Weird Al on the presidential debate

I don’t usually post about politics, but I feel like I need to write something today, just to maybe mark a few odd items, for posterity:

  1. Weird Al’s reaction to last night’s presidential debate was silly and made me feel a little better about the whole thing. (Not a lot better, but a little.) The fact that it’s posted on the NY Times site makes it a little weirder, but somehow even better. It amuses me to think about the editorial process that led someone to decide that Weird Al was the right guy to go to for reaction to a presidential debate.
  2. In less amusing news, my House rep, Tom Malinowski, is getting death threats from QAnon, after a misleading press release and ad from Republicans. Here’s a Post story on the ad, and here’s an opinion piece on his opponent’s refusal to address the issue at all. I’ve donated a few bucks to Malinowski’s campaign on a couple of occasions, and I really do think that he’s a good guy. I’m sure he’s not perfect, but he comes off as smart, serious, competent, and concerned about his constituents.

I thought I had an item #3 for that list, but I’m exhausted now, just thinking about the election.

Meditation Progress

It’s probably overkill to be posting an update on my progress with meditation, since my last post on the subject was less than a week ago. But I’m trying to stick with it, and obsessing about it a little. Obsessing about something that’s supposed to help me calm down and relax is probably counter-productive, but it’s my way. I managed to meditate four times last week, for about 10 minutes each time. I finished the meditation essentials series in the Meditation Studio app.

I think I have a basic idea of how this stuff works now, but I don’t quite feel like I’m ready to just set a timer and sit quietly yet. And I’m not sure if I want to continue with the Meditation Studio app. So I’m trying a different app now, Insight Timer. I started their seven-day intro course today. I’m guessing it’s going to go over a lot of the same ideas I’ve already gone through in Meditation Studio, but the point is just to have something to reinforce the basics as I try to establish the habit.

There’s a lot of content in Insight Timer, but it’s a pretty messy app, in some ways. But it works. It’s a free app, and has a lot of free content. There’s an interesting post on Medium from the current owner of the app. I hope his approach to generating income from it works. In a nutshell, he’s not trying to switch everybody to a paid subscription. He’s offering a couple of features, like offline listening, as relatively inexpensive subscriptions. And he’s offering some content for sale, via one-time purchase. So I think I can probably use the app for free for now, without any worries. If I want to pay for features and/or content later, I can, but I don’t have to worry about ponying up for a one-year subscription any time soon.

U2 Mastered, Remastered, Deluxe, Confused

Since I got interested in U2 again recently, I’ve started looking into their history of remastering and reissuing their older albums over the last decade. It looks like they remastered and reissued a few old albums in 2008. And they’ve continued to remaster and reissue a handful of other old albums over the years, generally including a “deluxe” format release, usually a 2 CD version with bonus tracks. The most recent reissue is this year’s Joshua Tree. There are four different versions of that: single disc, 2 CD, 4 CD, and 7 LP. (So they maybe overdid that one…) For the older reissues, the deluxe versions are sometimes still available on CD and sometimes not.

Looking at Amazon’s U2 page is a little frustrating. They’re clearly pushing the digital side of things. The deluxe two-disc versions of their first three albums (Boy, October, and War) are all available to stream, which is cool, but I don’t see them available on CD, though I may not be looking hard enough. (The single-disc versions are definitely still available on CD.)

In iTunes, they have a nicely organized U2 page. All (or most) of their studio albums are available in Mastered for iTunes versions. I looked into that a bit, and they seem to have been released earlier this year. And all of the deluxe versions are in there too, though those ones don’t have the “Mastered for iTunes” badge on them. So I’m wondering if those versions use the MFiT files for disc 1 and the older files for disc 2, or if they just didn’t update those at all.

I went down a bit of a hole this morning, reading up on the whole Mastered for iTunes thing. I’d read about it a bit when they first announced it, but haven’t paid much attention to it. Ars Technica has a couple of good articles on it, from 2012, one on the general concept, and one evaluating the end result. I’ve wondered if there’s any advantage to buying MFiT albums from iTunes vs buying the CDs from Amazon and ripping them myself, and I guess I’m still not sure. I probably don’t have fancy enough equipment (or good enough ears) to tell the difference, so I probably shouldn’t worry about it.

But I have noticed that I don’t like the sound quality on some of the older CDs that I’ve ripped recently, including U2’s October and War. I can’t quite figure out if I should buy new versions of those albums, re-rip my CDs with different settings, or just give up and live with it. I definitely don’t want to go too far down an audiophile rabbit hole that ends with me buying a bunch of new stereo equipment! I don’t currently own a working component CD player though, and that makes it a bit harder for me to narrow things down. I keep forgetting that I can play CDs through my PlayStation 3, though, and that’s routed through my main stereo system, so maybe I should give that a try, and compare the sound to MP3s played through my Volumio box.

Windows Update woes

I have a work laptop that I don’t actually use that often. For security reasons, we can only VPN in from a company-controlled machine, though, so if I want to be able to VPN in from home at all, I need a company-issued laptop.

I try to remember to bring it in to work with me at least once a month, so I can log in to my domain account, pull down Windows Updates, virus definitions, and so on. Well, when I brought it in recently, I noticed that it wasn’t pulling down any updates, and hadn’t since July. So I started troubleshooting. It turns out that Windows Update is still pretty opaque (though there is a log file you can look at). I found a lot of advice about how to kick-start the update process and get it going again, but I didn’t find anything that applied to my situation and worked.

Eventually, I gave up and sent an email to our help desk. Now, obviously, this isn’t a critical issue, so I didn’t get a quick response. But I did get a response eventually, with a question, which I answered. Then, when I didn’t get any follow-up response, and I had a little downtime, I decided to poke around a bit more. (That was probably a mistake.)

I saw in the update history that a few updates had failed back in June. There were some successful ones in July, though, so I wasn’t sure that was the problem. But I decided that maybe rolling back to a system restore point from back in June might get me back to a stable point, from which I could get updates going again.

I did that, but then found myself getting this exciting error message: “The trust relationship between this workstation and the primary domain failed.” So rolling back so far basically broke the link between the laptop and Active Directory. When I searched for that error, I was surprised to see a recent blog post from Raymond Chen about it. His blog often has some interesting and fun stuff on it. And the comments are often pretty interesting too.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have adequate rights to remove and re-join my laptop from our domain, so I handed it off to one of our support techs, so now it’s his problem, but I feel a little guilty about it for some reason. It feels kind of weird to be working for an organization where I don’t have admin rights to anything, after my long stint at a previous employer, where I had admin rights to everything. Here, I can’t join a machine to a domain, nor can I look at our WSUS server to see what’s going on. But, heck, I probably shouldn’t be messing with that stuff anyway at this stage in my career, right?


I set up RemoMail on my phone today. Since I got the new Motorola SLVR a while ago, I’ve been looking around at reasonably affordable and workable ways to read e-mail on the phone. The Mobile Web 2.0 service for which I’m paying Verizon $5/month allows you to check HotMail, AOL, and Yahoo mail pretty easily. I do have a Yahoo account, but I get about 100 spam e-mails per day to that account, and only about 80% of them get filtered properly, so I pretty much gave up on that account. I’ve also got a HotMail account, but I really don’t use that one either. I do use Gmail, and you can check that from Mobile Web by just going to the Gmail site, but it’s pretty ugly.

There are a few other ways to check e-mail on the SLVR. One would be to use Verizon’s wireless sync software, which looks nice but costs $20/month. RemoMail, on the other hand, only costs $2/month, which is a bit more reasonable.

I looked around for reviews of RemoMail this morning, and I found a few things, but nothing really detailed, so I thought I’d write some stuff up, in case anyone else is interested. First, I should say that everything I write here is specific to RemoMail on the SLVR, via Verizon’s “Get It Now” function. It may look and/or behave differently on other phones. That said, here are some observations.

RemoMail allows you to configure up to 7 e-mail accounts. (I’ve seen indications that other versions of the software allow either 5 or 10 accounts, but the help file for mine states 7.) It can access your mail via POP or IMAP. It also has an interesting feature that allows you to access Domino or Exchange e-mail via what appears to be screen-scraping from the web interface for either product. It has setup options for a number of standard e-mail services (Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, etc), but it seems like these are just consolidating some of the standard things you’d need to fill in for POP access — it’s not actually doing anything different to access, say, Gmail, vs any other POP mail account.

I’ve set up three e-mail accounts in RemoMail. The first would be my Gmail account. I’m not really enthusiastic about the way this works — it’s just standard POP access, so you get everything that comes in to the mailbox. Even if you’ve moved something out of your inbox on the web, you’ll still see it on RemoMail.

I also set up my .Mac account, using the IMAP option. This works well, since I keep my inbox pretty clean on .Mac, and that’s all IMAP is going to look at, unless you tell it to look at another folder.

I set up my work Lotus Domino e-mail account too, and that seems to work well. I mentioned above that the program uses an interesting way to pick up Domino mail. Rather than trying to get to it through IMAP or POP, it instead asks for the URL for your webmail site, and gets to it that way. That’s probably a good workaround for people who don’t have much control over their Domino server — most admins will have enabled webmail, but they might not enable IMAP or POP. (I checked the server log on my Domino server, and the program doesn’t seem to do anything crazy when it attaches to the webmail page. It just logs on as a user would and apparently parses some info out of the page that comes back.)

RemoMail is not a push e-mail solution; you have to launch the application, and check each of your e-mail accounts separately. Also, it does not appear to store any mail on your device between program sessions. So, basically, this is just a solution for doing a quick scan of your e-mail remotely, and maybe sending some quick replies. When you check an account, the program goes online and pulls down headers for 5 messages. (I think this is configurable from 3 to 10, assuming I understand the options screen correctly.) Then, you can select any individual e-mail and pull down the body text. You can’t download or view attachments, and you can only get “100 lines” of text, according to the RemoMail FAQ. The e-mail body is displayed in a nice readable font. There’s no support for HTML e-mail, but it seems to do an OK job of displaying the text from an HTML message.

Overall, I’d say it’s a good program for occasional use, just to take a quick scan through your e-mail and see if there are any fires you need to put out.