Windows 11, and more audio stuff

I feel like I’m blogging too much lately, but I also feel like I have a lot of stuff rattling around in my head, and I need to get it out.

I’ve mentioned in a recent post that we’re in the middle of a company-wide Windows 11 upgrade at work. They finally got around to pushing it out to my desktop on Wednesday and my laptop on Thursday. The desktop upgrade broke networking, which was a bit of an issue. I won’t get into the details, but I had to unplug the PC and walk it over to our help desk so they could get it working again. That cost me a couple of hours, between the upgrade and all the troubleshooting and back and forth.

The laptop upgrade was easier. I had a similar networking issue, but I knew how to fix it now, and could do that myself, in that instance. Also, I could continue working on the desktop while the laptop was updating itself. (With the desktop, I hadn’t brought in the laptop that day, so I was stuck fooling around on my phone while the upgrade was running, and while I was waiting on the help desk…)

Windows 11 hasn’t broken any of the tools I rely on for work. It’s made one or two things slightly harder to do. I don’t think it’s made anything easier. (I’ve probably said this before, but my criteria for OS upgrade success these days isn’t “does it make things better?” but rather “does it break anything important?” and “how much more of a pain is it vs. the old version?”)

I’ve been toying with the idea of upgrading my home desktop PC to Windows 11, despite the fact that it’s not really supported. (The CPU is too old.) I set a registry value that is supposed to bypass the CPU check. But that still wouldn’t allow me to run the installation assistant. So, then, I made a bootable installer on a USB stick, but that won’t let me upgrade, just do a clean install. So, anyway, that was all a waste of time.

Back on the audio stuff: There were three football games airing exclusively on the NFL Network yesterday, and I wanted to watch them. (Maybe not all of them, but I wanted to kill a little time with football playing in the background.) My NFL+ subscription lets me do that, but I couldn’t get the audio working in the NFL app on my Apple TV. This is one of those things that should just be a minor irritation, but I was in enough of a mood when this happened that I got really frustrated with it. I actually could get sound, weirdly, if I switched from my TV speakers to AirPlay output to my Sonos speakers. (I’m using a Sonos soundbar as my TV speaker anyway, but I have it directly hooked up to the TV, so the Apple TV isn’t normally aware that it’s even using the Sonos.) I’m definitely not the only person to have this issue with the NFL app. I’ve found references to it on Reddit and the Apple forums. And the NFL+ site has an article about troubleshooting audio problems, but it’s typically generic and useless.

The frustration was mostly around how complex something as simple as watching TV has gotten… It used to be that you could just turn on your TV, and, you know, watch a football game. Now I have to turn on the TV, switch the HDMI input to the Apple TV, turn on the Apple TV, launch the app, watch it lock up, force quit the app, relaunch the app, wait for it to load, find the right button to press to get into the right feed… Yeah, I know I’m an old man. I should be happy I have so many options for quality entertainment.

And a little more on my new Beats Studio Pro headphones: I found a good video review of them from MKBHD. And I used them last night to watch 65 on Netflix. “Loud dinosaur movie” was a good choice for checking them out. They worked well for that, and successfully drowned out the Christmas music outside.

I’ve been awake today since 5:30 AM. It’s almost noon now. I haven’t done much useful, but I made myself a nice breakfast, went for two walks, listened to some music, read some comics, and had a croissant for a snack, so life is good, I guess.

Beats Studio Pro

As mentioned in my previous post, I ordered a pair of Beats Studio Pros from Costco yesterday, and they arrived today. Setup was simple. They’re definitely more comfortable to wear than my Solo Pro headphones, so that’s nice. The sound quality is probably better too, though I haven’t spent any time comparing them. I listened to a bit of Mammoth WVH II, and it sounded pretty good.

The one weird/annoying thing is that they don’t automatically turn off when you fold them up, like the Solo Pros. You actually have to press the power button to turn them off and on. It’s funny — I’ve gotten so used to my AirPods turning off when I put them in the case, and the Solo Pros turning off when I fold them up, that having to actually use a power button seems weird.

An interesting feature that I haven’t tried yet is that you can use them wired, either with a USB-C cable or an old-fashioned 3.5 mm cable. At some point, I may try the USB-C audio with my MacBook, just to see how that works. And maybe I’ll try the 3.5 mm cable with my old stereo receiver, and see how they sound as “traditional” headphones.

Speaking of USB-C, these charge via USB-C rather than Lightning. I guess that’s OK, but it a little inconvenient for me, since all of my other Apple devices charge via Lightning, except for my MacBook Air. So, to charge these, the easiest thing for me to do will be to unplug the cable from my MacBook and plug it into the headphones. I guess, eventually, all the Apple stuff will use USB-C, but for now, it’s a little annoying to have to deal with both connectors.

They’re playing Christmas music outside again today, so I’ll probably try them with the Apple TV later, and watch a movie, so I can find out how well they work with that.

audio stuff (mostly)

In my last post, I made mention of an audio issue with my home desktop PC. It was bugging me again, so I decided to take a stab at solving it, and I think I have. (At least for now.) My old speakers where hand-me-downs from my brother, and were at least 20 years old. I remembered that I also had a pair of speakers from my Dad’s old computer. Those are at least ten years old, but they’re probably a little newer than the other speakers. They’re also taller than the other speakers, so I can’t put them on my desk surface like those, since they don’t fit under the hutch. So I put them on the hutch, behind the monitor. (There isn’t enough room to put them on either side of the monitor, so they have to sit mostly behind it.) That’s not perfect, but it works, and I’m not getting any interference now. I’m not sure if that’s because the speakers are better shielded, or just because they’re a little further from the router, but I’ll take it.

The old speakers came with a subwoofer that I kept under my desk, and that really improved the overall sound. These speakers are just a basic stereo pair, but they’re pretty good. And I don’t really need great sound quality at my PC. It just needs to be good enough for some background music while I’m working.

On a semi-related topic, I ordered a pair of Beats Studio Pro from Costco last night. They’re on sale for almost 50% off at a bunch of places right now, so I decided that $180 was a reasonable price to play for a set of headphones that will get some use, but probably not as much as my AirPod Pros, which I use nearly every day.

I bought a set of Beats Solo Pro headphones in 2021, and I only use them occasionally. The Studio Pros should be, hopefully, a noticeable improvement on the Solo Pros. I feel a little bad about buying these, when the Solo Pros aren’t quite three years old yet, but hey, at least I’m (still) not buying the $550 AirPods Max.

So I now have my old AirPods (bought in 2019), the Solo Pros (2021), and those 20+ year-old PC speakers to get rid of. I guess I should just recycle the old PC speakers. They’re probably still fine, if you’re using them in an environment without any wifi interference, but I’m not likely to find anyone looking to buy them. And the AirPods and Beats both still work (and hold a charge, though probably not as good as they were when new). I’m not sure if I want to go through the hassle of selling them on eBay though. Maybe I should see if Goodwill accepts old headphones. I know a lot of people don’t like the idea of used AirPods, but if you clean them up a bit, they should be fine.

We’re having some kind of Christmas Jubilee here in Somerville tonight, and they’re already playing Christmas music outside. I just looked at the schedule, and it looks like it’ll be going on until 9:30 PM. And I’m guessing the noise level will get louder once the main part of the event starts up. So I guess it’s going to be another night of drowning out Christmas music with Monarch: Legacy of Monsters and other loud TV shows. (Maybe the new season of Reacher? That’s loud, right?)

I’ve found one new Christmas album that I really like this year: The Frostbound Wood: Music for Christmas by Peter Warlock. (It’s not really new, of course, just new to me.) It’s nice and calm.

Black Friday

Well, it’s Black Friday and I have the day off, and nothing in particular to do, so here I am writing another pointless blog post.

Social Media

It’s been just about a year since I created my Mastodon account, and a few other new social media accounts, in an effort to move off of Twitter. So I thought it might be a good time to check in on that.

I gave up on Twitter quite some time ago, but there were a lot of people still hanging on. Elon’s most recent shenanigans have finally caused a lot of those folks to abandon ship. It seems like Threads has become the de facto replacement for Twitter. The White House set up Threads accounts recently, so that’s a good sign. And it seems like most media companies have moved to Threads. The NY Times, Washington Post, and NPR are all there.

I really wish a better alternative than Threads had “won” the “Twitter replacement” lottery. Threads is owned by Meta, and while they’re not as bad as Elon, they’re not great. Threads currently has no ads, but I’m sure they’ll start running ads there eventually. And they’ve talked a bit about adding an API and/or supporting ActivityPub, I’ll believe that when I see it.

My preferred social network at this point is Mastodon. It’s wonderful, but there aren’t enough “normal” people/organizations on there. It’s great for tech folks, scientists, and random weirdos, but it’s hard to find major media outlets on there, or anyone talking about the NFL, for instance.

Checking in on some of the other alternatives that I tried out over the last year:

  • Counter.Social: I gave up on this one pretty quickly. I checked my account there this morning, and it still exists. I don’t think it ever really got enough traction to be a viable Twitter alternative. I still see some interesting folks on there though.
  • Post.News: I gave up on this one too. But they seem to have made steady progress, and it looks like it could be an interesting way to get my news. I should keep an eye on them, I think.
  • Hive seemed promising when I first set it up, and there were a few interesting people on there, but it seems like everybody has given it up in favor of Mastodon and/or Threads.
  • Bluesky: This one had a lot of buzz as a Twitter replacement earlier in the year, since Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is involved. But it’s still in beta, and there’s a wait list to get in. I put myself on the wait list in May, and only just got my invite a few days ago. I set up the account, but it’s maybe too late for them. I think that most of the folks that would have wanted to migrate to Bluesky have already migrated to Threads, and are happy enough there. But we’ll see what happens with it.

So, for me, I’m currently browsing both Mastodon and Threads daily. I’m not posting a lot to either. I’m trying to be careful not to “doomscroll” on either, and not to get dragged into the trap of mindlessly scrolling through either one, but I will admit to a bit of that. With Mastodon, I avoid the infinite mindless scrolling thing for two reasons, I think. One is that there just isn’t enough in my timeline to allow for that, and the other is that my preferred Mastodon client, Toot!, will only load a certain number of posts, then it’ll leave a space with a “load more” button. And that’s usually enough to wake me up and realize that I should stop and go do something else. Threads is worse though. There’s a lot of little funny posts on there, and it’s easy to just keep scrolling through them. And the default feed is their algorithmic “For You” feed, which will have posts from folks you’re following and other posts they think you’ll like. So that tends to promote mindless scrolling.

I’m following some of the same people on both Mastodon and Threads currently, and I’m thinking that I should try to sort that out, maybe, and reserve Threads for mainstream media and mainstream people, and use Mastodon for the weirdos. (And I mean “weirdos” in a loving and not judgemental way.) At some point, maybe Threads actually will support ActivityPub and I can just use a Mastodon client to get myself a mixed timeline from both accounts. I’m not holding my breath though.

Black Friday sales

Wow, that was more than I expected to write about social media. My next topic is Black Friday sales. I’m trying not to spend a bunch of money on dumb stuff, but of course I’m going to spend a bit. I try to spend money on stuff from good people, independent creators who I can support and feel good about supporting. Here are a few things I bought today:

  • I bought the full bundle of Wizard Zines from Julia Evans, in PDF format. I’ve always thought her stuff was interesting, but a bit pricey. For 50% off, I decided to just go ahead and get them all today. I’m not sure I have much use for most of them, but I may print out the “Oh Shit, Git!” one and keep it on my desk at work. I probably need to leave it face-down though, in case anyone gets offended due to the salty language in the title.
  • I bought PCalc today, because it was 50% off, and because I’ve often thought about buying it. I don’t really need it, but having a better-than-average calculator app ought to come in handy occasionally.
  • I also bought Play by Marcos Tanaka today. It’s kind of a bookmark app specifically for videos. It looks much like his MusicBox app, which I use to keep track of stuff that I want to listen to in Apple Music. I’ve been getting a lot of use out of that one. I have more than 600 albums in there now. (And, as is typical for me, I’ve got 500 on my “new” list and 100 on my “played” list. So now I have a queue of music I’ll never get through before I die. But that’s a good problem to have, right?) Interestingly, Play has an Apple TV app. I’m not sure how it works, but if there’s any chance that I can bookmark a video on my phone, then watch it later on my Apple TV, that would be great. I’d really like for there to be a good consolidated watch list app for Apple TV, that can open videos across multiple streaming services. The built-in watch list is almost there, but not really. There are a lot of issues with it. It’s fine for Apple TV+ content, but bad at almost everything else.

And, wow, I’ve now wasted quite a bit of time writing up this blog post. And I haven’t even bloviated about the latest OpenAI shenanigans! Oh well. I guess part of the point of taking Black Friday off is to waste time on meaningless pursuits. I should go out for a walk now. It’s a little cold, but it’s actually sunny out right now.

Software changes – Edge, Apple Music, Windows 11

I thought I’d post a follow-up today on a couple of software items I’ve blogged about recently, plus one new one.

Microsoft Edge

First: my switch from Firefox to Edge at work. I’m not having any real problems with Edge, though I’m missing a few things I had in Firefox. And I’m experimenting with some Edge features that look interesting. One thing I tried to figure out today is the difference between tab groups, collections, and workspaces. (And whether or not it was worth using any of them.) In Firefox, I used to use the OneTab extension to take groups of tabs and save them off to the side. That extension is available for Edge too, though it’s not on our “officially approved” list. So I thought I’d see if I could just use a built-in Edge feature for that. Here’s what I figured out:

  • Tab groups are a simple way to group a bunch of tabs together. You can’t really do much with them other than group them together. Tab groups seem to survive closing and reopening Edge. I’m not sure if they’ll sync between my laptop and desktop, but I suspect they will.
  • Collections are a little more flexible than tab groups. You can add open tabs to a collection, and you can also add text notes and images apparently (though I haven’t tried). Collections definitely survive closing and reopening Edge, and I’m pretty sure they sync. You can dump a collection out to a new OneNote page too, so that’s potentially useful. And you can copy all of the URLs in a collection to the clipboard, which is similar to something I used to do in Firefox with a specific extension. (I can’t remember the name on that one, but OneTab replaced it, really.)
  • Workspaces looked promising, at first, but I think they’re mostly useful for sharing a group of tabs/pages with a group. There are limitations on using them that, I think, make them less useful than tab groups or collections for my purposes.

So, in a nutshell, I think I’m going to start using collections for the stuff I used to use OneTab for.

Apple Music

I mentioned last week that I’d installed the Apple Music Preview on my PC. It’s working out OK, I guess, but I had been assuming that I could switch back and forth between Apple Music and iTunes. That turns out to be incorrect. If I launch iTunes now, it shows me a message saying that it can only be used to manage podcasts and audiobooks now. Once you install Apple Music, you can’t use iTunes for music anymore. And, on top of that, you need to install Apple TV Preview if you want to manage your movies and TV shows. So I went ahead and did that too.

If I knew that there was no going back to iTunes, I don’t think I would have installed Apple Music. But now I guess I have to get used to it.

Windows 11

I got an email today saying that my work machines would be upgraded to Windows 11 soon. (I have a laptop and a desktop, both on Windows 10 right now.) They’re going to push the upgrade out through Windows Update. I’m a little unclear on timing, but I think they might be pushing it out over the Thanksgiving weekend.

It occurs to me that I’ve never actually done a Windows 11 upgrade. At home, I have a Windows 10 desktop and a Windows 11 laptop. The desktop can’t be upgraded to Windows 11, unfortunately. It meets all of my needs, otherwise, so I’ve just stuck with it. But if my work machines are all going to be running Windows 11, I probably need to ditch the old desktop at home and buy a new one that can handle Windows 11, so I’m running it everywhere.  And if I do that, it’s going to push me into a bunch of other upgrades, I think. Like maybe getting a new monitor that actually uses HDMI instead of whatever old standard my current monitor uses. And probably buying an external DVD burner, since new machines don’t ever seem to come with built-in optical drives anymore. Oh well. I got this old PC in 2016, and I’m not sure how old the monitor is. So it’s probably time for some new hardware.

no more Comixology app

It was announced recently that the Comixology app is going away, and the Kindle app will be the only way to read comics purchased from Amazon. I kinda knew this was coming, of course. But it still seems worth making note of it and blogging about it a bit.

Earlier this year, the layoffs at Comixology were big news, and in early 2022, the revamped Comixology app (based on the Kinde app) was also big news. Amazon has been slowly absorbing Comixology, like a gelatinous cube, oozing slowly down a dungeon corridor. (I tried to get ChatGPT to give me a few funny sentences comparing Amazon to a gelatinous cube, but it didn’t give me anything worth including here.)

I haven’t been reading a lot of comics lately. I’ve been spending most of my leisure reading time working on the Wheel of Time books. I just finished the fifth book, The Fires of Heaven. I started reading the series in March, so it’s taken me about eight months to get through five books. Not bad, really, considering their length and my limited reading time.

But it’s really killed my Goodreads reading goal for the year, which was 75 books. (I’ve only read 28.) I’m thinking about devoting the rest of the year to reading comics. I read two interesting graphic novels this weekend: one from Harvey Pekar and one from Alex Ross. Very different viewpoints in those two, but I noticed that they both briefly mention Sacco and Vanzetti, which makes me think that my next read should be Rick Geary’s book about them, which I bought from him at a con around ten years ago.

I own all three of the aforementioned graphic novels in hardcover, so I haven’t had a reason to open up the Comixology or Kindle app this weekend, but I should do that soon, before they shut down the old app for good, just to make sure I understand what’s going on, and don’t lose track of anything.

Apple Music annoyances

I’ve posted about my issues with using Apple Music on my PC before, back in June. Since then, I’ve just been living with the fact that iTunes occasionally locks up and I have to kill it in Task Manager. (And, after the first lockup, it’ll keep locking up until I reboot.) Sometimes, I switch over to Cider, and that works, but today, Cider was acting up too.

So I decided to finally go ahead and install the Apple Music Preview for Windows. The preview version was released way back in January, but it’s still labelled as a “preview” and I haven’t seen any word about a final release. It works well enough, I guess. My main problem with it, so far, is that I can’t figure out how to turn on the column browser. The column browser had disappeared in earlier versions of the Mac Apple Music client, so maybe it’s just something they haven’t added to the Windows client yet. It’s hard to tell. The help link in Apple Music goes to a page that doesn’t exist. And searching for help on this topic is mostly fruitless. I did find the official Apple Music for Windows discussion board, and posted a question there. But I don’t have much hope of getting it answered.

Yes, I know I’m really picky about my music software. But I’m old nerd, and I have a big library, and I like to be able to navigate my way through it effectively.

It occurs to me that the Apple Music client probably doesn’t have the ability to rip or burn CDs, which is something iTunes can still do. I really don’t need to burn music CDs anymore, but I do still need to rip them occasionally. I guess I’ll have to find a new way to do that, eventually.

Mildly amusing side note: I was listening to a podcast earlier this week that included this radio spot, for the Beatles’ movie Help. It starts with the line “attention adults”, which immediately tickled something in the back of my brain. I knew that line from somewhere, but I couldn’t figure out where. Eventually, I figured out that it was sampled in the Pizzicato Five song Baby Love Child, which is semi-famous for it’s use in a very good episode of Futurama. I actually mentioned the song on this blog, back in 2008. I hadn’t listened to it in a long time. So now I’ve listened to it about a dozen times this week. Interestingly, the song doesn’t seem to be available on Apple Music at all, and the Pizzicato Five YouTube page doesn’t seem to have an official video for it. (Mind you, all the song titles there are in Japanese, so maybe I just missed it.) But there are plenty of unofficial versions on YouTube, including a good live one from a performance at KCRW. The version in my own music library is an MP3 that I probably bought from eMusic, back when that was my primary way of acquiring music.

The Beatles

I was poking around on my iPhone after lunch today, looking for something to listen to, and noticed that Apple Music Radio was running a Beatles “top 100” show from 2 PM to 7:15 PM today. And it was just a little past 2, so I got in at #97 or thereabouts. I listened to an hour or two of it at my desk, and really enjoyed it. It was cool to just discover this randomly, but it would have been cool if there’d been a way to know about it beforehand. Maybe there’s an Apple Music newsletter or something, and I’m just not subscribed to it. I get weekly emails about Apple Arcade, Apple TV+, and other random Apple stuff, but I never seem to get any emails about Apple Music. Oh well.

I guess this Beatles thing is related to the release of the new Now and Then single that’s coming out tomorrow. I’m looking forward to hearing it, though I don’t want to get my hopes up too much. (Tying in with my recent obsession with ChatGPT, AI was apparently used to help clean up and finish the song.)

By the way, I’m still listening to the top 100, and they just got to #1, which is… “Here Comes the Sun”.  Not what I’d expect, but I’m not going to argue with Apple’s metrics.

buggy iTunes on Windows, and alternatives

Part of my normal work-from-home routine is to fire up iTunes on my personal desktop PC and play music throughout the day. (On and off, depending on what I’m doing, of course.)

My desktop is a Windows 10 box, so I’m still stuck with iTunes. There’s a preview version of the new Apple Music client available in the Windows Store, but I’ve been leery about trying it. I’m afraid it might do something horrible to my local library, which is almost 18,000 songs, and around 125 GB, at this point. I’d prefer to wait until a 1.0 release.

But iTunes has been locking up on me a lot recently. So I got a bit fed up today and decided to give an alternative client a try. I’d previously tried Cider, but didn’t like it enough to keep it. That was a while ago, though, so I decided to give it another try. It used to be an open-source project, and you can still download that, but the new version is (I guess) closed source, and costs $4 in the Windows Store. I went ahead and bought it and tried it out today, so I thought I’d post some notes on it.

First, it’s mostly just a shell around the web interface for Apple Music. So if you go to and sign in to your account, that’s basically what you’re getting, with some added bells & whistles. It doesn’t deal with your local library at all. (I don’t mean to belittle it here; the bells & whistles might be really handy for some people.)

My major issue with it right now is that it’s got a “dark mode” interface, and no way to switch to a light mode. And I find that hard to deal with. So it’s definitely not something I’m really happy with. But it has done what I needed it to do today: let me stream music to my PC without locking up, like iTunes was doing.

It has occurred to me that another solution would be to stream Apple Music from my iPhone to my desktop via AirPlay. I have something called AirServer on my PC, and it works pretty well for streaming audio from my phone to my PC. Though that, also, is not a great solution.

Or I could go back to CDs! I do still have a CD player in my PC. I could just play CDs via VLC or Windows Media Player or something like that…

Oh well, I’m starting to overthink this stuff again. Time to get back to work…

more on Twitter and Mastodon (sorry)

Twitter continues to shoot itself in the foot. I tried using Twitterrific on my iPad on Friday morning, and found that it wasn’t working. It didn’t work on my iPhone either. I figured it was Elon-related, whatever it was. Turns out that Elon has intentionally shut down third-party Twitter clients. Or at least that’s the rumor. There’s been no “official” announcement from Twitter. There’s a blog post from the Twitterrific developer here. Either way, assuming this doesn’t get reversed, I guess this means I’m pretty much done with Twitter. Twitter is only usable (for me) with a third-party client like Twitterrific.

So I’ve rearranged the home screens on my iPhone and iPad to move Twitterrific off to a sub-folder. And I need to remember to cancel my subscription to the Twitterrific app at some point, though I guess if Twitter doesn’t reverse their shutdown, the app developer will probably shut down the app and it’ll get canceled automatically. I’ll be sad to see it go. I’ve been using it since at least 2017.

I thought about just putting the Mastodon app where the Twitterrific app used to be, but then I thought that maybe I should rearrange things a bit more. So, on my iPhone, I now have the NY Times and Washington Post apps in a more prominent spot, and I’m going to try to click on those more often when I’m mindlessly futzing with my phone.

I recently listened to an podcast, talking about “deep reading.” I’ve been thinking about attention spans and media consumption and stuff like that again a lot lately. Of course, I’ve been thinking about that stuff since at least 2008. And I’m still struggling with it. I think I have another blog post in my head on that subject, but I’m going to resist writing it right now.