Dresden Files

Last night, I finished listening to the fourth Dresden Files audiobook, so now I’m done with the four-book set that I started back in January. I’ve been debating whether or not I want to keep working my way through the series in audio format. This is a reread for me, since I’ve read the first eleven Dresden books already, though that was in paperback, so the audio format at least is new for me. And it was long enough ago that I don’t recall all the details, so there’s some suspense to it.

I started reading the Dresden novels in 2007 and last read one in 2015. So it’s been a while. I had those first eleven books in paperback. I think I donated them to a library sale at some point, though I don’t seem to have any record of that. (I usually note donated books in Evernote and with a “donated” tag on Goodreads, so I can remember that they’re gone, and not go looking for them…) In 2018, I noted that I had considered donating them, but decided to hang onto them. But I can’t find them now. So either I donated them at some later point, or I stuck them in a box and squirreled it away somewhere non-obvious.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that both the audio version of the fifth book, Death Masks, and the Kindle version of the twelfth book, Changes, are available from my local library, so I can read both for free. I’ve just started Changes, and we’ll see if I remember enough of the stuff that happened in books 5 through 11 to understand what’s going on. If I need a refresher, I can look at this Dresden Files reread on tor.com.

Looking at the my history with the Dresden series is interesting to me. I started reading it at a time when I was mostly buying books one at a time, in paperback, from mall stores or Borders, or Barnes & Noble. And my method for keeping track of what I’d read or not was mostly just looking at my bookshelf and seeing if the book was there. If it was, then I’d read it. Now, things are more complicated. Sometimes I still buy physical books. Sometimes, I buy Kindle books. Other times, I borrow a book from the library (either physical or on Kindle). When I buy physical books, I generally donate them after reading them. So I really have to rely on Goodreads and Evernote to keep track of stuff.

I bought my Kindle in 2008, so I actually had the Kindle through most of the time that I was reading Dresden novels. I’m not sure why I never switched from paperbacks to Kindle versions, but maybe it was because I’d started in paperback, and just decided to stay with that format. Or maybe I was getting the paperbacks for less than I would have had to pay for the Kindle versions.

I feel a little guilty for sticking mostly with familiar, safe, low-brow reading material this year so far, but not that guilty. I’ve been stretching myself over the last few years, reading some classics like War and Peace, and other stuff that’s outside my comfort zone. I think it’s time to take a break and catch up on some silly genre stuff.

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.

Batman Day

Happy Batman Day, I guess. It doesn’t seem like there’s really that much going on for it this year.
I’m kind of interested in the Batman: The Audio Adventures thing, but I’m not going to sign up for HBO Max just to listen to it. Kind of weird that they’re putting out a podcast/audiobook thing through HBO Max. Do they have their own iPhone app for audio content or something? I don’t know…

Anyway, that reminded me that I still haven’t listened to Wolverine: The Long Night, Marvel’s scripted podcast, which has been on my phone since it came out in 2018. (And apparently it has a second season which came out in 2019.)

Along those lines, I started listening to Bubble, Maximum Fun’s scripted podcast, earlier this week. That has also been on my phone since it came out in 2018. I guess “scripted podcasts” were a big thing that year. I took a sick day on Monday, and didn’t have enough energy to do much else, so lying on the couch listening to a funny story seemed like a good idea. I listened to six of the eight episodes. It’s pretty good. I’ll probably finish it today or tomorrow. A graphic novel adaptation of it just came out. I’m interested in that, but not enough to buy a copy (just yet). I have way too much other stuff to read.

And in the same vein, Act II of Audible’s Sandman adaptation just came out. I bought the first part on MP3 CD in 2020, but haven’t listened to it yet. That first part is now free via Audible (no subscription required) until October 22.

So lots of crossover between comics and audiobooks (or audio dramas, or scripted podcasts, or whatever). This all reminds me of the old Batman book and record set I had when I was a kid. Or the issue of Nexus that came with a flexi-disc. Anyway, I need to listen to more of this stuff.

movies and TV and podcasts

Thinking back to the beginning of this summer, I was somewhat hopeful about the trajectory that we seemed to be on, and was looking forward to making a few trips into NYC, seeing a few movies in a theater, and maybe returning to something like “normal” for the fall. But here we are at the end of August, and things aren’t going so well. I’m back to getting my groceries delivered, I paid $30 to watch Black Widow at home instead of going to a theater, and I’ve only been into NYC once. I still have my NYCC tickets for October, but I’m really not sure if I’m going to go.

Which is all prelude to saying that I’ve been watching a lot of movies and TV shows lately. I’ve also gotten into the habit of pairing my TV/movie watching with related podcasts. For older stuff, there are a bunch of “rewatch” podcasts out there. For newer stuff, there’s a lot of “recap” podcasts that come out the day after a new episode airs. So for the older stuff, I’m getting some contemporary context, and for the newer stuff, I’m getting a little bit of the feeling of being part of the real-time conversation about the show. I thought it would be fun to write up some notes about what I’ve been watching and listening to lately.

Star Trek: Discovery

I still haven’t talked myself into signing up for Paramount+, so I’ve just been buying this show on DVD/Blu-ray. I bought DVDs for seasons one and two, but splurged on the SteelBook Blu-ray set for season three. And I just finished watching season three a few weeks ago. I listened to The Greatest Discovery podcast along with it. Greatest Discovery is a spinoff of Greatest Generation, a TNG rewatch podcast that started in 2016. It’s a fun podcast, but there are a lot of in-jokes that I don’t get, and it’s mostly just a funny podcast with two nerds talking about Star Trek. (Which is fine. But it’s not something that’s giving you a lot of background or critical analysis.) As for Discovery itself, it’s… a mixed bag. There’s some great stuff in there, but there’s a lot of frustrating stuff that has me yelling at the screen. (Which is where the podcast comes in. It’s nice to listen to a couple of fellow nerds who are frustrated about the same things as I am, and who can crack jokes about them.)

Star Trek movies

I’ve also decided to rewatch the original Star Trek movies. I’ve gotten through to Star Trek V, which I watched yesterday. I’ve been listening to selected old episodes of Inglorious Treksperts to go along with that. For Star Trek V, I listened to this episode recorded at WonderCon 2019, featuring one of the writers from that movie, David Loughery. (I was at that WonderCon, but didn’t make it to that panel.) For Star Trek III, I listened to a two part series (part one and part two) where they dissect some script notes that went back and forth between Harve Bennet and Gene Roddenberry on the script for that film. It’s all very nerdy, but it’s cool to hear some of the behind-the-scenes history on these films. The guys who do that podcast are very knowledgeable about Trek, and also very funny. They did a Best Of Inglorious Treksperts video for this years Comic-Con@Home. If you’re curious about them, that’s a good place to start.

Disney+ Marvel shows

For the various Disney+ Marvel shows (WandaVision, Loki, etc.), I’ve been listening to the MarvelVision podcast from the Comic Book Club guys. They’ve also been doing a rewatch of the MCU movies, airing episodes about those in between the Disney+ shows. They’re generally pretty funny. The movie rewatch episodes have had some interesting guests too, including the guy who played Aaron in Winter Soldier.

Studio Ghibli movies

I bought a bunch of Ghibli movies on Blu-ray recently, and I’ve been watching those, and listening to the Ghibliotheque podcast along with them. Ghibliotheque is a (relatively) serious podcast, compared to some of the others I’ve mentioned here. It’s hosted by two British guys, one of whom has seen all of the Ghibli movies, and one who had only seen a few, and is watching most of them for the first time. They’re both smart guys who know a lot about movies. They have a book coming out soon, which I will probably buy.

Well, I have now spent way more time on this post than I’d intended to. (I went down a bunch of side paths while looking for links to include here.) But it’s a rainy Sunday morning, and there wasn’t much else to do.

unnecessary headphones

Over the course of this pandemic, I’ve tried hard to be mindful about not going overboard with random internet shopping. And I think I’ve done OK. In terms of major purchases, over the last year, I’ve bought a new laptop (replacing one that was ten years old) and a new Apple Watch 6 (replacing a Watch 3). I’ve signed up for Disney+, Hulu, and Apple Music. I’ve bought a handful of Blu-rays that I didn’t really need. But that’s about it.

All of which is preamble to admitting that I saw that Woot had the Beats Solo Pro headphones on sale for 50% off last week, so I went ahead and bought a pair. I can’t really make a great case for buying these, even at half-price, honestly. Since I’m stuck at home most of the time, I’ve been doing fine with my AirPods. But I’ve had the thought in my head for a while that I should pick up some noise-cancelling headphones. The idea was that they’d replace the old UrbanEars headphones that I keep in my backpack, and which are now in pretty bad shape. My main use case for them would have been on train rides into NYC and on airplanes, neither or which is going to happen any time soon. (Every time I think it might be safe to start visiting NYC again, there’s some bad news, like the new variants that are going around right now.)

So, anyway, I now have a new pair of headphones that I don’t really need. But it’s been fun playing with them. I’ve never tried noise-cancelling headphones before, so that’s been interesting. I’ve read up on what noise cancellation can and can’t do, so my expectations weren’t unrealistic. One day earlier this week, there was a lot of noise outside, as the town was working on removing some snow. I put the headphones on, and they completely removed the sound of the snow removal equipment, except for the back-up beeper. So that was cool. I’ve also found that they can remove the sound of my humidifier and my air cleaner entirely. The humidifier is pretty quiet, so that’s not a big deal, but the air cleaner is a bit noisy.

Having read some reviews of the Beats Solo Pro, I’d say that they pretty much correspond to what I expected of them. (Here’s a review from iMore, one from The Verge, and one from MKBHD, who doesn’t usually like Beats.) The sound is good, but not amazing. They’re a little uncomfortable, but not unbearably so. I’m not sure if I could wear them for an extended period. I’ve heard that they loosen up a bit after you’ve been using them for a while, so maybe that’ll help.

The H1 chip is probably the best reason to choose these over other wireless noise-cancelling headphones. (It’s the same chip that is in the AirPods.) They pair seamlessly with my iPhone and Apple TV (and probably with my iPad and Mac, though I haven’t bothered trying yet).

Overall, I don’t think I’m going to get a ton of use out of them while I’m still in pandemic mode. For most of the use cases where I’m currently using my AirPods, I’ll likely keep using them. The AirPods are fine for podcasts and audiobooks. And they’re probably better for wearing outside, when I’m on a long walk, than the Beats would be. For listening to music, I generally use my Sonos speakers or regular stereo system (if I’m in the living room) or the speakers on my desktop PC (if I’m in my bedroom working). There are a few cases where I might want to listen to music with the Beats rather than over my speakers or with the AirPods. But the tradeoffs (comfort and convenience, mostly) will probably keep me using the AirPods and/or my various speakers most of the time.

So, yeah, I didn’t need these headphones. But for half-price, I don’t see them as a bad purchasing decision. I’ll get enough use out of them, I think, before the battery goes bad and/or they fall apart.

more fun with audiobooks, on Presidents Day

Today is Presidents Day, and I have the day off from work. In a normal year, I’d maybe take this opportunity to go into New York and visit some museums, or maybe just go out and see a movie, but this year, between the pandemic and the coming ice storm, I think I’ll just be staying home and doing largely pointless nonsense. (I could maybe look at this Times article, and do something meaningful that ties in to the holiday, but.. nope.)

Pointless activity number one for today has been “messing around with audiobooks”, so this post is going to be a follow-up to my last fun with audiobooks post. Since that post, I’ve finished Charlotte’s Web, borrowed from my local library via OverDrive. And I’ve started The Witch Who Came In From The Cold, via Serial Box.

From an iOS app perspective, I’m realizing that I need to use multiple apps now, depending on where my audiobooks are coming from. Books bought from Apple, and DRM-free books that I’ve dragged into Books on my Mac, can be listened to via the Books app on my phone (or with Undulib or something similar). Audible books need to be listened to via the Audible app. Library books can be listened to with OverDrive or Libby. And Serial Box books probably need to be listened to via the Serial Box app.

I have figured out, though, that it’s possible to save OverDrive audiobooks (if they’re in MP3 format) to my local PC (via the OverDrive Windows app). And it’s probably still possible to export Audible books via OpenAudible or AudibleSync. And I’m pretty sure that it used to be possible to download MP3 files for Serial Box titles, but they seem to have discontinued that and locked it down, so you’re stuck with their app now.

I’ve also been messing around with utilities to combine MP3 files into consolidated audiobook files. I’d been looking at Join Together and Audiobook Builder. Those are both $5 apps available for the Mac. I wound up buying Audiobook Builder, though Join Together would probably have also worked well. I don’t really need to create consolidated audiobook files, but it does allow me to clean things up a bit, specifically for audiobooks that I’ve ripped from CD. I’ve run a few books through Audiobook Builder, and it seems to work fine. I’ve pulled in MP3 files and output M4B files, and the output always comes out smaller than the input, and seems to work fine in Books (on Mac/iPhone) and iTunes (on Windows). I can edit the metadata for the combined file, and for the chapter titles.

Since paying for Audiobook Builder, I noticed Audiobook Binder, which is quite similar, but free, and open source. I probably should have tried that first. The visual similarity between the two programs is kind of suspicious. If Audiobook Builder didn’t have a fairly long history, I’d think it might just be a fork of Audiobook Binder that somebody tweaked a bit, then tossed up in the Mac App Store. But it’s been around since 2006, so that’s unlikely.

It would actually be more convenient for me to have a program like this on my PC, but there doesn’t seem to be much available for Windows. I found something called AAC Audiobook Creator, which might work, but it hasn’t been updated since 2011. So I guess I’ll stick with Audiobook Builder for now, since I’ve paid for it and it works well enough.

Getting back to iOS apps, I haven’t really had any issues with the multiple apps I’m using now, though it would be nice to just have one great one. The Apple Books app works well enough, for both books bought from Apple and DRM-free books synced from my Mac. The OverDrive app works fine for library books. (I’ve also installed Libby, and took a quick look at it, but I don’t think it’s any better than OverDrive.) As I mentioned last time, I think the Audible app is working for me now, though I haven’t actually tried to use it to listen to anything lately. And the Serial Box app is a little clunky, but good enough. All of these apps have the basic controls available, plus multiple speeds (if you’re interested in that) and sleep timers.

Having content spread across multiple apps and providers does make things harder to keep track of, but that’s what Evernote and Goodreads are for. And speaking of content, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. The current Serial Box book I’m listening to, The Witch Who Came In From The Cold: Season One, is pretty good. I’ve previously listened to the first season of Bookburners, and enjoyed that one too. I thought I’d written a blog post mentioning it, but I can’t find it. I did write a relatively long review on Goodreads, though. I got the first seasons of four different Serial Box serials as part of a Humble bundle back in 2018. Serial Box is a pretty interesting publisher. They publish stuff as serials, in both audio and text format, and use a “season” format similar to the way a TV show would be produced. The “seasons” have individual “episodes.” There’s generally a group of writers working on a season, with individual episodes written by individual writers, but sticking to a consistent voice and style. It works pretty well, for the two serials I’ve tried so far. When they started out, they were doing original stuff, but now they’re also doing serials featuring licensed characters from Marvel, like Black Panther. And they have a subscription service now too, which gets you access to a library of more traditional audiobooks in addition to their own stuff.

Once I’m finished with the serial I’m listening to now, I’m not sure what I’ll listen to next. I’ve got a lot of options. Maybe some of the Neil Gaiman stuff that I haven’t listened to yet. Or maybe I’ll get back to the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.

 

fun with audiobooks

I have a long history of complaining about audiobook-related issues on this blog. The most recent entry in the saga is here, from November of last year. I’ve been playing around with some audiobook stuff again recently, so I thought I’d write another post.

First, let me say that my issue with the Audible iOS app seems to have resolved itself. The issue started back in June, and was still an issue in November. The app would always crash after about 30 seconds or so. I tried every combination of deleting, reinstalling, rebooting, etc., that I could think of. I guess Audible eventually fixed the issue, or it went away on its own, or something. Either way, I’m pretty sure I could listen to an Audible book now, if I wanted to.

I’ve also been messing around with my library of audiobooks in Apple’s Books app. I mentioned the annoying limitations of the macOS Books app in that November post. Those all still exist. But I spent some time recently cleaning out some old audiobooks that didn’t need to be in the library, and moving some into folders in OneDrive for safekeeping. So now I feel a little better about that.

While looking through the handful of audiobooks that I’d bought from Apple over the years, I discovered that at least one of them was no longer downloadable from them. I still have a copy of it, and it still plays, but if I delete it, I think it’ll be gone forever. So I backed that one up. (Not that I’m ever going to listen to it again. It was a nice mystery novel, but nothing special.) Several of the oldest audiobooks that I have from Apple don’t seem to be available anymore, at least in the same version that I originally bought. They do still show in my purchase history, and seem to be re-downloadable though. These go back to the early days of Apple’s audiobook store, when they were really only reselling stuff from Audible. (I guess that, technically, they’re still reselling a lot of stuff that’s provided by Audible, but they’re not just doing that.)

And I’ve still got a lot of DRM-free audiobooks and audiodramas in my “waiting to read” pile. The next time I want to read one, I might try out Bound, or something similar. Or I might try to create a consolidated audiobook file with something like Join Together or Audiobook Builder, so maybe I can get a cleaner listening experience in Apple’s Books app.

Right now, I’m listening to an abridged version of A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to it already, but it would have been back before I started assiduously logging everything I read (or listen to). Anyway, I’ve forgotten it all, so it’s good to get a refresher. And listening to Bill Bryson calmly talk about science is a nice way to wind down at the end of the day.

Speaking of which, I’ve gotten back into the habit of listening to a bit of an audiobook near the end of the day, on most days. If I’ve got the right book, I think it helps me wind down a bit. Prior to the Bryson book, I was finishing up a BBC adaptation of War and Peace. That was also pretty good for winding down. I’ve got at least one Harry Potter book in audio form. And I’ve got The Hobbit, and some version of Lord of the Rings around here somewhere. And a few Neil Gaiman books. So I should be OK for end-of-the-day listening for the foreseeable future.

audiobooks, comics, and iOS apps

It looks like we’re right in the middle of our second wave here in NJ. There are a few bright spots, but I think, overall, it’ll get worse before it gets better. So… happy Thanksgiving, I guess?

I spent my Thanksgiving alone in my apartment, but I probably would have done that this year, even if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic. I also spent Black Friday alone in my apartment, and will likely be spending today and tomorrow home alone too. If the pandemic was over, I’d probably have gone into NYC at some point this weekend, but that’s out of the question now. So I’m definitely feeling a bit of cabin fever. But I’ll get through it.

I managed to get the Audible app on my iPhone working, somehow. After last week’s trouble, I’d pretty much given up on it, but I decided to take another shot. I don’t really know what I did to get it to work, but, well, it’s working now. Though I should say that I haven’t actually tried to listen to anything yet, so I don’t really know if that’ll work. But at least I can launch the app and poke around in it without having it crash.

And I still haven’t decided what I want to listen to next. I started listening to a BBC adaptation of War and Peace some time ago, and I should probably get back to that and finish it, but I haven’t been in the mood for anything like that. I should probably listen to one of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas instead. (Neither of those requires Audible, though, and I’d like to find out if the Audible app is really fixed or not, so I may try something from my Audible library instead.)

Meanwhile, on my iPad, I wanted to read a comic last night and tried to launch Comic Zeal, which is the iOS app i use for reading DRM-free comics. It crashed as soon as I opened it, and I couldn’t find any way to get it to work. I didn’t want to delete and reinstall it, since that would also remove the 4 GB worth of comics that I had loaded in to it. Comic Zeal hasn’t been updated in about four years, so I’ve been expecting that it would eventually stop working. I assumed that iOS 14 had finally killed it. But, then, after deleting it and reinstalling it, it does seem to work again. Of course, that killed all the comics I had in there, so I decided that maybe I should just try another app.

I’d picked up iComics at some point, when it was on sale or something, maybe last year, but hadn’t tried it out at all. I looked at the app store, and I saw that it was updated to work with iOS 14 a couple of months ago, so that seemed like a good bet. So I’m going to try to switch over to that. Dealing with situations like this always reminds me of how annoyed I am about the file system on iOS. On a normal computer, I would have been able to just drag and drop the files from Comic Zeal over to iComics. But, with iOS, if you can’t launch an app, then there’s really no way to get to that app’s files. So I had to go through the work of figuring out where the CBZ files were for the comics I wanted to load, pull them down from OneDrive to my Mac, then copy them over to the iPad. That took quite a while.

One nice thing about iComics over Comic Zeal is that it exposes its files via the Files app, so I think that means that I could access them even if I couldn’t launch the app. I’ve played around with iComics a bit now, and I think it’s good enough for me, but it definitely doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Comic Zeal had. It’s a shame that the developer on that one seems to have given up on it.

I see that the developer for iComics started working on a new version in January of this year. But, of course the pandemic (and other stuff) got in the way, per this blog post from mid-year. He just posted a personal update a few days ago, coincidentally. He’s only written three blog posts this year, but they’re pretty lengthy and interesting. I, on the other hand, have written 93 posts so far this year, according to my stats. And most of them are probably dumb and boring. But that’s OK.

So, anyway, I guess I’ve got my audiobook and comic book situations figured out for now, so if I’m in the mood to listen/read this weekend, I’ll actually be able to do that. I have no clue what I really want to do for the rest of the weekend, though. I was pretty restless yesterday, for a while, and couldn’t decide what to do with myself, and started to get a bit annoyed with myself. Then, I didn’t sleep well last night. I guess I’ll get something for lunch soon. After that, maybe I’ll try to settle down and read something. Or take a walk. Or a nap. I guess it’s good that I have options.

audiobook management madness

Since I recently finished listening to Invisible Man, I thought I’d look into starting a new audiobook. I blogged about my issues with Invisible Man here. In a nutshell: it’s an Audible book, but I couldn’t get the Audible iOS app to work. I wound up listening to it through the Kindle iOS app, which was workable, but not great.

I have a pretty random collection of audiobooks. Some are from Audible, some are from Apple, and some are DRM-free books that I’ve gotten from Humble Bundles, or ripped from CD, or whatever. In trying to organize things a bit today, I wound up stumbling across a number of different issues, so I thought I’d write up some notes.

I started out by trying to get a handle on which audiobooks I have, which I’ve already read, and where they are. I have some notes about that in Evernote, but they were a little out of date. So I pulled up the Books app on my Mac to see what was in there.

I already vaguely knew that, in Catalina, books and audiobooks had been moved out of iTunes (obviously, since iTunes is no more), and into Books, but I guess I hadn’t looked at it too closely and realized how clunky that was and how much functionality has gone missing. First of all, the books are now stored in “~/Library/Containers/com.apple.BKAgentService/Data/Documents/iBooks/Books”. And there’s no right-click “Show in Finder” option like there used to be in iTunes. So finding the actual book files isn’t easy. And the folder doesn’t retain user-friendly names for the books; it just uses numbered folders. So that’s all a bit annoying. And, beyond that, there’s no ability to edit metadata for your books in the Books app the way there was in iTunes. So, overall, I guess Books is OK if you’re only using it to manage books/audiobooks bought from Apple. But if you’re trying to use it to manage random DRM-free files, it’s not optimal. So I spent some time puzzling through that, and realizing that there really isn’t a better alternative for managing audiobooks on the Mac.

I was also wondering if, now that I’m in Apple Music, there was a way to sync my audiobooks up to the cloud the way it works with Music. If I could do that, I’d be pretty close to having no further need to sync my iPhone to my Mac. But there’s really no way to do that. You still need to sync books to your iPhone the old-fashioned way. (That doesn’t really bother me too much, but if you’re going to push everybody to the cloud, maybe add that functionality to the Books app too?)

So, overall, Books on macOS was a bit of a disappointment, but I cleaned things up a little, updated my Evernote notes, and removed a few completed books from my iPhone.

Then, I went over to my PC to see what my iTunes audiobook library looked like over there. Apple hasn’t done much with iTunes on the PC lately, so the audiobook stuff still works fine. I did find one book that somehow accidentally migrated into my music collection, but I got it back into the audiobook section, and everything else seems fine.

Next, I decided to try installing the Audible app on my iPhone again, and see if the issue I was having back in July had sorted itself out yet. And the answer is: nope. I can get as far as launching the app and signing in, but then it just spins for a few seconds and crashes. It’s actually even worse that it was back in July. I tried a few hints and tips I saw online, like trying to launch it with wi-fi turned off, but nothing helped. The app just crashes, no matter what I do. The whole thing is kind of puzzling. There have been a bunch of updates to the Audible app between July and now, so if it was a common bug, they’d have fixed it. And I’ve updated from iOS 13 to iOS 14 since then, so if it was an iOS bug, you’d think that would have been fixed too.

I’ve got some stuff bookmarked related to the idea of keeping audiobooks in Plex and listening to them with an app called Prologue. It sounds promising, but I’m not ready to start messing with Plex again. It would only be useful for the DRM-free stuff, and not for stuff bought through Apple or Audible (unless I stripped the DRM, which is yet another step to go through).

So, around two hours after I started, I still haven’t picked out a new audiobook to start, and I’m more annoyed and depressed about the state of audiobook management and playback on the Mac and iOS that I was to begin with. Oh well.

 

AirPods

I finally broke down and bought myself a pair of AirPods yesterday. I didn’t get the fancy new AirPods Pro, just the regular AirPods, with the regular case (not the wireless charging case). They were on sale for $140 at Costco. I’ve considered picking up a pair a few times over the last year, but never quite talked myself into it. But I’ve been reading and watching a bunch of headphone reviews recently, and stopped at the Apple Store over the weekend to try out both the older AirPods and the newer AirPods Pro. The “Pro” model didn’t fit my ears well, though I only tried the medium tips. But it was the kind of thing where I was pretty sure that none of the tips was going to be quite right. (And I didn’t want to pay $300 either.)

The AirPods don’t fit my ears that well either, honestly, but they’re good enough. My “use case” for them will probably be for listening to music at my desk at work, podcasts and audiobooks at home, and maybe podcasts & music on the train occasionally. So I’ll usually be fairly stationary when I’m using them. Still, I may pick up a pair of these tips from Comply or these Earhoox things to get a better fit.

I had a lot of resistance to adding a new battery-powered device to my life. I feel like I have too many of those already. I had a lot of resistance to the Apple Watch for that reason too, but I’ve really gotten to like the watch. I suppose I’ll get used to the AirPods too. I plan on charging them right next to the Watch, on my computer desk, overnight. I had to buy a new two-port USB charger so I could do that, since I didn’t have a spare AC outlet near there. (And the AirPods don’t ship with an AC adapter anyway, just a Lightning/USB cable.)

I used the AirPods a bit at work today, and they worked well. The sound quality is similar to the old Sony earbuds that I’ve been using at work, but maybe a little better on the bass end. I listened to some rock, classical, and ambient music today, and they sounded fine on all of that. The ambient music sounded best, probably because it had the most bass. The classical (some Itzhak Perlman Mozart stuff) was not terribly impressive, but I wouldn’t expect it to be. You need good headphones or speakers to really get the full effect from something like that.

There are a few semi-interesting things that you can do with the AirPods that you can’t necessarily do with other headphones. I played around with Live Listen for a bit yesterday, and I’m curious to play with that some more. I do have some problems hearing, and I feel like that might help me out in certain circumstances.

I’m also curious to try them with my Apple TV. I do sometimes use headphones while I’m watching TV, but the way I do it now is a little inconvenient. (I’m using wired headphones connected to my stereo receiver.) I’m curious to see how the AirPods would work when watching a movie on Apple TV.

I haven’t used them for a phone call yet, but I’ll try that at some point. And I need to look at the Apple documentation to see if there’s anything else I can do with them that might be worth trying.

Overall, they’re fine, but they’re not life-changing, and I’m not sure they’re really worth more than $100. (But hey, what else am I going to spend my money on?)