new MacBook Air

I finally gave in and bought a new MacBook Air today, so this is my obligatory “I bought a new computer” post. The old MacBook Air was crashing a lot, and nothing I tried helped. I could have sent it in to Apple for service, but my AppleCare had expired and it seemed like maybe it would be better to just get a new one. So I got the current MacBook Air with a 512 GB drive and 8 GB of RAM. My old one only had a 256 GB drive, and that was always a problem, so it’s nice to get back to a reasonably sized drive. As for the RAM, that’s the same as the old one. The big difference between old and new is the M1 chip, I guess. The old one was an Intel i5. So far, I haven’t noticed any speed improvement, but I don’t do anything really CPU-intensive, so it probably won’t make much of a difference.

The old MacBook lasted for almost four years. I bought it in May 2018. I guess that’s a good run for a modern laptop, but I wish I could have kept it going for another year. The new one cost me $1250, bought directly from Apple. With AppleCare, a USB to USB-C adapter, a USB-C to Lightning cable, and sales tax, the total was a bit over $1500. And I arranged to trade in the old one for $270, assuming they accept it and decide it’s in good enough shape.

Migration from old to new was pretty easy, using the Migration Assistant. At first, it looked like it was going to take a long time, but then I moved the laptops closer to each other, and it sped up considerably. I think it might have switched from using my wifi network to a peer-to-peer connection, maybe using Bluetooth, when I did that. I’m not really sure how that works. Migration was much simpler than the nuke & pave that I did on the old one a while back. (Though I think that doing that clean install probably helped this migration run more smoothly.)

One thing I figured out after the migration is that I had a few Intel-only apps, so they required Rosetta 2 to run. Evernote was one of them, which I thought was a little weird. It turns out that there is a Universal version of it, though, and I just had to delete it and reinstall it from the App Store to get the Universal version. I tried doing the same with OneDrive, but apparently the Universal version of that still isn’t in the App Store.

I guess the next Apple item up for replacement is going to be my iPhone XR, which I bought in January 2019, and is starting to show its age. Then maybe my iPad Air, which I bought in April 2019. I think the iPhone is going to need to be replaced relatively soon, but maybe I can hold off on the iPad until next year. I wish these things would last longer, but I’m resigned to having to replace them all every few years now, I guess.

MacBook follow-up

My experiment with switching from Firefox to Safari on my MacBook has been interesting. But the MacBook crashed again yesterday, while using Safari, in the same way it had been crashing while using Firefox. So that pretty much rules out Firefox as the reason for the crashes. That’s both good and bad news. On the good side, it means I can go back to Firefox. On the bad side, it means I’ve just about exhausted software-related reasons for the crashing, which means I’ve probably got a hardware issue.

Apple might announce a new MacBook Pro at their event next week. If they do, it might be time to replace this MacBook Air. (Even if they don’t, it might still be a good time to replace it, likely with the current iteration of the Air.)

Getting back to the experiment with Safari: I think I’ve decided that I could use Safari as my default browser on the Mac, if I needed to, but I’m still more comfortable with Firefox. I’ve been using 1Blocker for ad-blocking in Safari, and that works OK, though not as good as uBlock Origin in Firefox. And I haven’t found any other Safari extensions that really give Safari an advantage over Firefox in any way. The other big thing for me is 1Password integration, and that works just as well in Firefox as it does in Safari.

MacBook issues, browsers, and bookmarks

I did a nuke & pave on my MacBook Air a few weeks ago. My main reason for doing that was to see if it would clear up an occasional problem I have where the machine crashes if I’ve been using it for more than an hour or so on battery power. Well, it crashed again yesterday, so clearly the nuke & pave didn’t cure the problem.

One other possibility I’ve considered is that maybe it’s Firefox’s fault. The crash has always happened when I’m watching a video in Firefox. That doesn’t necessarily mean much though, since watching long YouTube videos is about the only thing I’d do on the MacBook that would stress the battery for a good bit of time. Regardless, I decided to try switching my default browser on the Mac to Safari, and see how that works out.

I’ve been a big fan of Firefox since before it was Firefox. And I still like it, and use it as my default browser on both Windows and Mac. It’s been losing market share to Chrome though, and now has only a tiny sliver of the browser market. So maybe it’s time to give something else a try, at least temporarily. Safari is supposed to be very efficient in terms of battery use on the Mac, so maybe, if my underlying problem is the battery, switching to Safari will fix it.

Switching browsers, of course, means that I need to try to replicate my Firefox setup in Safari, to the extent that I can. A few of my Firefox extensions are available for Safari, but some aren’t. The two big ones are probably uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger. But there are alternatives, and I’ll play around with some of those.

Getting my Firefox bookmarks into Safari wouldn’t be difficult if I was just switching over entirely, and didn’t care about keeping them up to date in both browsers. But I want to keep using Firefox on my PC, so I really want to keep the bookmarks in sync. The best way I could find to do that was via iCloud for Windows. This article describes the process of setting it up and enabling bookmark sync between iCloud and Firefox. I went ahead and did that, and it seems to work OK. So now I have Firefox Sync keeping my bookmarks in sync between my desktop and laptop PCs, iCloud sync keeping my Safari bookmarks in sync between my iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and iCloud for Windows bridging Safari and Firefox. I think that, even if I decide to switch back to Firefox on the Mac, I may keep iCloud for Windows running, just so I can have the same bookmarks across iOS, Mac, and Windows. (I’ve always used Safari on iOS, but never really did much with bookmarks there.)

Combining my Safari/iCloud bookmarks with my Firefox bookmarks left me with quite a jumble of duplicates. I had, at some point in the distant past, used Safari as my default Mac browser, and had a bunch of very old bookmarks in there that I’d never cleaned up. And I had a bunch of out-of-date bookmarks in Firefox too, that I’d just been ignoring. So I spent some time this morning trying to clean up my bookmarks. I did that in Firefox on my PC, and hoped it would sync back to iCloud with no problems. So far, it seems to have done that.

Browser bookmarks, in general, aren’t as important as they used to be. But I’m still a weirdo who wants a nice selection of useful bookmarks organized in a sensible hierarchy. I’ll see how my current setup works over time, but I’m also considering some alternatives. On the Mac, I’ve been curious about URL Manager Pro. That might be a good home for my bookmarks. There’s no PC version, but I could just get them over to the PC via iCloud for Windows, I think.

I currently use Pinboard as a place to dump miscellaneous bookmarks, but that’s not a carefully organized collection of stuff that I can traverse easily. I’ve got over 18,000 bookmarks in there right now. So I can’t really use that for my browser bookmarks. There’s a similar service called Raindrop that seems to allow you to apply a bit more organization than Pinboard does. Specifically, it allows you to use both tags (like Pinboard) and something they call “collections”, which can be nested. So that makes it seem like I could combine my carefully organized Firefox/Safari bookmarks and my Pinboard bookmarks into one service. I’d keep the stuff I use regularly in top-level collections, and toss all of the random old Pinboard links into a “miscellaneous” collection or something like that.

Well, anyway, this is mostly just me messing around on a Sunday morning. It’s now almost noon, and I haven’t done much else with the day, other than organize bookmarks. But, hey, it’s relaxing.

MacBook Air nuke and pave

I’d been thinking about doing a “nuke and pave” on my MacBook for a while now. The machine is close to four years old. I bought it in May 2018. I didn’t really want to buy it, but my previous MacBook had died, and I wasn’t quite ready to give up on macOS entirely, so I needed something. It’s served me reasonably well over the last few years, I guess. It’s only got a 250 GB drive, which has been a frequent problem, but I’ve managed.

Anyway, it’s recently developed a problem where it crashes after I’ve been using it on battery power for more than an hour or so. The battery level will still show at around 80%, but the thing will just crash with no warning. I tried some of the standard troubleshooting steps for stuff like this, but didn’t come up with anything that helped. I had AppleCare+ on it, but that’s expired now. I thought about calling Apple about it anyway, and seeing if maybe a battery replacement would fix the issue, or if they had any other ideas. I also thought about just giving up on it and getting a new MacBook.

But, first, I decided to try a clean install of macOS, and see if that would help. I’ve got no particularly good reason to think that it will, but it’s a useful exercise either way, since it forces me to make some backups, and clean some stuff up, which I would have needed to do anyway, if I was going to either send it in for service or replace it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done this, so I had to do some web searching first. I found a page on the MacPaw site that I used as a guide. (MacPaw has a bunch of how-to guides on their site, which they use mostly to advertise their products, but, unlike other sites that do this, the guides are actually helpful.)

I thought it might be useful to detail some of the stuff I did for this, both for my own reference and for anyone else that might be looking to do the same thing.

I started out by creating a bootable Monterey installer. I didn’t have any USB sticks that were big enough, but I had a 128 GB MicroSDXC card, so I used that. (I’d bought that card in 2018 with the vague idea that I’d stick it in my MacBook and leave it there, and use it as a secondary hard drive. But it sticks out too much, so I gave up on that idea. It’s just been sitting in my desk since then.)

I also did a couple of backups: one final Time Machine backup, and a Carbon Copy Cloner backup. There actually aren’t a lot of files on the MacBook that I need to worry about. Most everything is in iCloud or OneDrive or some other cloud service now. For the files that I knew I was going to want to copy back after the install, I saved them to the SD card.

I then booted from the card, wiped the drive with Disk Utility, then did a clean install. It went smoothly. I then proceeded to reinstall software, copy files over, and so on. I’ve been working on this, on and off, for about a week. The machine is usable now, and I just have a few things left to set up, and some new backups to do.

I’m a little surprised at some of the decisions I made as part of this process. There are a lot of things that I would have done differently in the past. Old-timers like me might find some of this interesting:

  • I gave up on my Music / iTunes library entirely. Now that I’m using Apple Music, it’s all in the cloud. And I have a local copy of all my “owned” music on my desktop PC. So I didn’t bother trying to move any of the local files from my old install over to the new one. That seems to have worked fine, and cleared up a lot of disk space. (I probably still had some TV shows and movies in my library, which really didn’t need to be there, in addition to all the local music files.)
  • I’m using iCloud Photo Library now, so I decided to just start from scratch on that too. This was a bigger deal, since I don’t have that library backed up on my PC. But I trust that it’s all in iCloud. After the macOS install, Photos did pull the library back down from the cloud. I guess the “optimize storage” setting is turned on by default, so it might not have pulled down full resolution copies of all my photos, but it did pull down about 10 GB, and I had to leave it going overnight for it to finish. But it seems to be OK now.
  • The Books app is a bit different, and kind of annoying. I had some DRM-free audiobooks in my library, and there’s no cloud backup for those. I didn’t try to copy them out of the Books library on the Mac though. I know I have copies of them all on my PC and/or in OneDrive, so I’ll just copy them back as I need them. I might be switching from Books to BookPlayer for my DRM-free books, so maybe I don’t even need them in my library.
  • I had my FastMail account syncing down to Mail.app, but I wasn’t really using it. I always use the FastMail web interface. So I gave up on Mail.app, and saved maybe another 3 or 4 GB.
  • I had OneDrive set up on my Mac so that it did not try to keep everything local, but I probably did have a lot of local files taking up space. Microsoft recently made some changes to their OneDrive client that were necessary to move forward, due to changes that Apple has made to macOS. There’s a good blog post on that here. These changes bothered some people, but I’m actually happy about them. So my new macOS install has the new OneDrive client, and is keeping almost nothing local right now. That’ll change over time, but the client should do a good job of managing itself, and freeing up space when needed.
  • For most of my third-party software, I didn’t bother trying to back up settings or preferences or anything. A lot of software is tied to an account, so the preferences are in the cloud. And for those few that aren’t, starting over seemed reasonable.
  • In the past, I’ve had a variety of oddball development software on my MacBook (MySQL, PHP, Ruby on Rails, etc). I decided to just give up on all that and start from scratch. I wasn’t actively using any of it. (I’ll probably install XCode at some point. That’s one thing I couldn’t install previously, since I didn’t have enough space.)

So, in the end, there wasn’t really much to worry about, and I freed up a ton of hard drive space. Before all this, I had only about 30 GB free. Now, I’ve got around 180 GB free.

My next task is to get good Time Machine and CCC backups of the new install. I’m doing the Time Machine one now. I’m still using the same old 2 TB drive that I’ve been using since 2015, I think. It still has free space on it, and still works, so I guess I’ll keep using it. It’s pretty slow and pretty big, but I guess it’s OK for now.

For CCC, I’ve been using an old 500 GB laptop drive in an external enclosure. I have two of these drives, one from my old MacBook (before I replaced it with an SSD) and one from my old ThinkPad (before I replaced that one with an SSD). I’ll probably hold on to the one I’ve been using for awhile, and switch to the other one, which has nothing of value on it.

I’ve been thinking about my external drive situation a bit. In addition to the Time Machine drive, and the two 500 GB drives, I also have two 500 GB SSDs lying around. These are the drives I stuck into the old MacBook and ThinkPad, and which I stripped out of them when I got rid of those two machines. I went ahead and ordered a couple of new external enclosures for them today, and I’m going to try to find something to use them for. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bother, since the enclosures were around $20 each, and a single new 2 TB external drive would be around $60. But I don’t like to let old drives go to waste.

Going back to my original problem, where the Mac was crashing if I used it too long on battery, I haven’t hit that yet, but I haven’t used it for that long in a single stretch yet either. So maybe this weekend I’ll try to watch a long YouTube video or something like that and see what happens. And if it turns out that this didn’t fix my problem, then at least I’ve got a clean install that I can migrate over to a new MacBook Air with a minimum of hassle.

iOS notification issues and MS Authenticator issues

This is going to be a bit of a gripe post, but there might be some useful stuff in it. Or not. But it’s one of those things where writing it up might help me feel better about it, and might also come in handy later if someone has a similar problem. (Or if I have the same problem again and can’t remember some details.)

So this all started, I think, after I spent some time messing around with the new iOS 15 focus modes. I’d played around with them a bit when iOS 15 first came out, but something made me decide to mess around with them some more. To make a long story short, I tried out the “sleep” focus mode for a day or two, then decided that it wasn’t for me and went back to just using the “do not disturb” mode, scheduled to turn on at 10 PM and off at 5 AM every day.

After that, some of my notifications stopped working. I’m not sure that messing with focus is what broke notifications, but I’ve read up on the issue a bit, and it seems like that’s the most likely culprit. It seems like there’s a bug in iOS 15.2 that messes up notifications in some cases, often after you’ve messed with the focus setup. I’m pretty sure these were all notifications that would fall under the “push” category. So I wasn’t getting notifications on new emails from my Fastmail app, which was annoying but not a big deal. But I also wasn’t getting notifications on MS Authenticator, which is kind of a big problem for me.

I have more than a dozen accounts set up in MS Authenticator, mostly for CSP-related accounts. They all require MFA, so when I log into one of those accounts, it sends a push notification to my phone that I need to approve. And that wasn’t working. There’s a fallback, where I can get a six-digit code from the app and type that into the web browser. That’s what I’d been doing for a few days, but I really wanted to fix that.

I’d seen some advice online about fixing the notification issue by removing any app that wasn’t working, and reinstalling it. That worked for the Fastmail app, so I thought I’d try it for the Authenticator app too. Now, the Authenticator app has an option to back up its configuration to iCloud. And I had that turned on, so I thought I would safely be able to pull it back in after reinstalling the app. Well, it turns out that it’s not that simple. I did manage to pull in the backup, but for most accounts, you have to go back and redo the setup on the account anyway. You’re just pulling in a placeholder from iCloud. That was a pain, but not a huge problem, for accounts where I had my cell phone number set up as a backup. But for some of the oldest accounts, I either don’t have a backup, or I have my work desk phone set as the back up. And I’m working from home and don’t have a way to get to my desk phone. So that’s a problem.

Tomorrow, I’m going to try to find someone else with admin rights who can go in to Azure AD and set my cell phone # as my backup auth method so I can finish the setup on these accounts. I’m a little worried that I may have to bug someone at a fairly high level to do this, which could be a little embarrassing. But hey, we all screw up now and then. And this is more Apple and Microsoft’s fault than mine. (Apple’s fault for screwing up notifications in iOS 15.2, and Microsoft’s for not making it clear that the MS Authenticator iCloud backup isn’t really much of a backup.)

So the lesson here is that, before wiping out MS Authenticator, go into all of your accounts and make sure you have a good phone # and/or email address set under your backup authentication methods.

Once this is all straightened out, I need to write up a good procedure for transferring my MS Authenticator setup from one phone to another. My current iPhone just hit its three-year anniversary, so it’s time for me to start thinking about a new one. Setting up a new iPhone generally isn’t that hard these days, since you can just restore from an iCloud backup and most of your stuff will work. But there’s always some odd bits, like MS Authenticator, that trip you up. Even with all of my accounts set up correctly with backup auth methods, it’ll still take me an hour to get them all done. For each one, I basically need to open a new private browsing window, log in (using the SMS message backup option), then go to my account profile, delete the old MS Auth setup, add a new one, scan the QR code, wait for it to send a test push notification, approve that, and then finish the setup. That can take five minutes per account. I’m wondering if there’s a better way to handle this. Probably not. Most people don’t have Azure AD accounts in a dozen different domains, all requiring MFA, so my situation is not exactly a common use case that MS would have designed for.

Doctor Who and Godzilla

If you were to judge my life based on my recent posts here, it would seem like I spend all of my time reading comics, listening to podcasts, watching movies, and so on. I do still have a full-time job as a programmer, and I spend most of my time on weekdays heads-down at my computer, working hard, I promise! I just haven’t had much to say about it here recently. There have been a few things I’ve thought about writing up, but they’re such niche topics that I can’t imagine them being very interesting to anyone but me. (Of course, most of these posts probably aren’t interesting to anyone but me…) All of which is preamble to excuse writing another post about comics and movies and podcasts and stuff. (What else am I going to do with my spare time in 2021?)

After finishing Doctor Who: Flux, I had a hunger for more Doctor Who content, so I dug into my backlog of comics and audio. I listened to The Lost Stories: The Fourth Doctor Box Set, a Big Finish audio drama that I’d bought back in 2016, featuring Tom Baker’s Doctor and Louise Jameson as Leela. I really enjoyed it. I wrote in my Goodreads review that it was the first Tom Baker audio I’d listened to, but I was organizing my notes this morning, and realized that I’d listened to a set of novel adaptations with Baker and Lalla Ward back in 2018. My Goodreads review for that set was pretty short, but I guess I liked it.

I’ve now started the Destiny of the Doctor series, which is a series of eleven stories, featuring the first eleven Doctors, that was released for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, back in 2013. I got it as part of a Humble Bundle in 2017. I’ve only listened to the first one so far, but it was pretty good. These aren’t full-cast dramas, they’re stories read by one or two narrators.

I also started reading the Ninth Doctor comic book series from Titan. I have the first two volumes of that from a Humble Bundle from 2018. It’s a pretty good series, featuring the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack.

I have a good backlog of other comics and audio dramas from those Humble Bundles, but of course every time I start reading/listening to this stuff, I start poking around for more stuff that I don’t own yet. I’d like to pick up the rest of that Ninth Doctor comic series, for instance. And more of the Tom Baker audios. And the new Ninth Doctor audios. And so on.

On the related subject of consuming DRM-free comics and audio from old Humble Bundles, I should mention that I’ve been using Panels for the comics, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post. I had some trouble with it repeatedly crashing on me yesterday, but I updated it to the latest version, and that’s been stable. So I guess there was a bug that got fixed. I’ll probably commit to a yearly subscription on that at some point. And on the audiobook front, I’ve been sticking with the Apple Books app to listen to stuff, using Audiobook Builder to put MP3s together into single audiobook files. (I bought that back in February.) I also recently downloaded BookPlayer to my iPhone, to try out. BookPlayer is an open source player for DRM-free audiobooks. It looks promising, but I haven’t actually tried it yet. Since it seems like it can pull stuff from OneDrive directly, I could simplify my workflow a bit by using it rather than Books.

My other recent pop culture obsession has been Godzilla. I’m working my way through the Criterion box set that I bought earlier this year. I’ve watched through to Son of Godzilla. Destroy All Monsters is next! For most of these movies, it’s the first time I’ve seen the original Japanese version. The last time I’ve seen most of these was probably back when I was a kid, on TV, as a Saturday afternoon movie. And that would have been the chopped up, dubbed, American version, obviously. For something like Son of Godzilla, it’s a goofy movie either way, so watching the uncut original, in Japanese with subtitles, doesn’t turn it into Citizen Kane, but it’s a more interesting experience to watch it that way, I think. I’ve been logging them all on Letterboxd, which has some pretty fun reviews for some of these movies.

Oh, and thinking about Doctor Who and Godzilla made me wonder if there’s ever been any kind of crossover between the two. There’s fan fiction of course, but the closest I could come to a “real” crossover is the Dr. Who character from the Japanese King Kong show and King Kong Escapes movie. Godzilla has of course met King Kong, so that puts Godzilla just one degree of separation from a character named Dr. Who, even if that character isn’t exactly a time lord.

Reading and organizing comics

I haven’t written a blog post in a while, I see. There are a bunch of things I could blog about, some of which might be useful or interesting. But I’ve spend a bunch of time this weekend fiddling with comic book related stuff, so you’re going to get a post about comic books, and organizing lists of comics, and ComiXology, and stuff like that.

I keep a list in Evernote of all of the physical single-issue comics I’ve bought and read, since I jumped back into buying single-issue books in 2016. I pretty much stopped buying new books in 2020. I looked at that list about a month back, and realized that I’d bought less than a dozen (physical) comics this year. And I’d read only a few. I read a few more right around Halloween, since I was in the mood to read some spooky stuff, and I had a few old Halloween-related comics in my to-read pile. Today, I went through the list and decided to buy a few more single issues on eBay to complete a couple of runs. I bought the eighth issue of Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey, a couple of issues of Wynd, a couple of issues of Usagi Yojimbo, and a couple of issues of Groo Meets Tarzan. The last issue of Groo Meets Tarzan comes out this week, so I’m going to try to pick that up at my local comic shop, and then that’ll probably be the last book I buy this year. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking that I should sit down one of these days and polish off the last of the DC books I’d bought before stopping. I have a handful of Detective issues, all twelve issues of Bendis’ Legion of Super-Heroes run, and some other stuff.

I also recently took a look at my Goodreads history to see what collections (physical and digital) that I’ve read this year. I finished reading Brian K. Vaughn’s Ex Machina series (digital collections from ComiXology). I read a few volumes of Invincible (ComiXology again). I read most of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run (physical TPBs), and will probably finish that by the end of the year. I bought and read most of the Hilda books after watching the Netflix show. (Those aren’t available digitally, so I bought the TPBs. They’re oversized, so I’m probably better off with the physical format for those.) And some other random stuff.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten interested in reading some stuff from old Humble Bundles again, so I’ve read a few old Doctor Who and Star Wars volumes, in CBZ format, on my iPad. This lead me into reevaluating my choice of reader apps for DRM-free comics. For the last year or so, I’ve been using iComics, which is pretty good. (I blogged about it just about a year ago.) I decided to play with Panels this weekend and see if it was any better. The free version of Panels isn’t great, but if you pay for the premium version ($1.50/month or $11.50/year), it’s a little better than iComics and maybe even better than my old favorite, Comic Zeal (which unfortunately hasn’t been updated since 2016, and doesn’t really work anymore). I’m not keen on paying a subscription fee for a comics reader, but I might do it. (I’m on a one-week free trial right now.) And I guess that providing the developer with a steady income flow might keep that “no updates since 2016” problem from happening…

Back on the ComiXology side of things, I had an issue with the app on my iPad yesterday that caused me to delete it and reinstall it. That got me looking at my library of books there. I currently have over 1000 books in my library. ComiXology has never really had great tools for managing a large library. The tools have gotten a little better over the years, but still aren’t that great. But I spent some time in the app yesterday going through my old books, and marking a bunch as “read,” cross-referencing them against my read/unread lists in Evernote. Back when ComiXology started, they didn’t really have a good system for marking books as read. When you’d read an issue, the app would remember that, but it didn’t sync that status back up to the server, so you’d lose it any time you had to reinstall the app or move to a new iPad. At some point, they fixed that, and the read/unread status is stored in the cloud, and is even something you can filter on. So I’d like to get to the point where I can look at my list of unread books, and it’ll actually show me only books I haven’t read yet. My official unread list is currently a little over 600 books. There are still a bunch of books in there that I’ve actually read, but just haven’t marked as such, so I still have some cleanup to do.

The planned changes to ComiXology, that were announced back in September, are apparently still on, but little has been said about them lately. You can still buy comics from comixology.com and manage your library from there. I’m hoping that all the work I just did to try to update the read/unread status on my books doesn’t get lost in the transition. (Though it would be pretty typical and unsurprising if that did happen.)

At the beginning of the year, I briefly considered subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited, but couldn’t quite talk myself into it, mostly due to the large library of purchased comics that I still haven’t read. But now I’m thinking about it again. There are a few things I want to read that I haven’t bought yet, and that are available on ComiXology Unlimited. So maybe I should just go ahead with that. I have to keep reminding myself how much of a backlog I have…

I’m also considering buying a couple more Humble Bundles. There’s a Dynamite one running right now that has some books in it that I’d like to read, and some that reprint stuff that I read long ago, but would like to reread, like Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar. (I need to remind myself that I bought two Dynamite bundles in 2014, and haven’t read everything from those bundles yet.) And Dark Horse has a Lone Wolf and Cub bundle. I read a bunch of Lone Wolf and Cub years ago, when First Comics was publishing it back in the 80s. But I don’t have those issues anymore, and First didn’t complete the series. Again though, I need to remind myself that I have a manga bundle from 2018 that I haven’t read yet. and a bunch of volumes of Blade of the Immortal that I haven’t read. And a number of other random manga volumes that are collecting dust on my shelves… But at least the Humble bundles support charity, and they’re DRM-free downloads, so they don’t take up space in my apartment, and I won’t ever lose access to them (assuming I don’t lose my hard drive and all my backups).

One of the other good things about having switched largely to digital comics is that I don’t have to bag and board them, so the current bag and board shortage really doesn’t affect me. Nor does the recent ransomware attack on Diamond.

I’ve taken Thanksgiving week off, to use up some of my outstanding vacation days, and maybe I’ll read a bunch of comics over that week. I had been thinking about a semi-ambitious multi-day NYC vacation for at least part of that week, but I’m rethinking that after being sick most of this week. I’m pretty sure I got sick after going out to eat last Sunday. It was the first time since the pandemic started that I’d risked eating indoors at a restaurant. I can’t say for sure that the restaurant visit was where I got sick, but there’s a pretty good chance that it was. And I did get sick after NYCC, as I mentioned in my last post. So maybe a multi-day NYC trip is a bit too ambitious for me right now. Maybe a one-day trip on Monday of that week? Then I’ll have the rest of the week to recover if I get sick? I don’t think any of my illnesses this year have been COVID, but they sure have been inconvenient and annoying.

Well, there you go, a long and rambling post about comics. I guess that was a good way for me to get some of this stuff out of my head on a Sunday evening so I can concentrate on work tomorrow and have a good work week, prior to my vacation next week.

Last day of vacation

Today is the last day of my planned NYCC vacation. Several months ago, I put in a PTO request for Thursday and Friday of last week and Monday (today) of this week, thinking that maybe I’d try for a “normal” NYCC vacation: going into NYC for all four days of the con, maybe staying at a hotel, and using today to get my laundry done and rest. In reality, I went to the con on Thursday, came back home that evening, then spent Friday through Sunday mostly sitting on my couch, watching con videos, watching random stuff on TV, and not much else. I was low-level sick on Friday and Saturday, and started feeling better yesterday. I feel mostly “back to normal” today, and should be fine for work tomorrow.

I was surprised yesterday to realize that I was thinking of this as a “successful” vacation. I didn’t really do much, but at least I got into NYC for a day, and I got the chance to avoid thinking (much) about work for several days and relax. And, while I was a bit sick, it wasn’t that bad. I don’t know if this is a sign of my admirable zen-like equanimity, or if my soul has been crushed by everything that’s happened over the last few years, so just “going into NYC for a day and not getting COVID” counts as success.

Getting back to the MacBook issue that I mentioned in my post from Saturday: I thought I’d fixed it, since it didn’t recur at all yesterday. But the MacBook crashed again this morning, while I was watching an NYCC video, so I guess I didn’t really fix it. My current theory is that it’s got something to do with the battery misbehaving and/or the CPU overheating. It seems to happen only when I’m watching video, with the MacBook unplugged from A/C power, and only when I’ve been using it for awhile. I got a full Carbon Copy Cloner backup done on Saturday, and it didn’t crash, and of course I had it plugged in to A/C power for that. And it hasn’t crashed at any point when all I’ve been doing is browsing the web or working in Evernote or whatever. It’s always when I’m watching video (or have recently been watching video).

So I don’t really know what to do about it. I could bring it into the Apple Store for service, but it’s out of warranty. so it’ll cost me some money, and they might not even find and fix the problem. I could assume it’s software-related, and do a full wipe & re-install of the OS, but that’s a lot of work, and might also be pointless. I could trade it in for a new MacBook, but it’s only three years old, and I don’t really want to buy a new MacBook right now.

I guess I’ll live with it for now, and see if it gets better or worse. Maybe the macOS Monterey upgrade will fix it? (Or maybe Monterey will be a good excuse to get a fancy new M1 MacBook Air, as some features of Monterey will only work on M1 Macs.)

I’ve also (reluctantly) considered switching from Firefox to Safari on the Mac. Safari is supposed to be much better at managing CPU usage and battery than Firefox, so maybe just switching would solve the problem. But, since I use both Mac and PC, that means dealing with different browsers on the two platforms, which will create extra work and frustration for me. Well, I’m going to try to postpone any decisions on that for now.

Getting back to NYCC and comics: I’ve now watched a bunch of the panels from the con. Some were live, and some were Zoom-style panels. Some were really good, but a few had enough technical issues that I gave up on them. I enjoyed the spotlight panels for William Shatner, George Takei, Adam Savage, and David Harbour. I enjoyed the Ghostbusters and Animaniacs panels.

I would like to have watched more panels that were specifically about comic books and comics creators, but honestly there weren’t that many that I was that interested in. There were a couple that I started watching, but gave up on, due to sound issues and/or the fact that they just weren’t that interesting to me. I did enjoy the Brian K. Vaughn panel (though I still haven’t watched the whole video for that, since my laptop crashed while I was watching it this morning).

For TV-related panels: I still want to watch the Expanse panel, and the two Star Trek panels (Discovery and Prodigy).

It’s fairly typical for me to spend a bunch of money at a con, buying back issues, graphic novels, toys, and other stuff. At the con itself this year, I only bought one book (Love and Capes: The Family Way, by Thom Zahler). But, back at home, sitting on the couch, I wound up ordering a few other items, prompted mostly by stuff that got mentioned on panels. During the David Harbour panel, I remembered that I’d never seen his Hellboy movie, and I noticed the digital version was on sale at Amazon for $6, so I bought (and watched) that. (It’s not a great movie, but I guess it was worth the $6.) And during the Ghostbusters panel, it occurred to me that I haven’t seem either of the original Ghostbusters movies in a long time, and that I could buy both movies on Blu-ray from Amazon for $13. So I did that. And something on some panel or another got me thinking about Fables, and led me to buy Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland from Comixology, which was on sale for 50% off, and was (probably) the only major Fables book I didn’t already own (physically or digitally). So, overall, I didn’t blow a lot of money, or bring home a lot of physical stuff to clutter up my apartment, so that’s a win. (But I feel a little guilty that most of my con-related spending was through Amazon, and didn’t really do much to support the comics creators who showed up for NYCC.)

It’s now past noon, and my last vacation day is quickly passing by. I had a few more things to blog about, but I’ll stop here. I should probably try to eat something interesting and different for lunch today, so it feels more like a vacation day, but I’m probably just going to make a turkey sandwich.

NYCC and MacBook stuff

So I went to NYCC on Thursday, as planned, and it wasn’t too bad. The vaccine check-in was smooth and quick. Getting in to the con itself took a little while, but not too long. I got there around 10:30, so the initial crush of people trying to get in at 10 (assuming there was one) had subsided. It still took a while to get in, due to the usual metal detector, bag search, empty your pockets routine. (I kind of wish they could have skipped that this year, but I guess that kind of thing isn’t going away any time soon.)

I honestly didn’t stay too long, just a few hours. I bought a book from Thom Zahler in artist’s alley, but that’s all I bought. I spent a good bit of time wandering the show floor and browsing. I didn’t make it to any panels. I had intended to go to the Sandman Audible panel. I watched that yesterday, at home, and I don’t feel too bad about missing it. It was a good panel, but it was just a typical COVID-era Zoom panel. And I think it was pre-recorded, so the “live” panel at Javits was apparently just a showing of the Zoom call on a big screen.

I had also thought about going to the William Shatner spotlight. That actually was a live event, with Shatner doing his usual thing, talking about his recent projects and telling some stories. I watched that this morning. That would have been fun to go to, but I’ve seen Shatner live before, so I don’t terribly regret skipping this one either. I’ll probably watch some more of the panels today and tomorrow, from the safety of my own couch.

I started feeling a little sick yesterday, and I’m still feeling it a bit today. Hopefully, this is just my usual post-con malaise, and not COVID or anything serious. I’m fully vaccinated for COVID, of course, and I’ve also had my flu shot this year, so this is probably just the typical “con crud.”

While I was writing this post, my MacBook crashed. It’s been doing that a lot lately over the last few days. I initially thought it might be an issue with the NYCC video player, since it seemed to be happening most when I was watching NYCC videos. Then I thought maybe it was a Firefox issue, since it was only happening when I had Firefox open. (But, honestly, 90% of my MacBook usage is just doing stuff in Firefox.) Anyway, I’ve now run macOS diagnostics, Disk Utility, and Onyx. None of them found any issues. And I’m almost done writing this blog post, and the MacBook hasn’t crashed, so maybe that’s a good sign. I should probably hook up an external drive and run a full Carbon Copy Cloner backup, just in case. (And if it does that without crashing, that’s another good sign…)

AirPods Pro

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I just bought AirPods Pro for myself. I already have regular AirPods, bought in November 2019, and Beats Solo Pro, bought in February. So now I have three pairs of wireless headphones. I really resisted wireless headphones when they first became popular, preferring to stick with wired ones. And it bothered me greatly when Apple discontinued the headphone port on the iPhone. But now I guess I’m all in.

I use my old AirPods all the time, and I really like them. I mostly use them for audiobooks and podcasts, but music sounds fine with them too. I use them for TV watching too, via the Apple TV.

I bought the Beats Solo Pro because I wanted noise-cancelling on-ear headphones that would sound better than the AirPods. I don’t use them that often, but I do like them. The noise-cancelling is good, as is the sound quality. (I used them to drown out some noisy passengers on the train this weekend, and that was great!)

I’d resisted buying AirPods Pro up until now, since I’d tried them out in an Apple Store once and they didn’t seem to fit my ears well. But I figured I’d give them another shot. Costco had them on sale for $190, and it’s easy to return stuff to Costco, so I went ahead.

My initial impression is that they fit my ears well enough, but not perfectly. The left one is a little loose, but the right one is just about perfect. I guess I’m using the medium tips. (Whichever ones were on them out of the box.) The noise cancellation is OK, but not nearly as good as the Beats Solo Pro. The sound quality seems to be a bit better than the old AirPods, but probably not quite as good as the Beats. So that means that I should probably hang on to those too.

I’m not sure that there’s any point in hanging on to the old AirPods now. I’d thought that maybe I’d use those for podcasts and more casual listening, and use the AirPods Pro for music, but I guess they’re comfortable enough that I can just use them all the time and get rid of the old AirPods. Hopefully, I can find a new home for them. They’re still in good working condition, so I don’t want to just send them in for recycling if I can avoid it.

On a related note, I’ve been listening to some of the new Spatial Audio stuff in Apple Music recently. I think the hype around it is a bit overblown. But it’s interesting. I still haven’t found a song or album yet where the spatial audio stuff really blows me away. But there are a few I need to give a close listen to. Spatial Audio works on all three of my wireless headphones. It probably works best on the AirPods Pro, but I’m not really sure. I really don’t just stop and listen to music much anymore. I’m usually listening to it in the background while I work, or while I’m out for a walk. I really need to do some deep listening. I may write another blog post about Spatial Audio and the other stuff going on with Apple Music, but I’ll save that for another day.