Post-Thanksgiving notes

It hasn’t been a great Thanksgiving weekend, but of course I know things are better for me than they are for… most people, I guess. I’m getting over a cold, which is pretty normal for me at this time of year, so that limits what I can do a bit.

I had a quiet Thanksgiving at home. I didn’t really do anything special. There was plenty of football on TV, including the Giants vs. Dallas game, so I spent most of my time watching football.

I took Black Friday off from work. I did a bunch of random stuff, including updating my MacBook to Ventura. That was pretty simple and painless. I haven’t had any problems with Ventura at all. I started reading The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross. It’s been quite a while since i read a Laundry Files novel.  I read the previous one in 2017. I’m enjoying this one so far. I watched My Father’s Dragon on Netflix, and finished watching Rings of Power on Amazon. The only big Black Friday purchase I made was Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy on Blu-ray.

Yesterday, I did all my usual Saturday chores, then spent the afternoon watching TV, first Enola Holmes 2 on Netflix, then DuckTales season 3 on Disney+. They started in with the Christmas music on Main St. yesterday too. That started around noon and ran until around 7 PM, I think. The main reason I was watching so much TV was because I needed to drown out the music. It seems to be louder this year than it has been in previous years. And it’s definitely setting me on edge, as it usually does. I’m really not capable of listening to Christmas music anymore without getting twitchy.

For today, I spent some time this morning just reading quietly. Now that it’s past noon, and the music has started up again, I guess I’ll spend the rest of the day watching football and/or DuckTales to drown it out.

Then back to work tomorrow. It occurs to me that, since I’m still working from home three days a week, I’ll have to put up with Christmas music on weekdays too now. I guess I did that last year, and lived through it, so I can do it again this year. (That’s assuming they’re playing the Christmas music on both weekdays and weekends. I’ll find out if that’s true tomorrow.)

Overall, I feel like it’s going to be a tricky holiday season for me. I need to make sure I have some reasonable and healthy coping mechanisms in place. (Football and cartoons count as “healthy coping mechanisms,” right? How about brownies?)

Shuffling iPads

It’s Thanksgiving here in the USA, and I have nothing to do, so I’m going to spend some time this morning writing a rambling blog post about iPads.

I have a company-owned iPad, that I got back in 2016. It was originally supposed to be for testing a project that we thought would be accessed on iPads. That project kinda fizzled out. Or at least the iPad idea did. I think they decided to just use Surface laptops for it. Either way, I kept the iPad.

I’ve used it for different stuff over the years. At this point, I’m using it as a quick way to access company email and MS Teams at home, when my laptop is turned off. Teams has kinda turned into a work phone replacement for us now too. Nobody ever uses our internal phone system anymore, since we’re all on hybrid schedules. Everyone just uses Teams audio to call. So it’s convenient for that.

Of course, it’s not really necessary; I can always access email and Teams on my laptop. But I can’t leave my laptop on and connected to VPN 24/7, and it takes so long to boot it up and go through all the connection stuff that I would never check my email or Teams in my off-hours if I had to do it that way. So the iPad is kinda necessary, if I want to be accessible outside my normal work schedule. And it’s really useful for picking up a Teams call even during work hours.

But it’s from 2016, and is too old to be upgraded to iPadOS 16. And that should be fine, since iPadOS 15 is fine, and Apple is still releasing security updates for it. But my company uses Microsoft Intune to manage mobile devices, and I started getting emails recently telling me that I had to update it to 16.1.1. Initially, it looked like they had backed off on that and would support 15.7.1. But then I started getting the email notices from Intune again, and support confirmed that they would only allow iPadOS 16. (As a side note, I suspect that they could probably support both, but just don’t want to…)

So my initial plan here was just to trade in the old iPad for a new company-owned one. My boss approved that, but the mobile support guy told me that the company does not issue iPads, only iPhones. I could have gone down a rabbit hole here, arguing my case, or trying to find a way to get one through our internal Apple sales team. (We resell a lot of Apple devices, so I could have probably wrangled a slightly damaged customer return or something like that.) But I decided that would be an uphill battle, and it would just be easier to buy one myself.

My initial plan was to buy myself a new iPad for personal use, then repurpose my current personal iPad as a work iPad. That seemed like a good idea, but, looking at new iPads, I saw that I’d have to spend around $600 on an iPad that was equivalent or better than the one I have now, and I didn’t really want to do that. I eventually settled on buying a “scratch and dent” 2019 iPad from Woot for $200.

So now I have a 2019 7th gen iPad for work, and a 2019 iPad Air for personal use. Hopefully, both of them will keep working for awhile.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time setting up the new work iPad yesterday. The “easy” setup method, where you put the old iPad next to the new iPad, and the setup process tries to copy stuff over via Bluetooth (or whatever) got stuck. I gave it a few hours, and it didn’t time out or give me any errors, but it clearly wasn’t working. I eventually gave up and set it up as a new iPad, and then updated it to iPadOS 16.

I then had to go through the bureaucracy necessary to get it enrolled in Intune. That wasn’t too bad, though I did have to open a support ticket, since it didn’t work the first time I tried. And they haven’t removed the old iPad from Intune, so I’m still getting stern warning emails about updating it to iPadOS 16.

I’m wondering what I should do with the old iPad now, since they told me that they don’t want it back. It’s still in perfect working order, except for not being upgradeable to iPadOS 16. I guess I should just hand it in to Apple for recycling, but maybe I can find someone who wants a free iPad.

Messing with this stuff has also got me thinking again about the semi-permeable membrane between personal stuff and work stuff. It’s funny how that distinction has gotten blurred over the years, with BYOD programs and WFH, but how it’s now getting more distinct, with all the security measures we’ve been putting in place lately. Intune enforces a bunch of requirements now, such that I would never want to enroll my personal-use iPad or iPhone in the company MDM program. I use a separate iCloud account for the company iPad, and I’m really leery about doing anything with a personal account on a company device or vice versa nowadays.

So I guess I’ve succeeded in writing a long and rambling blog post on iPads, and can now get up and go out for a walk. It was a little below freezing when I started writing this, and is now a little above freezing, so I guess it’s warm enough for a walk now.

Router and iPhone Follow-up

A few follow-up notes on my new iPhone and new router:

The iPhone is working well. Setting up MS Authenticator was a pain, as I knew it would be. Other than that, very few problems. My trade-in seems to have worked out. I just checked my Apple Card, and I see a $149 credit from yesterday, so that must be the trade-in. (There was a weird thing last week where it looked like they charged me $149 instead of crediting me $149, but I guess that was a temporary glitch.) I’m glad that this got done before end of month, since this means my Apple Card statement for September will include the credit.

As for iOS 16, I haven’t done much with it. I did create a custom home screen, but it’s just the astronomy one, with the moon showing, and a single weather widget. So nothing fancy.

I hooked up my new router today. That went pretty smoothly, except for one big issue. I have about 16 different wireless devices on my network, and I had no trouble with any of them except for my Sonos speakers. I jumped through a lot of hoops to try to get them working. Long story short, they eventually did, after doing a router reboot. But there was a lot of mucking around before I got to that point.

I did a before & after speed test, on my iPhone, and the new router seems to be a little faster than the old one (116 Mbps down vs 94). But of course there are a lot of variables there, so who knows if that means anything.

So that’s about it for today. Nothing too exciting. Time to watch some for football.

A Busy Day

As previously mentioned, I got my COVID booster shot today. I also picked up my new iPhone 14 from CVS, though I had to make a separate trip for that, since it hadn’t arrived yet when I went for the booster. I guess the phone had gone back to the depot on Friday, then sat there all weekend, then got put on a truck this morning for delivery to CVS. Sigh. Well, I’ve got it now, so all is well.

This booster is my fifth shot, overall. The last shot was in April. I’m hoping I don’t get any side-effects from this one, since I’ve got a pretty busy week at work, and I don’t want to have to take a sick day. (But I will if I need to.)

The iPhone setup was relatively easy. I think the only major thing I still need to do is the MS Authenticator setup, which I’ve previously complained about. I’ll try to do that in the office tomorrow, where I’ll have access to my work desktop PC and my office phone, just in case any of my accounts still have the office phone number as a backup. I’m anticipating that’ll take about an hour.

Meanwhile, I had also ordered a new router this weekend, and that showed up today. I ordered this one, from Amazon. It was $80. I didn’t do a ton of research, bit it seems to be a successor to one that had been recommended by Wirecutter. I also found a good CNET review of it. I don’t have much to say about it yet, since it’s still in the box, and will likely remain there until this weekend.

I bought my current router in 2017, so it was time for a new one. The old one still works, but it doesn’t support some of the more modern features and standards. Honestly, I haven’t kept up with all that stuff, so I couldn’t even tell you which ones are which, at this point, but I know I was time for a new router. So I’ll try to get that set up over the weekend, probably, and I’ll have more to say about it then.

On another subject, there are a lot of changes going on at my job right now, and it looks like one of them may snowball into a pretty big change for me. (Or not. Hard to tell.) Either way, I think I need to learn a lot more about Dynamics 365 and Power Platform and stuff like that. I’ve made some efforts at learning that stuff in the past, but I never wind up actually working on anything real with it, so the knowledge doesn’t stick. And of course everything changes, so the stuff I picked up two or three years ago is different now anyway.

A lot of the changes we made in April are getting, well, changed. I wouldn’t say “rolled back,” but I am back under the boss I had before the big changes in April. But she’s under a different boss. And we seem to be backing off on our enthusiasm for scrum a bit. And, as mentioned above, I guess I’m going to need to learn more about the Dynamics 365 side of things. Which is good, I guess, but right now, my head is spinning.

COVID boosters, iPhones, and NYCC

After dithering back and forth on whether or not I should get another COVID booster shot, I decided today that I should. I read this article in the NY Times this morning, and I guess that’s what convinced me. That, plus reading the replies to this tweet from Tom Tomorrow, where he asked about people’s recent experiences with COVID. Yikes, yeah, I don’t want that. I made an appointment for Monday, at the CVS in Bridgewater.

Meanwhile, my iPhone should have shown up today. The UPS guy came and went and just left a sticky note. I’m pretty sure he didn’t ring the doorbell, though my doorbell is a little iffy so maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. The sticky note says that I can pick it up at… the CVS in Bridgewater! So maybe I can pick up the iPhone and get my booster shot at the same time!

Honestly, if the iPhone is available there tomorrow, I’ll make a special trip and go get it. But I know it might not be available until “next business day,” so that would be Monday.

Monday is about two and a half weeks before NYCC, so that should be a reasonable amount of time for the shot to take effect. So if I decide to go to NYCC, I will at least be as vaxxed as possible.

waiting on my iPhone 14

I went ahead and ordered an iPhone 14 last week. It should be here on Friday. I ordered the 128 GB “PRODUCT(RED)” version. My iPhone XR is also the PRODUCT(RED) version, so I guess I’m a PRODUCT(RED) guy now. I like the shade of red used on the iPhone XR. I saw a photo comparison of the XR and 14 red though, and I’m not sure how i’ll like the 14 red. I guess I’ll find out on Friday. It’s hard to tell from a photo.

I also bought the PRODUCT(RED) silicone case for the phone from Apple. I’ve never bought an Apple case before, since they’re so expensive, and it doesn’t seem like they can really be that much better than the generic cases you can get from Amazon or wherever. But, after spending way too much time looking at cases for a day or two after ordering the phone, I just gave up and decided that the Apple case was the safest bet. Of course, then I had to decide between the clear case and the red one. After spending way too much time thinking about that too, I basically flipped a coin and decided on the red one.

The case should show up today, and the phone should show up Friday. Apple generally uses UPS for deliveries, so I’m not sure if I’ll actually get the phone Friday, or if I’ll get one of those UPS sticky notes telling me that I need to pick up the phone at the UPS facility in Bound Brook. If it’s the latter, then I probably won’t have the phone until Monday or Tuesday.

The last time I checked, I still couldn’t sign up for UPS My Choice, since UPS thinks my address is a business and not a residence. If I could do that, then I could probably get some control over what UPS does with my packages, but I wind up having to drive over to Bound Brook to pick up stuff more often than I’d like.

And after typing that last paragraph, I decided to try signing up for My Choice again and… it worked this time! So maybe I will be able to get my iPhone before Monday.

I’ve also started thinking about how much of a pain it will be to move from the old phone to the new one. I think this will be the first time I’ve switched phones since I switched from backing up my phone on my Mac, the old-fashioned way, to backing it up via iCloud. I know that Apple makes the process as easy as they can, but I know there will still be a few pain points.

I’m really not looking forward to redoing my MS Authenticator setup again. I had to do that in January, after removing and reinstalling the app to fix a notification problem. Maybe migrating to a new phone will actually move the setup, and I won’t need to redo it? That’s probably wishful thinking. I think I actually have even more accounts in Authenticator now than I did back in January. I think I’m up to nineteen accounts now.

On a different subject, the Dark Sky app recently started showing a warning that it’s going to stop working at the end of this year. I’ve known that was coming for a long time, but I’m still kind of sad about it. I’ve never found a weather app that I like as much as Dark Sky. I know that most of the features from Dark Sky will be in the iOS Weather app in iOS 16. And, finally, the Weather app will be available on iPad too, with iPadOS 16. So I guess I’ll get used to using the stock weather app.

I’ve also got WeatherBug installed on my phone and iPad, and I like some aspects of that app, but the layout is too busy. I like the clean design of Dark Sky more. And I tried out Hello Weather for a while, and kind of liked it. I may have to give that another try if the iOS/iPadOS 16 weather app isn’t good enough for me.

COVID, and NYCC, and iPhones, and other stuff

It’s been about a month since I’ve last posted here, and I have a backlog of stuff in my head that I’ve been meaning to post about. And a number of things came up today that seem like they might be worth mentioning.

Also, I might be a little jumpy from my afternoon cappuccino, so this post might go all over the place…

NYCC announced their mask policy for this year today. In short, they’re requiring masks, but not vaccination. The con is happening in about a month (October 6-9) and I still haven’t decided if I’m going or not. I’ve been keeping an eye on the news, with regard to whether or not there will be a fall surge, and how bad it might be. I just don’t know… I know they mailed out badges this week, so I’ll have those soon. If I decide not to use them, then that’s OK.

I listened to a bit of Andy Ihnatko’s Material podcast today, and he started it out with a bit of a “sermon” on masking and COVID. He mentioned something in there about his own decision-making regarding an upcoming comic con in his area (Boston?), and his thinking seems to be pretty much the same as mine.

I was sick all of Labor Day weekend. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t COVID, and I’m not sure where I picked up… whatever it was. At work, I’m one of a very few people who are still wearing a mask around the office. I did go to a couple of large in-person meetings recently, so maybe I picked something up in one of those. But I also went out for a beer and a burger with an old friend Friday night, so maybe that’s where it came from. (Though we were sitting outside for that, so there should have been less chance of picking up anything airborne, vs. being indoors.)

I honestly think I’m getting sick more often lately. The prevailing wisdom on that seems to be that spending too much time alone, indoors, has left my immune system unprepared for normal levels of airborne… stuff. Maybe that’s true. Maybe I need to spend more time with other people?

On another matter entirely, I paid some attention to Apple’s iPhone event today, though I was too busy at work to catch everything. My iPhone XR is now over three years old, so it’s probably time to replace it. The iPhone 14 looks… fine. If I stick with the standard iPhone 14, then I don’t think it’ll be that much different from my XR. It’s the same form factor (I think) and still has the notch. It seems to have a much better camera though, which is nice, I guess. The iPhone 14 Pro has some snazzy features, though I don’t think I really need them enough to spend $200 more than for the regular 14. (Yeah, that “Dynamic Island” thing is cute, but I don’t need it.)

I also have a bunch of work stuff I want to blog about, but I really need to organize that all first. So I guess this will just be an NYCC / COVID / iPhone post.

Some software notes

Two weeks in, and we’re still cleaning up after the security incident at work over the July 4th weekend. I’ve gone into the office most days since then, and I think all that extra exposure to other humans has gotten me sick. I’ve been mostly useless since Friday. I’m hoping I can go back to my usual schedule this week (M/W/F at home, Tue/Thu in the office). Or maybe work from home all this week, if I don’t start feeling better by Tuesday.

Anyway, all the security shake-ups over the last two weeks have gotten me thinking about some of my software choices, and I thought I’d write up some notes on that.

LastPass vs 1Password

I’ve been using 1Password for my personal password storage since 2014, and I’m still happy with it. But I just (finally) got added to our company’s corporate LastPass account, so I can use that for work. And that comes with a free personal LastPass Families account, so I went ahead and signed up for one.

Short version: I don’t think I’ll be using it for anything. I think it’s probably fine for casual users who need a simple password management solution, but it’s not nearly as good as 1Password. I guess my biggest gripe with it is that it’s very much oriented towards in-browser use. There’s a native Windows 10 client, but it’s very limited and just not very good at all. Again, I think it’s probably fine for a lot of people, but it’s just not good enough for a power-user like me.

LINQPad

I mentioned in my last post that I was thinking about upgrading my LINQPad Pro license. I went ahead and did that, and upgraded to the “Premium” version. The NuGet integration works well.  Access to NuGet is still blocked from my developer VM, so I can’t use it there yet, but I can use it on my desktop PC, where I’ve also installed it. I haven’t tried the debugger yet, but I’m curious to see how well that works.

And the dev VM is still so locked down that I couldn’t actually activate the new license over the internet, but the developer provides a way to get around that, so that was appreciated.

TextExpander vs AutoHotKey

On Windows, I generally use AutoHotKey for my keyboard macros and text expansions. I’ve been using it since 2007. I don’t have the actual AHK product installed on any of my work machines, but I have a compiled script that I do run on my work machines. It was starting to look like that might be an issue last week, due to some new security software they were running on our machines. It now looks like it’s OK, but that got me briefly looking at other solutions that might work, and which I might be able to get whitelisted at work.

So I went back to TextExpander, which I used to use on my Mac, circa 20142016. I stopped using TextExpander when they went to a subscription model, since I was having some trouble with it anyway, and it didn’t seem to be worth the money. But that was a while ago, and they now have a Windows client too, so it seemed to be worth looking into it again.

I signed up for a 30-day trial and installed it on my personal desktop PC and MacBook. It works fine, and does some interesting stuff, but it still has some of the same issues with secure input fields that it had when I last used it. That’s not really TextExpander’s fault, but it does limit its usefulness on the Mac. On Windows, it seems to work well, but it’s not nearly as powerful as AutoHotKey. (Or at least it doesn’t seem to be.)

On the Mac side, this has got me thinking again that I should really try Keyboard Maestro. It looks to me like it’s closer to what I want than TextExpander is, and it’s a one-time purchase rather than a subscription. Maybe when things have settled down a bit, and I’m feeling better, I’ll finally give it a try.

I still have some time on the 30-day TextExpander trial, so I’m going to continue messing around with it. Maybe I’ll figure out how to do some fancier stuff with it, and/or how to work around some of its limitations. I really like the idea of having a single macro program that works across Mac and Windows, so that’s a motivation not to give up on it yet.

 

Some Guys

I saw a reference to Jonathan Coulton’s Some Guys album somewhere today, and realized I’d never gotten around to buying it. It came out in 2019, and is apparently his most recent full album. Now that I have Apple Music, I can just pull it up there and listen to it.

It’s pretty good, and kind of what I was in the mood for this afternoon. It’s all straightforward covers of old 70’s soft rock songs. I grew up listening to this stuff, but stopped listening to most of it in the 80’s, when I started listening to hard rock, metal, new wave, and punk. As an angry teenager, I guess I just wasn’t much interested in the Eagles or Dan Fogelberg anymore.

Well, now that I’m in my 50’s, I guess I’m ready for Fogelberg and Gordon Lightfoot and all those old 70’s guys again. I never really had any of this stuff in my record collection; I’m just familiar with it all from good old-fashioned AM radio. So I decided to make an Apple Music playlist of the original versions of all the songs on Some Guys. Here’s a link to it. It should be public.

Of course as soon as I created the playlist, I realized that I probably wasn’t the first person to have this idea. And, indeed, there are three or four other shared playlists out there exactly like mine. Oh well. It wasn’t much work to create, so it’s not like it was a ton of wasted effort.

And here it is embedded, for whatever that’s worth:

COVID exposure

I got a notification from the NJ COVID app that I was exposed to COVID recently. I’ve had the app on my phone since October 2020, and this is the first time it’s actually notified me of anything. The exposure was more than a week ago. Not sure why it took so long to get to me.

I’d pretty much forgotten that the app even existed. When I first installed it, I was “checking in” on the app on a semi-regular basis. These apps were a pretty big deal when they first came out. But they’ve really faded to the point where it doesn’t seem like anyone bothers using them anymore. But I guess some people still do, otherwise I’d never had gotten that notification.

At this point, I guess it’s a pretty useless notification though. If I was exposed more than a week ago, I’ve had plenty of time to spread it around. I went out to dinner with a friend Saturday, and to lunch on Sunday. That’s unusual for me, and I wouldn’t have done it if I thought I might have COVID.

The date shown is May 16, which was a Monday. Looking at my Day One entry for that day, I barely left the apartment, so I’m not sure how I could have been exposed on that day. It does say that it’s “estimated” though, so maybe it happened the next day, at work, in the office? (I work from home Mon, Wed, and Fri, and in the office Tue and Thu.)

Oh well. I did an at-home COVID test this morning, just in case. It came back negative. At this point, I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to report a “near miss” to work or not.