't matter much to me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• NED... NED RYERSON! I honestly don't care about the Super Bowl. I am not invested in football even a little bit. But I do like that companies are willing to spend all kinds of money creating commercials that I actually want to watch...
And, holy cow, would you look at this awesomeness...
After the Big Game is over, all the remaining commercials will be released. It's like Christmas for advertising nerds like me.
• Pringles! And then there's this, which I love for obvious reasons...
The second half of the new Rick and Morty season cannot get here fast enough.
• Happy Endings. One of the best shows to come along in quite a while for me is The Good Place. At least for the first two seasons. I watched the first couple episodes because I love Kristen Bell, didn't care for them, then said goodbye. Then one evening a number of weeks later I needed some background noise while I worked, landed on the show, and quickly became obsessed. Then they dropped one of the most mind-blowing season finales I've ever seen, left you wondering where the show could possibly go next, then topped themselves in the second season. I maintain that The Trolley Problem is one of my favorite episodes of all time of any show ever. And it's because it's filled with hilarious and brilliant moments like this...
Sadly, things started to fall apart in the third season. Then it all went to shit in the fourth and final season. I couldn't even watch it any more. But I tuned in to the final episode to see how it all wraps up... and was reminded of how good the show could be. That final moment which shows what becomes of you after The After was poetic and beautiful. Not enough to make me run back and watch all the fourth season episodes I missed... but pretty darn special. Really happy for shows that get a proper ending.
• iPad × 10. This past week the iPad turned 10 years old. It doesn't seem as though it's been that long since Steve Jobs introduced it to an unsuspecting world...
I remember the criticism vividly. A lot of people hated the name, equating it to a maxi-pad. A lot of people thought it would never sell because it was just a big iPhone that lacked any serious computing power. I was on the fence, but bought one anyway. Mostly because I liked the idea of it for travel. If there was even a chance that I could leave my laptop behind and carry the much smaller and lighter iPad with me, why wouldn't I? Sadly, the iPad didn't end up being the laptop killer I was hoping for. Not for my work anyway. It's getting closer and closer every day though. The first release of Photoshop for iPad was a grave disappointment, but I'm sure that's temporary. They'll get there eventually. I guess we shall see. Right now the only thing I use my iPad for is digital drawing and painting. And it's pretty great for that. My trial run at blogging worked okay, so perhaps in a year or two when the apps are right it will be exactly what I need it to be.
• BAYHEM! Some may question the wisdom of Netflix backing a dump truck full of money up to Michael Bay's house and asking him to make them a Michael Bay movie. I am not one of those people. Sometimes you just want to watch stuff exploding and things getting blown up in the most unrealistic and insane way possible and that's what Michael Bay delivers...
Doesn't hurt that they got Ryan Reynolds to star, and then let him totally be Ryan Reynolds. Or that they totally put the time, effort, and money into the epic location shoots or making the special effects look so good. For all the obvious reasons, the general consensus between critics is that they hated it. For even more obvious reasons, I loved it. Sequel please!
• Frozenless. Last night's Saturday Night Live had some moments. But this was the one that I had to rewind and watch over again...
But the best sketch of the night was the cold open...
No rational person thought that the Republicans would get behind an actual trial with witnesses and evidence and anything that makes a trial a trial... so color me unshocked that this is exactly what happened.
See ya next Sunday... when we won't have to worry about football again for 8 months.
Posted on January 22nd, 2020
For years now... a decade really... I've been experimenting with setting up a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) media server that's connected to the internet. There are a lot of reasons I'd like to have such a thing, but the big one is that I want to be able to access my vast photo library from anywhere on earth. If I'm in Germany and want to show a friend a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Yokohama (something that actually happened) it would be great if I could do that. Sure I have the option of paying for a photo service, but then I have to convert all my images from RAW format and lose the ability to access/edit the original photo remotely if I want to.
So I purchased a 1 Terabyte single-drive, internet-enabled "WD My Book Studio" NAS back in 2010 with that in mind. Everything ended up being a total mess and didn't work at all like I was hoping. It's been sitting in a drawer ever since.
Fast forward to 2019 and I decided to try again. I used money I had saved in 2014 for a trip to Norway's fjords with my mom (that we never got around to taking) and purchased a QNAP TS415+ NAS and two Western Digital 8 Terabyte RED drives to put in it. The drives are mirrored in a RAID configuration so I don't lose any data if one of them dies. Note that there's a television remote. That's because this model has an HDMI port so it can hook up directly to a television...
Today I finally set it all up. It was fairly straightforward, though not the most user-friendly thing to do. It spent hours doing a "RAID resync" (whatever the hell that is), which makes zero sense. The drives were empty and freshly formatted. How can it take over 24 hours to "resync" NOTHING? Note that QNAP doesn't bother with beta testing their apps. If they did, somebody might have noticed that the displayed percentage overwrites the text label, making it tough to read its progress...
Before you can do anything, you have to set up a "Storage Pool" from your drives. I maxed my pool out at 100% of my available drive space, because why only use part of your drives? QNAP is pretty brain-dead when you choose to do this... it will endlessly pester you with alerts because it defaults to a threshold of 80% usage. Insanity. If somebody sets their pool to 100% of drive space, why not ask if you want to disable the threshold alerts? I had to do it manually. Sadly, after setting things up, my 8TB mirrored drive resulted in only 7.1TB of space available. No idea what happened to nearly a FULL TERABYTE of storage (this seems high for overhead), but whatever.
Rather than have to install a third-party app, I decided to give the QNAP "Qmedia" app a try on my AppleTV since it's the "native" application from QNAP. It is complete and total shit. Despite "pretending" to remember where you left off when viewing videos, it doesn't. You can't even fast-forward the video you're watching, which is mind-blowing. I have no fucking idea why they even bothered. Qmedia is useless.
I'd rather not have to switch television video input sources from my AppleTV every time I want to watch something off the NAS, but apparently that's going to be how this goes. So I grabbed the QNAP remote and went for it. First I had to install an app (of course) but no big deal. Then I actually tried to use the thing and it's a total clusterfuck. The "VideoStation" app is just a fucking web browser interface. It's difficult to read because it's not sized for a television. It's impossible to use with the included remote because the remote doesn't do anything. You have to plug in a mouse and keyboard to make it work.
There's an "HD Player" app that looks like it's geared more towards television displays and using the remote control but it's fucking useless too, having many of the same problems as Qmedia. It goes non-responsive constantly, doesn't allow fast-forwarding (pressing the up arrow to skip forward is not the same thing), starts at the beginning of a video even if you tell it to resume from where you stopped, has a shitty interface that makes sorting through a large number of videos a nightmare, has crap video quality that you can't adjust for brightness or anything else, and is an overall steaming pile of fail.
I swear, QNAP is the most ridiculous fucking company. Why bother to make claims of being a multimedia center that can connect directly to your television if it does THIS shitty of a job of it? The whole thing is a fucking joke.
Fortunately there's plenty of options for serving your media from a NAS if it has a computer onboard like the TS451+ does. The "big two" are Kodi and Plex. Kodi is open source and free. Plex is free, but you can support the project by paying to subscribe to "Plex Pass" for additional features (like being able to download media on your phone for local playback instead of streaming it). Most people I know who started on Kodi ended up with Plex, so I just skipped a step and installed Plex Server on my NAS.
For what it is, Plex Server is pretty sweet. It transcodes just about anything you throw at it. Including the RAW Digital Negative photo format from Adobe (DNG) that I use. Which means I don't have to save out JPEGs in order to access my photo library remotely. Nice! I need to work on settings for this, however, because Plex compresses things pretty heavily for transmission. This results in some ugly visual artifacts, banding, and color shifts...
Video works brilliantly from Plex BECAUSE YOU CAN ACTUALLY FUCKING FAST FORWARD THROUGH IT ON APPLE TV! Plex does a really good job of cataloging it as well. Thank heavens, because I'd light my QNAP NAS on fire if I had to suffer through their shitty apps. The only problem I've run across is having the video stop and tell me that my connection isn't fast enough, which is absurd because AppleTV is literally plugged into the same high-speed hub as the NAS! There must be some kind of setting for that I'm missing. Fortunately, it's a rare event.
I don't steal media. All the movies and television shows I have are on DVD/Blu-Ray or purchased on Digital. Well, with two exceptions... Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original) and Oh Grow Up! (one of my favorite shows of all time)... are not available to purchase. Lord only knows I wish they were, because my digitized versions of VHS tapes are really poor quality. I've used Vudu's Disc-To-Digital service to convert the bulk of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection to Digital legally. But not all of my stuff is available for conversion. Now I have the option of ripping them to the NAS and viewing them digitally no matter where I am via Plex Server. Technically, any time you break the protection on a DVD you are breaking the law, but that's a bullshit law. I would happily pay to convert them to digital if the studio who owns them would allow them to be converted. What I'm not going to do is buy the same movie all over again. Fuck that. I already paid for it, I should get to pay a small fee for a new format, not have to buy it all over again. And so... I have a small collection of DVDs ripped to my NAS temporarily until the studio allows them to be converted and I can pay for that. Plex does a great job of streaming from my living room to remote locations in HD. No, the video quality is not as good as what comes off of iTunes... especially if the iTunes version is 4K... but it's plenty good enough for my iPad or iPhone. I'm sure if I didn't have tons of security cameras flooding my bandwidth I could set the quality higher, but it's really not necessary.
Music streaming (local and remote) is handled quite well through Plex, and my SONOS system can address Plex directly. This means I can download all my music from iTunes, put it on the NAS, then drop iTunes Music Match and iTunes itself with no problem.
And so... bravo Plex.
I'm going to try out "Plex Pass" for a month and see if I want to upgrade to the lifetime membership for $120. Something tells me that's a purchase I will end up making. I certainly can't do without Plex if my alternative is the QNAP crap.
UPDATE: Yeah. Easiest decision to make to get the Plex Pass... the apps for streaming are included and you're helping the team behind it to keep developing the app.
So okay... the QNAP multimedia is bullshit. What about the NAS itself? Well, I'd love to report on that, but the minute I login, it either immediately disconnects me...
...or it allows me in but gives me a shitload of error messages. My favorite? Telling me it's running out of memory. If 2GB is not enough memory to do even the most basic tasks, then why ship with just 2GB memory? QNAP has their own version of Microsoft "Clippy" to break the bad news, which is a weird choice...
Even better? If you choose "optimize" he does a happy dance when he recovers 0MB of memory! Once I can log in again, I'll turn off and uninstall absolutely everything except the bare minimum I need (which includes Plex Server, of course), so I'm hoping that will fix these problems.
My NAS can act as a Time Machine backup for my Mac, but I really don't need that any more. All my data is stored in the cloud, so the only thing that would need to be replaced on my MacBook if it were destroyed are the apps, which I can just download from the developer again.
QNAP provides Apple File Services so I can access my NAS over my local network easily. Weirdly enough, you are required to install Windows File Services in order to install Apple File Services, but (luckily) you can kill the Windows File Services after installation to save precious memory and everything seems to work fine.
Speaking of memory... QNAP is happy to sell you more, but they charge outrageous pricing for the stuff. I mean laughably outrageous pricing. Far better to buy it yourself (which I'm guessing I'll have to do sometime soon if killing apps don't work).
Remote management and access to my files is a breeze thanks to QNAP's tools and a service they call CloudLink. The NAS talks with QNAP so even though its IP address may change, you can still reach it with no trouble.
I am still relatively new to the QNAP TS451+ NAS and the Western Digital RED drives, so I can't comment much about them. I can say that Western Digital are the only brand of hard drive that hasn't disappointed me so I'm hoping that trend continues. Also, despite the shitty media center aspects and overly-difficult controls, QNAP is highly respected in the IT industry. I just wouldn't bother paying extra for an HDMI port and remote that you will probably never use because their software is shit. Put that money towards a Plex Pass where it will do some good.
Posted on December 31st, 2019
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
Last year losing my mom was the worst year of my life. This year couldn't help but be better by comparison. But I lost one of my oldest, dearest friends right off the bat, so now I'm horrified at what 2020 may have in store. I guess I've reached the stage of my life where it's all tragedy and loss from here on out? Lord, I hope not.
• Took a look at Schitt's Creek, one of the best TV shows ever...
Took a look at the Seattle Tunnel... and the horrible design of the new spaces it will allow.
• Built a magnificent photo wall in my stairwell...
• Experienced Poster Raising with the Amish...
• Converted another batch more DVDs and Blu-Rays to digital... and explained how you can do it too.
• Wished Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one of my favorite ball players, a happy retirement...
• Dedicated a post to Mufasa, Jake's toy lion, his favorite thing in the universe...
• Lamented the fact that SeaTac International Airport is still a shitpile of fail, even when they build something new.
• Watched as my home keeps getting invaded by trash pandas.
• Spent my 101st Caturday taking inventory of the cats in my neighborhood...
• Watched the funniest stand-up of the year with Nate Bargatze's The Tennessee Kid (highest possible recommendation if you have Netflix)...
• Took Jake back to the vet after he ended up sick again. Still amazed that the little guy can't meow ever... EXCEPT when he is in distress...
• Found out the reason Jake was sick was because he fell off the stairwell banister. Absolutely heartbreaking (and more than a little scary), but he recovered like a champ...
• Built a bannister ledge tray to keep my cats from falling down the stairwell again...
• Talked about the series of travel books I made for my mom to commemorate each of the trips we took together...
• Shared my thoughts on the fucking disaster that was the Game of Thrones final season...
• Once again shared a video on how tax brackets work because I am sick and tired of people believing the bullshit lies that are being propagated. I honestly don't know if this is the best way, but if we're going to discuss tax brackets let's at least be informed as to what they are. And with that in mind, here we go again...
• Said goodbye to Grant, an internet friend who will be sorely missed.
• A visit to the Chihuly Garden of Glass, a magical place crafted by one of my favorite living artists...
• Spent my lazy summer days floating down a river...
• Finally cut the cord and got rid of the toxic mess that my satellite television had become.
• Ooh... Upgrades (a process that is ongoing, by the way!).
• I have opinions. And they get me in trouble by all sides.
• Back in Vegas for the third? Fourth? time in 2019 and decided to take stock of my one-time Planet Hollywood obsession...
• Got to see Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty...
• Discovered the total magic of my favorite new thing... THE IMPOSSIBLE WHOPPER at Burger King...
• Got myself an Apple Card... an interesting beast to be sure.
• My obligatory Apple Card unboxing entry...
• Total outrage that Hallmark can't seem to ever get the details right.
• Jake and Jenny's cat personality analysis...
• Hell of a Day, Isn’t It? Talked about what happens when you lose that person you share an inside joke with.
• Impressed the internet when I joined in on the SHOW US A PHOTO OF YOUR KITCHEN CABINET meme...
• Shared my brief attempt at being a home designer.
• Put my iPhone 11 Pro through it's paces... and shared my thoughts in it's incredible camera capabilities...
• Took my iPhone 11 Pro camera for a spin in my favorite American city.
• Ranting against changing the clocks because it fucks up my cats like nothing else... and the quail are back...
• Flew to Minneapolis so I could experience Avengers: Damage Control in real-live kinda virtual reality...
• Caring for somebody with dementia involves telling lies and making decisions.
• Disney+ finally debuted with a slew of watchable stuff to occupy time I don't have.
• Get Angry, Then Laugh... same as it ever was... same as it ever was.
• And, oh yeah, I joined the Instant Pot cult!
• Finally replaced my dying MacBook Pro... with a MacBook Pro...
• Let's take a Very Special edition of Caturday to talk about how technology helps Fake Jake survives the winter!
And there you have it... my 2019 year in review.
Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through even the worst of times.
Here's to a good 2020, everybody.
Posted on December 22nd, 2019
The holidays are nigh but there's still something to be happy about, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Movies? Does anybody at Apple actually use their shit? Because not a damn day goes by that I don't find bugs or serious problems. Just now it's trying to find a movie in the TV app. But everything is so fucked up that you really can't. Even worse? When you try to browse for it by selecting "movies," they show you a bunch of shit THAT ARE NOT EVEN FUCKING MOVIES...
Such a waste of time. iTunes may have sucked, but at least it wasn't a useless pile of shit.
• Remember. It's weird watching this and knowing EXACTLY what's happening. Not remembering, but not wanting to admit you don't remember. Not understanding, but being polite and pretending anyway. Not having any clarity of who, what, when, and where, but dismissing your confusion. Then an occasional moment where the dots connect and there's a spark of... something... in their eyes...
Hardest days of my life.
• a-ha! No, it's not as refined as the version that came after... but it's still a brilliant, beautiful, haunting song here...
It's so sad to me that a-ha is considered a one-hit wonder when they had so many remarkable songs following Take on Me. That first album is brilliant. But so are the ones which followed.
• Cuteness. I could spend hours watching raccoon videos on YouTube. I'm trying to cut down, but... man... BABY raccoons...
Nature is so amazing that it hurts.
• Retirement? Reality is a harsh mistress...
The future is scary, yo.
• Transcript? I'm just... it's just... I mean...
WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK?!? The transcript LITERALLY PROVES THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP IS GUILTY. If everybody willing to testify says he is guilty... and everybody who says he's innocent refuses to testify... doesn't that say ANYTHING about what's happening here? Does the truth even matter? Talk about reality being a harsh mistress. The future is terrifying, yo.
• Mystery. How Wrabel manages to keep churning out such beautiful work song after song after song is a mystery. This is a Christmas song for heaven's sake!
Happy Christmas, if that's your thing!
Have a great holiday...
Posted on December 12th, 2019
On Friday I was walking through a parking lot to the mini-mart when a car came bombing around a corner and hit me. I was knocked down and my keys and iPhone went flying. They weren't driving terribly fast... but it was way too fast for a parking lot and totally fast enough to knock me off my feet.
The screen protector on my iPhone was shattered. But when I removed it the iPhone was in flawless condition. Since nothing was broken (including me) I told them to be more careful and slow down, then went on with my life.
Alas, the next morning my iPhone display was "banding" (there were dark stripes going across the display). Later in the evening my display was getting progressively dark and when I woke up on Sunday it was completely black.
I am still traumatized from the heinous fucking treatment I had to endure courtesy of Apple "Support" when I attempted to make a claim on my AppleCare+ insurance plan... so it will be a while before I'm ready to blog about that bullshit. But I absolutely will. Suffice to say that Apple "Support" is made of 100% asshole, still, and the number of times I heard "There's nothing I can do!" from "support" leads was staggering. Which means either A) They are lying for whatever reason, or B) Apple management doesn't empower their leads with the power to do
Eventually I did FINALLY manage to get my phone replaced and it arrived today.
Setting up a replacement iPhone is blissfully effortless. You log in to iCloud and restore from a backup. BLAM! You're done.
Except... not so much.
After my email accounts transfered over, I had the same error THAT I HAD A YEAR AGO when I got a new phone. The same error THAT I HAD THREE MONTHS AGO when I got a new phone.
A message pops up which says "CANNOT VERIFY SERVER IDENTITY"...
You click "Details" and the pop-up disappears but nothing happens.
You click "Cancel" and the pop-up disappears but nothing happens.
Then the dialog box comes back over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over AND FUCKING OVER AGAIN! And it simply will not stop no matter what you do. Every five seconds it comes back.
When you search through Apple's knowledgebase, you'll see that this bug has been discussed SINCE TWO-THOUSAND-FUCKING-SIXTEEN! It's been around and been reported FOR THREE DAMN YEARS! And Apple won't do fucking shit to fix it. Your ONLY option is to delete your email account and start over. Which means that migrating your email accounts is essentially useless. How damn hard is it to have the "Details" button bring up a sheet where you can choose to "trust" the server?
I guess Apple has bigger fish to fry.
Like ensuring that their "support" team treats their customers like shit.
Posted on December 9th, 2019
And so I have a new MacBook Pro. At last.
My joy from the new machine's arrival is tempered by the horrific treatment I've experienced from Apple's "support" lately (more on that long story later), but I've needed a new machine for so long that I'm trying to stay positive here.
There’s a lot to love about this laptop. In many ways, it’s everything I’ve been waiting for to replace my aging 15-inch 2012 MacBook Pro (which has been falling apart for years). And it’s so sexy in Space Grey color...
All is not perfect, however.
First of all, there’s no MagSafe power adapter. This magnetic plug (which would break away if you tripped over the power cord instead of pulling your MacBook off the table) was such a wonderful and revolutionary feature that Apple ran ads to announce it. Why they couldn’t have just one of the four USB-C ports be MagSafe is beyond me. I dread the idea of accidentally tripping over a cord and banging up my laptop so much that I bought a protective case for it. Something I have never done before. As if that wasn’t insult enough, the power brick doesn’t come with a power cord extension like every other Apple power brick has done. Irritating, but I think I have a few laying around from old power bricks, so no terrible loss. But wait... it gets worse! Not only does a new 96W USB-C power adapter also NOT come with an extension cord ($19 extra) it also DOESN’T EVEN COME WITH A CABLE! ($19 extra). This is categorically absurd, and further proof that Apple is intent on nickel-and-diming their way through your wallet.
Second of all, the laptop doesn’t have a “standard” USB-A plug nor does it have an SD card reader. And, of course, no adapter for either. All you get is four USB-C ports and a headphone jack (oh the irony). Period. Which means you’re carrying a pocket full of dongles (which Apple is happy to charge you for). Even more nickel-and-diming.
And now that the ugly is over... on with the show...
Much to my surprise, the physical size is identical to my MacBook Pro 15-inch from 2012 (14.35 x 9.82 x 0.6 inches). The weight actually drops from 5.5-lbs. to 4.3-lbs. but, to be honest, it doesn’t feel a pound lighter.
The Geekbench benchmark score for my old 2012 MacBook Pro (Intel i7 4-core at 2.7GHz) is 746, my new 2019 MacBook Pro (Intel Core i7 6-core at 2.6GHz) has a Geekbench score of 1033. This seems a disappointing bump after nearly 8 years, but when you consider that I bought the most expensive model available in 2012... and the cheapest model available in 2019... I’m actually quite happy with the increase I got! The RAM and SSD storage are the exact same specs (16GB, 500GB) which I am also happy about. I paid a lot more money for my 2012 MacBook Pro than this one I have now... so the fact that I have the same storage is pretty remarkable! I resisted the urge to max out my new laptop with 64GB RAM and 8TB of SSD storage. It costs over $6,000 (I checked).
Unlike the shitty and fragile “butterfly keyboards” that App forced on us for far too long, the new (old?) scissor keyboard is actually typeable. Yes, I wish there was just a touch more “travel” to the keys, but at least I can type at full speed without making more errors than correct words! If I'm being truly honest, I'd prefer the keyboard from my 2012 MacBook Pro. It's just so much more comfortable. But compared to what Apple was using prior to this? World of difference.
The “Touch Bar” is something I’ve been resistant to. Yes, the more I use it the more I love it, but I would honestly prefer to have my function keys back. That being said, for the apps which use the thing, it is very nice. So handy (Photoshop’s Touch Bar is ever so dreamy!). For apps where I need the function keys, I am slowly adjusting to having to hold down the “fn” keys to get them back. Maybe there’s a way to make function keys stay showing on an app-by-app basis, but I haven’t found that. Maybe there’s a 3rd party app for it.
Touch ID is something I was looking forward to. I hate, hate, hate typing passwords, so this should be a huge deal for me, right? Well... not really. For some functions, yes, Touch ID pops up and asks me to put my finger on the sensor. But a great deal of the time I am still being asked to type my password. In the past 6 hours of setting up this new machine, I've typed my Apple password dozens of times. So what the f#@& good is Touch ID then? When companies like Apple make a big showing of encouraging security by suggesting complex passwords, but then you have to actually remember and type those passwords, THEN NOBODY IS GOING TO USE COMPLEX PASSWORDS! Such bullshit. I thought Touch ID would be a very cool thing to have. For the most part it hasn’t been. This sucks. Once again Apple is saying one thing to appear like they have our interests at heart, but then doing something completely opposite.
Why Apple thinks that a trackpad this huge is necessary is a mystery. I am seeing no benefit to it. The smaller one on my old MacBook Pro was better for me. This big one feels "mushy." Click-dragging (and two-finger tapping), which I can’t imagine anybody living without, is still an “Accessibility” feature. It really should be with the rest of the trackpad options (or in both places). Alas, until I get used to the larger size, my hand has been “soft-clicking” for me and it’s really annoying... I may have to turn click-dragging off, which would be awful. And, if I can be all nitpicky, natural scrolling is still enabled by default... ugh.
Display resolution scales nicely... which is critical for people like me with aging eyes! My old MacBook Pro was set to a resolution of 1440 x 900. I have the new one magnified a bit at 1536 x 960. Visually it looks similar to what I was using, I just get a little bit extra real estate thanks to less bezel and more screen. Nice! Not only that, the display is frickin’ gorgeous! The best I’ve ever seen. And it’s bright too! This is the first Mac that I don’t have to put at full brightness in order to view the display comfortably.
The sound on this thing is really sweet in all the right ways. The bass is out of this world for a laptop. The difference in quality from my old MacBook Pro is really noticeable. There's nothing quite like blasting The Sun Always Shines on TV by a-ha and having it fill the room. Interesting to note that there’s a “popping sound bug” that Apple has acknowledged. I haven't noticed it, but apparently they are releasing a fix any minute now (or so I’ve read).
This laptop has a massive 100 watt-hour battery. It is rated 11 hours for regular tasks (ie not running massive Photoshop chores). After installing all my apps, I have been mostly just writing and surfing the internet. It's been about 4 hours. I have about 70% of my battery left, so this is probably accurate.
The cooling system is supposed to be robust. That may be the case, but I find the fans are running on high speed often enough to be noticeable. A lot. Like a lot a lot. More than even my 8-year-old MacBook running modern applications! This is a bit surprising. Is the processor really stressed this bad all the time? I mean, sure, some intensive operations in Photoshop I get... but typing an email? I think that all of my files have been indexed by Spotlight, so I’m not getting what’s happening. Hopefully it’s just some other background process from setup that will eventually calm down.
Setup is as easy as it gets. Seriously, if there’s one thing that Apple never stops improving on, it’s setting up a new Mac. iCloud settings are finally working like they should. Accounts transfer over effortlessly. Settings are all migrated. With the exception of waiting for my apps to download, Dropbox to sync, and email to load into Mail, I was up and running very quickly. So nice. Except... email account settings in Apple Mail don’t transfer over the Advanced Server Settings so you can establish a root folder. You have to adjust it yourself. Why? If everything else transfers over, why not this one simple setting? Regardless, I sure wish 3rd party apps would utilize syncing. It’s frustrating to have to import my spam database corpus for SpamSieve manually... load my MarsEdit settings manually... etc... etc... etc...
And that's that.
So far, anyway.
Without the noticeable downgrade of the keypad and the trackpad (and, to a lesser extend the upgrade of the display and the sound), this is essentially a repeat of my existing 8-year-old MacBook Pro. And that's the point. That's exactly what I wanted.
How often can you say that now-a-days?