Router and iPhone Follow-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

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.

replacing stuff

So I seem to have wound up replacing a bunch of stuff this week. It started with my landlord coming in to replace my air conditioning unit on Monday. They’ve needed to do that for quite a while now. That’s kind of a long story, but suffice it to say that, after around four hours of work, they managed to replace my A/C unit and thermostat. The A/C unit seems to be working fine. I can’t really say much about that, other than that it’s keeping the apartment cool and making less noise than the old one was. I’m curious to see whether the new unit has any effect on my electric bill. I can’t imagine that the old one was very efficient. I’ll look at my electric bill next month, but it’s getting into autumn now, so the bill would be going down anyway.

The thermostat is kind of interesting. The old one was a very old analog thermostat. The new one is a fairly low-end Honeywell digital thermostat. It’s programmable, but doesn’t have wifi support or any of that stuff, so you have to program it by pressing buttons on the unit itself, which is pretty annoying and time-consuming. I’ve got it running under a program, for now, but I may give up on that and go back to just nudging it up or down occasionally, like I used to do with the old thermostat.

Having the new thermostat and A/C unit has gotten me mildly interested in maybe getting a fancy thermostat with HomeKit support. But then I remind myself that I’m a single person in a one-bedroom apartment, which I almost never leave these days. So I really don’t need a smart thermostat.

The landlord was kind enough to leave the manual for the thermostat behind, so, as I normally do with these things, I wanted to put it in a folder, label the folder, and file it in my filing cabinet. I bought a Brother PT-1950 label maker in 2007, when I first got on my GTD kick, and I’ve been using it to label stuff since. But when I tried to use it to label my new “thermostat” folder, it didn’t work. I first thought that the batteries were dead, so I hopped on Amazon and ordered some new AA batteries. Then I remembered that I had an A/C adapter for the label maker, and tried that. I got an “EEPROM error”, which, according to the internet, means that I need to get the label maker serviced. Given that it’s more than ten years old, I decided to just trash it and get a new one instead. I looked at the Wirecutter reviews for label makers, but rejected their recommendations and bought a Brother P-Touch PT-D210 instead. It was only $35 from Amazon, and I was pretty sure that it used the same cartridges and A/C adapter as my old one.

It arrived today, along with the AA batteries I’d bought. The first problem was that I hadn’t noticed that this label maker uses 6 AAA batteries rather than the 6 AA batteries required for the old one. So I had to run over to ShopRite for AAA batteries. The second issue is that it uses slightly different tapes from the old one, so the half-used tape in the old one will have to get tossed. The new one came with a starter cartridge. Also, I have a spare cartridge from the old one that’s new enough to be compatible with both old & new label makers, so I have a full cartridge ready for when the starter one runs out.

So that was a long digression, all caused by wanting to print a label for a file folder. But now I have a fancy modern label maker, and I’m all set to start labeling stuff again.

Meanwhile, at work, we were notified recently that our company will no longer allow removable storage to be used on work computers. This isn’t a big problem, since I don’t normally have to use removable storage. But I do have a USB drive hooked up to my desktop that I was using for File History backups in Windows 10. (I’ve never needed to go back and pull anything from history, but I liked having it.) So now I need to give that up. Since I can’t use the drive at work anymore, I briefly though about bringing it home and using it to replace the drive I’m using for File History on my home PC. But of course it’s company property (even thought it’ll probably get recycled when I hand it back to help desk). And it’s a few years old. And a new 2 TB drive is only $60 from Amazon. So I went ahead ordered one of those yesterday. And that showed up in the mail today too.

The old drive I was using for File History at home had been acting up. It was still working, but I’d have to unplug it and plug it back in regularly to get it going. And it was almost full. It was a 640 GB drive that I bought from NewEgg in 2011, for $35. (I think it might have been refurbished.) Anyway, I guess I’ve gotten enough use out of it.

I had a second external drive hooked up to my home PC. That one was a 1 TB drive that was more than 10 years old. The only thing I had on it was a Macrium Reflect backup from 2018. I’d been wanted to do a new full image backup, with Macrium or something else, but every time I’ve tried that with my current PC, something went wrong. So I gave up on the idea at some point. I now rely on Bvckup, running daily backups to a second internal HD, which I started using in 2019, and the File History backup mentioned above. I hadn’t been having any issues with that 1 TB drive. Of course, I wasn’t actively using it, but it was recognized by Windows, and I could see the files on it. But, after I disconnected the old 640 GB drive, the 1 TB drive also stopped working. All I can think of is that I somehow shorted something out when I was removing the 640 GB drive. I spent some time troubleshooting it, but eventually gave up.

So now I just have a single 2 TB backup drive, which I haven’t hooked up yet, since it only showed up about 30 minutes ago. I’ll try to hook that up tomorrow, and hope it works.

I’ve got a box with two dead hard drives and a dead label maker in it, ready for the next Somerset County electronics recycling day, which will probably be Oct 2. And now I’m seeing other stuff around the apartment that I should probably replace. But I’m holding off, since replacing one thing seems to lead to a domino effect where I have to replace other things and buy other accessories and so on. So I guess I’ll keep using my 30-year-old toaster over for a while longer.

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.

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.

Evernote, and Apple, and other stuff

In my last post, I mentioned that I had not yet upgraded to the new version of Evernote on iOS, Windows, or Mac, nor had I been prompted to upgrade. Yesterday, the iOS client got pushed down to my iPhone. And I was prompted on my PC to upgrade to the new Windows client. (I skipped that and stuck with the old version for now.)

The iOS client is fine. I don’t have any issues with it. It looks good, and it’s no less functional than the old client, as far as I can tell. It’s not particularly fast, but neither was the old iOS client. So I went ahead and updated it on my iPad too. It works fine there. So no problems with iOS.

For Windows, I decided to upgrade it on my Lenovo laptop and play with it a bit. I’ve honestly barely used that laptop since I bought it back in June. So it seemed like a good place to try out the Windows client without having to worry about messing up my regular setup. The new client works fine, and I think I like a few things about it more than the old client, but I’d need to work with it some more to be sure. It seems to be a little slower than the old Windows client. And the font looks a little weird, but that might just be that I need to tweak the display settings on the laptop. There’s a dark mode, and I’ve found that it works better for me than the light mode. Overall, it definitely seems to be less configurable than the old version, but there’s nothing in particular that I want to change, and can’t.

On another subject: I’ve upgraded both my iPhone and iPad to iOS 14. I waited for 14.1 to come out before upgrading. I’ve had no issues on either the iPhone or iPad. I’ve messed around with widgets a bit, but I haven’t gone nuts with them. For now, I’m just leaving them on their own screen. There’s not much else in iOS 14 that I’m really interested in, but I do want to try out the “headphone accommodations” feature at some point, given that I’m partially deaf in my left ear, but have (fairly) normal hearing in my right ear. Maybe it’ll help.

Upgrading the iPhone triggered the notice to upgrade my Watch to watchOS 7. That turned out to be quite a problem. The update needed 3.1 GB of free space, and I didn’t have that much. In the past, rebooting the watch would often clear enough space to run an update, but this time I had to go as far as un-pairing and re-pairing it. That basically wipes it and leaves you with a fresh OS install, so I then had to go back and reinstall apps and redo my watch face customizations and reset all my preferred options. And it turns out that watchOS 7 doesn’t really do much for you if you have a Series 3 watch, like I do. I was hoping for at least the handwashing timer, but you need a Series 4 for that.

So that’s got me thinking about picking up a new watch. And, of course, with the iPhone 12 out, I’m a little tempted to trade in my phone too. Both my phone and watch are a little less than two years old, and I like to hold on to these things for three years minimum, if I can. So I probably shouldn’t be thinking about buying new Apple gear. But, hey, in a year when I couldn’t travel at all and haven’t had to spend hardly any money on gas or car maintenance, why not blow a few bucks on unnecessary Apple hardware?

And on one last Apple-related note: I got a lot of enjoyment out of my Apple Music subscription today. The new Bruce Springsteen album came out, and I listened to that twice. And there’s a video interview with Bruce that I watched. (Or mostly just listened to, since I was working at the time.) And a new Jeff Tweedy album came out today, so I listened to that too. And I discovered the “My New Music” mix today. Apple already knows enough about my musical taste to put together a pretty good mix, including new AC/DC, Elvis Costello, John Cale, Pixies, and Bob Mould. So I’m feeling pretty good about Apple Music right now.

more odds and ends

I’m kind of exhausted now, and I kind of want 2020 to just be over. But it’s not. I’m doing my best to stay positive and keep working and exercising and eating right (and I am doing all that), but I’m getting a little frayed around the edges. Anyway, here’s another round-up of (mostly) bad news. Writing helps me process things and clear my head. I don’t necessarily expect anything here to be useful to anyone else, but writing it down helps me.

More #MeToo

Well, the #MeToo stuff in comics is really starting to snowball. After Cam Stewart, Warren Ellis, and Charles Brownstein, now it’s Scott Allie’s turn. Allie was an editor and writer at Dark Horse. He was the editor on all the Hellboy and Hellboy-related books for a long time. And he’s written a few also. I’ve been a Hellboy and BPRD fan since Hellboy #1 from back in the 90s. I didn’t really know anything about Allie, other than just knowing his name from the credits and letter columns. So I can’t say much about him. I don’t think there’s any indication that Mike Mignola knew anything about this, so that at least is something. I’d hate to have to lose my respect for Mignola. (And I do have a good bit of respect for him.)

And back to Brownstein: He was apparently involved in another incident, about ten years ago, involving a CBLDF employee, who was then essentially forced to sign an NDA. So things are looking worse for them. I’m not quite ready to burn my CBLDF t-shirts, but I’m not going to be wearing them in public anytime soon either.

New Toys

I don’t think I’ve even turned on my new laptop yet this week. I’ve been doing a bunch of React stuff on my MacBook, and all of my actual work on my work machines, of course. So I haven’t had time to do any setup on the Lenovo.

I have had time to mess around with my Echo Dot a bit though. I’ve discovered that it’s pretty good as a speaker (given it’s small size), but not if you’re using it via Bluetooth. So if you’re playing stuff over it via the usual Alexa route, it sounds pretty good. But it’s not really worth trying to use it as a Bluetooth speaker. So I’ll yell “Alexa, play WQXR” if I want to hear some classical music while I’m working and that works out fine.

React

Speaking of React, I’ve been reading the second edition of Learning React via my ACM O’Reilly subscription. It’s an “early release” version, so it’s a little rough, but it’s more up-to-date than any other book on React that I’ve seen. I’m at a point now where I’m not sure if I should keep working my way through books and videos or if I should stop reading/watching and start actually working on a project. I think I might need to finish the Learning React book at least. I’m still having trouble getting at the big picture with React. I’m learning little bits and pieces, but they don’t all fit together in my head yet.

Reopening NJ

Somerville is really hopping this week, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Mostly nervous, I guess. All the restaurants are doing outdoor dining, which means that they’ve annexed about 90% of the sidewalks. So a walk down Main St right now is kind of an obstacle course. And the obstacles are people sitting at outdoor tables, talking, eating, and not wearing masks. My early morning walks are still OK, since there are only one or two places open that early. But I’ve been avoiding Main St on my afternoon walks. Still, though, it’s kind of fun to see the outdoor dining. And it’s nice to hear people talking and laughing and all that. I just wish I could shake the idea that one of them is going to spray COVID-19 all over me.

Meanwhile, the Bridgewater Commons is going to reopen on Monday. I don’t think I’ll be going back there any time soon though. Maybe I’d risk a trip to the Apple Store if I really needed something, but only as a last resort. I just ordered two new pairs of shorts from the Macy’s web site, and I think that’s all the new clothes I’ll need between now and the end of the year. Macy’s and the Apple Store are really the only places at the mall that I frequent, so I don’t think I’ll be tempted to go over there.

And Yestercades is reopening too, on July 2. This seems like an even worse idea that reopening the mall. There’s no way they can keep all those arcade machines clean. And that place is really too cramped for social distancing. I don’t know, maybe they’ve figured out a way to make it work. I can definitely say that I’m not going back in there anytime soon either.

I may be more stressed now than when I started writing this post, which is not how I wanted this to turn out. Maybe I should spend the next hour listening to this public domain recording of the Goldberg Variations. That’ll help me calm down.

 

odds and ends

OK, after this morning’s depressing Warren Ellis post, here’s some lighter stuff. Just a mix of stuff I’ve been meaning to mention, for one reason or another.

Google AdSense

I added Google AdSense to my blog back in 2010 and removed it in 2016. But I never closed out my account. So I did that this week. Now, I can finally get the $15 that Google owes me. (Normally, they don’t pay out until you hit $100, but if you close your account, they’ll pay out any balance, if it’s over $10.) I wonder how many small bloggers like me are still bothering with AdSense. For a while, a lot of people thought they could make good money by running a blog and putting AdSense on it. I’m wondering if any of them really did.

New Toys

I haven’t made much more progress in setting up my new laptop. I was too busy yesterday to even turn it on. Hopefully, I’ll have time to do some stuff with it this weekend. I did also just get a new Amazon Echo Dot (with clock). I don’t really have a good excuse for buying it. I had an old iHome alarm clock / iPhone dock on my nightstand that I couldn’t really use anymore, since it doesn’t fit the newer iPhones. And that was fine, really, since I don’t really need a clock on my nightstand. These days, I just plug my iPhone in, and use Sleep Cycle as my alarm clock. But, I don’t know, I guess I just wanted a small clock there that could play music or NPR or whatever. And it was only $35. I already have some experience with Alexa, since it’s supported on my Sonos speakers, but I turned off the mics on those, since it was getting accidentally triggered too often, and I didn’t really find it that useful. I’m going to play around with it some more on the Echo and see if there’s anything fun or useful that I can do with it.

Learning New Stuff

I finished the SharePoint Framework course that I was working through. That’s given me a good start, but there’s still a lot I need to figure out. I’m almost done with the React course on SharePoint that I’ve been watching and working through. Most of that course uses an online JavaScript environment, found at jscomplete.com, so you don’t need to set up your own dev environment. But I’m now at the point where I really do need to set up a dev environment to get any further. I considered a lot of options, but settled on using Homebrew on my Mac to set up Node.js. And I’m using Visual Studio Code as my text editor. So that’s good enough for now.

I may need to play with Node Version Manager at some point, but for now, I think that would be an unnecessary complication. And, on Windows, I want to look into setting something up under WSL2 at some point. Microsoft, helpfully, has a guide on how to do that. But, again, I’m probably not ready to dive into that just yet.

So that’s my “odds and ends” post for today. I could write up a bunch of other stuff, but it’s probably best if I stop for now and go eat some lunch. Then maybe take a nap.