Data Privacy Day

So I’ve been told that today is Data Privacy Day. In honor of that, I… got a haircut and cleaned my bathtub today. Seriously, I’ve had a lot of fairly mundane things to take care of today. But I did also want to do some computer maintenance, so I thought I’d try to continue with my effort to encrypt the hard drives on all my computers.

A few weeks ago, I turned on FileVault on my MacBook. That’s working well. It hasn’t noticeably slowed it down, nor has it gone horribly wrong and destroyed all my data.

So I thought that today, maybe I’d try to enable BitLocker on my ThinkPad. I didn’t get too far with that. Apparently, you need a TPM chip to use BitLocker, and I don’t have one of those. I did a little research, and you can enable it on a computer without TPM, but you need to store an encryption key on a flash drive, and insert it every time you boot up the computer. I don’t think I want to do that. It seems pretty risky and inconvenient. So I guess I’m going to put that idea aside until my next laptop.

I’ve also thought about enabling BitLocker on my desktop PC. That’s new enough that it probably has a TPM chip. But it also has a regular hard drive (not an SSD), and it’s a desktop PC. So there’s not as much risk of the drive being stolen, and there’s more of an issue with performance. So maybe I’ll put that idea aside too, at least until I replace the drive with an SSD (which I’m probably going to do at some point this year).

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about anti-virus software a bit more. Both of my PCs are now running with just Windows Defender. I’m a little uncomfortable with that. It’s still kind of hard for me to accept that I probably don’t need third-party anti-virus software anymore. One thing that’s made it a little easier to accept is this blog post from a former Firefox developer, and some discussion about it on Slashdot and Hacker News. It’s really sounding like the consensus is that the MS anti-virus software is not only “good enough,” but probably better in many ways than the third-party options.

How Social Isolation Is Killing Us

This is an interesting article, though the title may be a bit overblown.

I need to do more to maintain my relationships, both for my own sake and for the sake of those around me. That second part is easy to forget; it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own bubble and forget that other people around you need help and support.

A great paradox of our hyper-connected digital age is that we seem to be drifting apart. Increasingly, however, research confirms our deepest intuition: Human connection lies at the heart of human well-being. It’s up to all of us — doctors, patients, neighborhoods and communities — to maintain bonds where they’re fading, and create ones where they haven’t existed.

Source: How Social Isolation Is Killing Us

Philip Roth on Trump

Coincidentally, after reading a fairly old New Yorker article about Philip Roth over the weekend, and blogging about it, I saw today that the New Yorker reached out to Roth for comment on Trump, and any similarity between the Trump administration and the fictional Lindbergh administration from his novel “The Plot Against America.” He has a few interesting things to say, though nothing particularly unexpected.

I’m still curious about “The Plot Against America.” I’m going to have to pick it up and read it at some point.

Almost Enough Art

I was reading this article about Philip Roth this morning, and a couple of lines jumped out at me.

First, this one from a letter from Saul Bellow:

There’s almost enough art to cover the deadly griefs with. Not quite, though. There are always gaps.

And the other, from Roth’s character Zuckerman, in his novel Exit Ghost:

It’s a flexible instrument that we’ve inherited. It’s amazing how much punishment we can take.

(I found this line also quoted in a short essay by Greil Marcus from 2007, which is a good read today, for perspective.)

I’m presenting these lines without much context, but hopefully, you get the idea. (And not the wrong idea. I’m not currently experiencing any “deadly griefs.”) Anyway, It occurs to me that I should really give Philip Roth a try. I’ve never quite gotten up the energy to choose one of his novels over, say, a nice Star Trek novel or Batman comic. Maybe I should start with something like The Plot Against America. I do generally like alternate history novels, though I’d imagine there’s going to be some difference between Harry Turtledove and Philip Roth.

C# source code analysis

Something came up at work today that got me thinking about source code analysis tools. Since I’m currently working on two C# projects, both of which are close to done and working reasonably well, I decided that maybe it would be cool to try running some source code analysis tools against them and see if there was anything I could clean up.

I started with something fairly simple: StyleCop. I installed the Visual Studio extension for it, ran it and went through the results. It found a ton of stuff, much of which I didn’t entirely agree with. But it did find quite a few things that made sense to me, so I cleaned them all up. With the VS extension, StyleCop only identifies issues; it doesn’t do any automated fixes. And it’s not doing any deep analysis; it’s just finding stuff like issues with naming conventions, missing comment headers, too much or too little whitespace, and similar style issues. But I’m a sucker for that stuff, and I like my code to be consistent with accepted conventions (for the most part).

I also looked at CodeMaid, which looks like it does a lot of stuff that’s similar to StyleCop, but it also automates fixing the issues. I didn’t get around to trying it, but I’d like to play with it when I get a chance. It’s open source, so I can try it without having to worry about spending any money.

I’ve been aware of some of the fancier commercial tools for a long time. Specifically, ReSharper and CodeRush. I’m curious about them, but they’re both too expensive for me to really justify. If I ever find myself in a job where I’m doing a lot more C# work than I’m doing now, and I have a budget to work with, I’ll try one of those.

Evernote 8.0 for iOS

Evernote just released a new version of their iOS client, version 8.0. It’s a pretty big redesign. Over the last few years, I’ve generally found that any time a company does a big redesign on their iOS app, I’m disappointed with it. So I was prepared for this update to really annoy me. But it’s not that bad. It is actually a little easier to use than the old one, for some common use cases. And they haven’t taken away any key functionality.

The one thing that does bug me about it is that you can’t change the color scheme any more. The redesign uses a pretty simple black-on-white scheme (with a little green). I’d like it if they at least added a dark theme. But that’s a minor issue.

Reaction to the update has been mixed. The Verge says “Evernote’s redesign is too little, too late.” (The review is positive, regarding the update, but negative, regarding everything else Evernote has done lately.) TNW says “Evernote is still dead to me, but the iOS app looks better than ever.” (So, again, positive about the update and negative about Evernote in general.) Both of those reviewers like Bear as an alternative. If I was at all unhappy with Evernote (and also didn’t need a Windows client) I’d consider Bear.

thinking about comics again

I’ve gotten back into the habit of buying comics regularly again, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. A couple of articles I’ve read recently have gotten me thinking a bit more deeply about whether or not I want to continue picking up books weekly from my local comic shop. I thought it might be useful to list out all of my options here. (I don’t know if this will be an interesting blog post or not, but it might help me make up my mind.)

First, there’s the option of continuing to pick up books off the rack, weekly, from my local comic shop. Advantages to this approach:

  1. Convenience. (The shop is practically right across the street from my apartment.)
  2. Flexibility. (I can choose whether or not to buy a particular book right in the store.)
  3. I’m supporting my local comic shop, and that’s a nice thing to do.

Disadvantages include:

  1. I have to go the shop every week, or I risk missing a book if it sells out.
  2. My local shop doesn’t have a good selection of independent comics. They mostly just stock Marvel, DC, and Image.

So my next option would be to keep using my local shop, but switch over to a pull list. The main advantage here is that I don’t necessarily have to come in every Wednesday, and there’s less risk that I’ll miss a book if I do. But managing a pull list can be a hassle, and there’s no guarantee that the store will actually pull the books I ask them to. And I lose some flexibility; if I decide to drop a book, I really need to tell them in advance.

Another option is to switch back to Westfield, or a similar mail-order subscription service. Advantages:

  1. Convenience. (Place one monthly order. Books show up at my apartment.)
  2. Selection. (Westfield has a pretty good selection of independent comics in addition to the stuff from the bigger publishers.)

The main disadvantage is that I’d be ordering stuff a few months in advance of release. So if I realize that I don’t like a book, I’ll already have the next two or three issues on order, and I’ll be stuck with them. The other disadvantage is that I’m no longer supporting my local shop. (Oh, and another problem is that Westfield is realy only cost-effective if you’re buying a fair number of books. Right now, I am. But if I wanted to cut back, I’d probably have to quit Westfield again.)

Yet another option would be to switch to digital, and buy all my books from Comixology. That’s quite convenient, since I don’t have to order in advance, I don’t have to worry about books selling out, and I don’t have a bunch of physical comic books piling up in my apartment. The downside is, again, that I’m not supporting my local store. (Instead, I’m supporting Amazon, and honestly they’re already getting plenty of my money.) And also I’d be paying full-price for DRM-locked copies of my books.

And of course, I can just stop buying the regular monthly books altogether, and go back to what I’ve been doing for the last few years: buying stuff from Comixology when it’s on sale, and buying trade paperbacks (also when they’re on sale, usually). There are a lot of advantages to going this way:

  1. Cost. I can save a lot of money buying books only when I can get them for 99 cents on Comixology, and only buying trades when I can get a discount on them.
  2. Easier to keep things organized.
  3. A better reading experience. (I’m buying stuff in large chunks, getting a whole story at once, and generally only buying stuff that got good reviews, and that I know I’ll like.)

So I guess that writing all this down helped a bit, but I still haven’t made up my mind. I want to support my local shop, but I don’t think it’s a moral imperative that I do so. And I like the ritual of going in once a week, saying hi ot the owner, scanning the racks, and all that stuff.

It’s possible that I’ll lose interest in the DC universe, once this whole Batman/Flash/Watchmen thing kicks in. If that happens, then this whole problem sorts itself out naturally, since I’m really only buying DC books right now. So maybe I should keep to my current habits for a few more months and see what happens.

command line follow-up

As a little follow-up to my recent post about command-line stuff in Windows, here’s an InfoWorld article about the popularity of Microsoft’s Linux Subsystem. I still haven’t really used it much, but I like it a lot. As the article mentions, there are a lot of fixes coming in the next Windows Insider build, so that’s a good sign. I hope it’s something that they’re going to continue to support and eventually move out of beta.

I really wish I could use it at work, but my work PC and laptop are Windows 7, and all my VMs are various slightly-outdated versions of Windows Server.

And as if running bash on Windows wasn’t confusing enough, I could also run PowerShell on my Mac. But, yeah, I think that would be too weird.


Snow Day

It snowed yesterday, and it’s been very cold yesterday and today, so I’ve spent most of the weekend at home, where it’s nice and warm. And I got a little bit of computer maintenance done.

On my MacBook, I finally got around to turning on FileVault. I’d never done that before, out of fear that it would slow things down too much and/or cause data corruption issues. But it’s been around for long enough now that it’s likely pretty solid, and I don’t think it’ll slow things down too much. I turned it on this morning, and it’s still encrypting the drive. I’m not sure how long it’ll take, since the time estimate has been jumping around a lot, but I think it’ll be done by tomorrow if I leave it going overnight.

My desktop PC, a Dell XPS 8900, just hit its first anniversary. I bought it a year ago, so the one-year McAfee LiveSafe subscription just expired. I checked the renewal price on it, and it would have been $65, so I said no to that, and uninstalled it. I then turned on the default Windows Defender software. I’m curious as to whether this will speed things up or not. The PC is usually reasonably fast, but it does seem to bog down at times for no discernible reason.

I also finally got around to installing bash on my desktop PC. I’d installed it on my ThinkPad some time ago. I still haven’t done much with it though. One of these days I should sit down with my laptop and my PDF of Learning the bash Shell and see if I can brush up on my bash skills, and maybe learn a few new tricks.