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.

A rambling Sunday post

OK, so having gotten the previous Grammarly post out of my system, and having gone for a walk, I’m now watching the early-morning Frankfurt game on NFL+, and ready to write the long, rambling post I mentioned in the Grammarly post. (Side note: I like this short ESPN article about Belichick’s experience in Germany. I almost feel bad for Belichick this season, but not really. I mean, well, he’s still Belichick.)

Ever since I got COVID, things have been a little shaky for me. I keep getting a little sick, then a little better, then a little sick. I don’t think I’ve gotten COVID again (since that first rebound), so that’s good. I was fighting these low-level cold symptoms this past week, culminating with enough nasal congestion on Friday that I risked taking pseudoephedrine. I say “risked” because I often get some side effects from that. It definitely helped me get through the day Friday, but then I had some trouble sleeping. I was OK on Saturday morning, and got through my usual Saturday morning tasks: laundry and grocery shopping. But, after that was done, I sat down at my computer to pay some bills, and started getting a migraine aura.

I haven’t had serious migraine problems since 2016, but I’ve gotten a couple of mild ones this year. Looking at my notes in Day One, I see that I had one on June 1, and might have had one in May too.  (Day One is great for logging this kind of stuff so you can identify patterns.) This one was bad enough that I had to give up on the computer and lie down. I had planned to spend some time Saturday finishing up a LinkedIn course on more AI stuff, and to maybe finish watching season five of Dragon Prince, but that all went out the window. Instead, I listened to some podcasts and audiobooks. I listened to a bit more of the Locke & Key audio drama that I’ve been listening to on & off for about a year now. (I can never get myself to stick with it and finish it. Maybe I’ll get it done before the end of this year…) And I started listening to Neil Gaiman’s Warning: Contains Language, which I got as part of a Humble Bundle about ten years ago.

Eventually, I got to the point where I could sit up and watch TV. But I didn’t feel like I could deal with anything too challenging, so I settled on college football, which I haven’t watched at all in the last several years. I watched most of the Florida State vs Miami U game. That was the kind of game that could have been a blowout, but was actually a pretty close game and kind of fun to watch. (I’m still a little iffy on the whole Seminoles thing, but apparently the actual Seminole tribe is OK with it, so who am I to argue?) I don’t know that I’m going to get back into watching a lot of college football now, but maybe it’s an option for Saturdays when my brain isn’t working well enough for anything else.

Anyway, I managed to get a good night’s sleep last night, and feel like I could handle something more challenging than football today if I had to. But I’ve gotten used to spending Sundays watching NFL football this year, and I’m enjoying that, so I think that’s what I’m going to be doing today. I probably won’t be paying a lot of attention though. The Giants are playing at 4, and the Jets are on the Sunday night game. The Giants are terrible right now and they’re playing Dallas, so that game should be a blowout. The Jets are playing the Raiders, and both of those teams are mediocre, so that game might be competitive, but not that interesting. So I’ll probably go with having football on in the background all day while I do other things that don’t require too much concentration. So: writing rambling blog posts, catching up on email newsletters, and that kind of stuff. Maybe I’ll mute one of the games and finish that LinkedIn course I mentioned above.

Sonos Ray

For my ten year anniversary at SHI, I got 2000 points to spend on a gift for myself. SHI uses a service that has an online catalog of random stuff that you can pick. 2000 points seems to equal somewhere around $300. At first, I thought this system was overly complicated and kind of dumb, but when I thought about it, I guess it’s better than the obvious alternatives. The two other likely options would have been (a) just giving me an extra $300 in my paycheck, or (b) giving me some random corporate gift. For that first option, the money would have just gone into my bank account, and I would have forgotten about it. For the second option, they probably would have given me a nice pen or watch or something that I didn’t want or need. So I guess the “points” thing is actually a pretty good option, since it allows me to pick out something cool that I actually want.

So I got a Sonos Ray. I’d been thinking about buying one for a while, but hadn’t previously talked myself into it. I figured it would be a good way to get better sound out of my TV, without too much hassle. Up until now, I’d been using the built-in speakers for everyday use, and switching to my big old-fashioned stereo for movies or anything else where I wanted good sound. Routing through the stereo works well, but it’s a little bit of a pain, since it requires some button-pressing, and since I have no way of adjusting volume without getting up off my couch.

I’m already in the Sonos ecosystem, having bought a Sonos One in 2018, and a second one a bit later, which I have configured as a stereo pair. I use those often to listen to the radio, and sometimes for Apple Music. That works pretty well.

The Ray showed up yesterday, and was quite easy to set up. The Sonos app recognized it on the first try and added it to my system. It’s set up as a separate target from the Sonos One pair. In theory, I can stream music to it, the same as to the Ones, but I think I’m just going to use it for the TV. Setting it up to work with my TV remote was easy too. I can set the volume or mute it easily from my TV remote (or my TiVo or Apple TV remotes).

Overall, I’d say that the sound quality is better than the TV speakers, but not quite as good as my big old stereo speakers. But those are probably overkill for most TV. I’m not sure if I’ll be tempted to switch back to the old stereo speakers for movies or other stuff where I want the best possible sound. If I do, it’ll be a bit of a pain, since I’ll need to reach behind the TV and move the audio cable from the Sonos to the DAC that I use to bridge from the TV’s digital out to the stereo’s analog input. (Maybe I could find a DAC with a digital in, analog out, and digital passthru out. That would work…)

It occurs to me that, if I stop using the stereo for TV sound, then I’ll have pretty much stopped using the stereo entirely. I listen to the radio through the Sonos Ones now, since it’s much easier than trying to pick up over-the-air radio here. And I route Apple Music through the Sonos, because that’s the easiest way to do it. I don’t really listen to CDs anymore, and I don’t really use my little Volumio box anymore either. I don’t plan on getting rid of the stereo, but it’s interesting to think about how my listening habits have changed.

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

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.