It looks like I unexpectedly have the morning off from work. Or maybe all day. I’m not sure yet. Anyway, this means I can waste time on the internet and nobody can stop me and I don’t have to feel guilty about it. Anyway, I noticed this old post from 2006 in my “on this day” sidebar this morning, and I clicked through on the link, expecting it to be dead. But it’s not! And, weirdly, there’s a new Jigsaw video out! With the first appearance of Dr. Kranium since 2011! And it’s a really funny video too! I’d completely forgotten about Jigsaw, and would likely never have stumbled across this video if I hadn’t been pointlessly clicking around on my own blog. So the lesson here is, I guess, that blogging links to dumb puppet videos sometimes pays off 10+ years later.
I survived Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t a great day. The fire alarm in my apartment building went off on Thanksgiving Eve, at 11 PM. So I had to get out of bed and go stand around outside in the cold for about a half-hour, before being allowed back in. I’d gone to bed at 10, and was pretty well asleep at 11 when the alarm went off. And afterwards, I just couldn’t get back to sleep. So I didn’t have a lot of energy on Thanksgiving. About all I did was re-watch some episodes of Doctor Who and nap. I guess that’s a reasonable Thanksgiving, really.
I tried to get back to something closer to normal yesterday, Black Friday, but that was also a pretty low-energy day. I didn’t read anything on Thanksgiving, and read only one comic on Friday. I’m noticing that my resilience just isn’t what it used to be, physically (and sometimes, mentally). One bad day or night can screw me up for a few days afterward. I’m not sure how much of that is just normal for my age, vs. being something I should worry about.
Anyway, what I wanted to write about was really just some Black Friday stuff. I don’t buy a lot of physical stuff on Black Friday, typically, but I keep my eye on some digital deals on software, subscription services, and stuff like that.
- Last year, around this time, I signed up for a free one-year subscription to Calm. The deal was for one free year, and a second year at half-price. I’ve been using it pretty consistently this year, so I was ready to let it renew for the second year. But Calm runs a Black Friday deal every year, where you can get a lifetime sub at 60% off. So I went ahead and took advantage of that, and paid $160 for a lifetime sub. That’s a fair amount of money, but I’ve stuck with my meditation habit pretty consistently this year, and I think I’ll keep it up for the foreseeable future. That was my big Black Friday purchase.
- Another thing I did last year was to sign up for Hulu’s Black Friday deal, which was $2/month for their ad-supported tier, for a year. So that was coming to an end. For that, I decided to pause the subscription for a few months are reevaluate it later. There’s some good stuff on Hulu, but I feel like I’ve got too many streaming services going right now, and too much stuff to watch.
- I also subscribed to Letterboxd Pro last year, on Black Friday, for $12/year. I’ve been using Letterboxd a lot this year, so I let that renew, and it looks like I’ll continue to get the discounted $12/year rate.
- It’s also about time for me to do my yearly review as to whether or not Pluralsight is worth renewing. I’m currently on a “legacy” plan, which should renew in January at $179. If I cancel my account, then I won’t be able to get that old rate back. Though it seems like their current Black Friday deal would let me subscribe to their “standard” plan for $179, so maybe there’s a little wiggle room there. I haven’t actually used Pluralsight that much this year, so maybe it’s time to give up on that. I’ll have to decide on that before the end of the year.
- Meanwhile, my Amazon Prime subscription renews on December 1, for the usual $119. I’m always a little unhappy about supporting Amazon to the extent that I do, but honestly, it’d be kind of hard to live without Amazon at this point, and dropping Amazon Prime would not affect Amazon’s fortunes in the slightest. So I’ll just let that one renew too.
- I generally think about various hardware upgrades around the end of the year. I don’t really have anything pressing this year though. I looked at the Kindle deals at Amazon. I’m happy enough with my current Kindle, but the new Paperwhite is supposed to be really good. But I just don’t need it. I might want a new iPhone next year, but, again, I don’t really feel like I need one just yet, and there aren’t any really good deals on iPhones. So probably no new hardware this year.
So that’s about it. Nothing much exciting, but it kept me out of trouble for an hour. I need to try to get back in the swing of things today and tomorrow, so I can go back to work Monday and have a good productive day. I know there’s going to be a lot of work waiting for me on the first day back from vacation.
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.
I’ve been thinking about canceling my cable TV service for quite a while now. But I can never quite talk myself into it. I finally managed to at least convince myself to drop back from the “Optimum Value” package to the “Broadcast Basic” package, and I called and took care of that today. The math on my cable bill is complicated, but the change should save me somewhere between $50 and $70 per month.
Broadcast Basic is the tier that just gets you broadcast channels, plus News 12. And at this point, that’s about 90% of my cable TV viewing. I’ll also watch stuff on TCM, BBCA, and SyFy occasionally, but not that often. Not enough to justify $50 or $70 every month.
I was pleasantly surprised that Optimum didn’t make me work too hard to do this. They didn’t try to get me to keep the old package, or put me on hold, or disconnect me or anything. All told, it took about 15 minutes.
For streaming video, I’m now paying for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, and Apple TV+. So there’s plenty to watch there. Of course, I’m also tempted to sign up for Paramount+, for the Star Trek stuff, and HBO Max, for the DC stuff, but I’m not too tempted.
So it’s back to work tomorrow, after my week-long vacation. Looking at my “things to do on vacation” list, I didn’t do any of them. Which is fine. I did a few things, including updating my MacBook to Big Sur, sending out my Christmas cards, reading the entire Locke & Key comic book series, and, um… replacing the battery in my smoke detector. Yeah, I know those aren’t big accomplishments, but hey, it was supposed to be a vacation, right?
I’ve also been doing a lot of end-of-year thinking and planning. I got a few end-of-year things done this week, and there are a bunch more that I’m still working on. One thing, of course, is figuring out which services/subscriptions to keep and which to cancel, and whether or not I should be signing up for anything new right now. So the rest of this post is going to turn into yet another rumination about all that stuff.
For video, I added Disney+ recently, and also Hulu, via their $2/month Black Friday deal. So now I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu for video services. I’ve been thinking about canceling my traditional cable subscription, but I still haven’t done that. It’s looking like my cable bill might go up by $20/month in January, so that’s pushing me more in that direction. I’ve been experimenting with using my Apple TV more and my TiVo less, and figuring out how to get some of the stuff I like on regular TV without a cable subscription. I can get most (or all) of the PBS content I want from the PBS Apple TV app. And I can watch clips of the late-night shows on YouTube. So that’s probably fine.
For music, I’ll probably let my Apple Music free trial turn into a paid subscription when the trial is up. I’m actually using it a lot.
For comics, I do intend on dropping my Westfield subscriptions at some point, but I haven’t done it yet. For December, I would have had just three comics on my order, but I added a couple of graphic novels. That might be my last order, or I might hang in there for two more months. I have a couple of series I’d like to complete before giving up on print comics.
I’ve also been thinking about some financial stuff. Specifically, I’ve been assessing my credit card situation. I signed up for the Apple Card recently, as I’ve probably mentioned here before. I don’t like some things about that card, but the cash back for Apple Store purchases makes it worthwhile. Now that I’ve had it for awhile, I think I’m a little more OK with it than I initially was. Even though I can’t download transactions from it directly into Quicken, the process for saving a QFX file and importing it into Quicken isn’t that bad. And the Apple Card is better about privacy than most other cards, so maybe I should consider using it for more stuff.
Meanwhile, I switched my AmEx card from the Green card to the EveryDay card earlier this year. That was a good decision, since the Green card annual fee was going up to $150/year, and had mostly travel-related bonuses. The EveryDay card has no fee and has extra bonuses for everyday stuff like groceries. So it’s almost like I knew the pandemic was coming, when I switched back in February. I’ve certainly spent a lot more money on groceries this year than I have on travel.
I’ve been spending a heck of a lot of money at Amazon this year too, so that’s got me thinking about signing up for the Amazon Prime credit card. That gives you 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, which would have gotten me as much as $100 this year, depending on which purchases are eligible. But if I get that card, then I’ll have a total of five cards (Citi MC, AmEx, Macy’s, Apple, and Amazon), which might be too many cards. Maybe I should drop the Macy’s card. I’ve ordered a few things from them online this year, but not nearly as much stuff as I’ve ordered from Amazon.
I’m a little worried about how opening multiple new credit cards in one year might affect my credit score. But, then again, I’m not planning on borrowing any money any time soon, so I probably shouldn’t care about that. I don’t know. I guess it’s good to have enough free time and enough money to mess around with all this stuff.
OK, I know I already wrote one pointless blog post today, and one per day should really be my quota, but, well, that one was spur of the moment, and I have some other stuff I’d been meaning to blog about today.
Now that the Thanksgiving weekend is winding down, I’ve been thinking about holiday stuff and end of year stuff. I don’t really have an important point to make or anything, rather just some random items to note.
I didn’t do much in the way of Black Friday shopping this year. I certainly didn’t do any in-person shopping, of course. I did take advantage of a few Black Friday deals though:
- I renewed my Pluralsight subscription, at their Black Friday rate of $179/year. I’ve been doing that every year for the last few years. I think I get enough use out of Pluralsight to justify the cost, but I never feel quite sure of that. Either way, I’m set for another year.
- I signed up for Hulu, via their Black Friday deal, which is $1.99/month for their ad-supported tier, for one year. (So, after a year, it goes to the normal $5.99/month rate.) I guess I can justify $2/month for Animaniacs and Dicktown and maybe a few other things. I’m not sure how annoying the ads are going to be. And I’m not sure I’ll keep it going after the promotional rate expires.
- I also signed up for one year of Letterboxd Pro for $12. (I guess that’s half their normal rate.) I mentioned Letterboxd about a year ago. I’ve been logging all the movies I’ve watched this year with Letterboxd. And I’ve been keeping track of my DVD/Blu-ray collection with Blu-ray.com. I’m not quite as fanatical about either of these sites as I am about tracking my books in Goodreads. But they’re useful, and kind of fun.
- I’ve almost talked myself into getting a 4K Apple TV via Apple’s Black Friday sale. That would get me a $50 gift card, bringing the $200 Apple TV down to $150, effectively. And I’d get a free year of Apple TV+. (I don’t really need Apple TV+, but there are a few interesting shows on it.)
I’ve been overwhelmed with e-mail and snail mail related to charities this year, and of course it gets even more intense around the holidays. I generally like to put together a list of charities to give to at the end of the year, and make some donations. I probably won’t be doing that on Giving Tuesday, but I’ll get around to it at some point before New Year’s Day. I probably gave more to political causes earlier in the year (for obvious reasons). Now, at the end, I should look at more traditional charities, like food banks and stuff like that. NJ.com has a good article listing some worthy NJ charities to support right now.
I’ve been going back and forth on the idea of discontinuing my cable TV service for quite a while. My latest cable bill included a notice saying that my promotional discount would be reduced next month, so my cable bill will go up by about $20/month. That’s just about enough to get me over the fence on that. Of course, their customer service department is closed on Sunday, so I’ll have to call them at some point during the week. If I call, and they offer to keep my current discount, I’ll probably stick with cable. But if they don’t, I’ll probably go ahead and discontinue it. I think I’ve just about made my peace with the idea of no longer having access to live TV.
I often send out my Christmas cards over the Thanksgiving weekend. Or at least I start working on them. I don’t send out a lot, but I always send out more than I get back. And I seem to get fewer and fewer every year. It’s really tempting to just give up on it this year. I really haven’t been in anything like a Christmas mood, and I think it’s going to be hard to get too enthusiastic about it this year, for a variety of reasons.
But, on a lark, I picked up my dumb little fake Christmas tree from my storage unit today and set it up. So I’m hoping that maybe that’ll start getting me in the right mood. Maybe I can bring myself to do the cards next weekend. I don’t know. Maybe I can talk myself into watching It’s A Wonderful Life at some point soon. Or if not that, maybe Die Hard. Small steps… (Speaking of Christmas movies, Letterboxd’s list of 25 top rated Christmas movies has some good ones.)
I mentioned in my last post that I was thinking about signing up for Disney+. Well, I did that, and have now watched most of the first season of The Mandalorian. It’s a pretty good show. It’s basically just silly Star Wars escapism. (And silly escapism is something I need right now.) I’ll definitely be keeping Disney+ through to the end of the year at least, so I can also watch season two, and Soul. Since Soul is being released on Christmas day, maybe I’ll actually watch it on Christmas. (I won’t have much else to do…)
I feel kind of bad about giving Disney any money right now, especially given the recent news about how they’ve been treating Alan Dean Foster, but I know that one random nerd boycotting Disney+ isn’t going to get them to pay Foster his royalties.
And, as I’ve probably mentioned before, the pressure to sign up for even more streaming services is increasing. It was just announced that the new Wonder Woman movie will be going straight to HBO Max on Christmas day, so that’s two big movies I could watch at home, assuming I can talk myself into paying $15/month for HBO Max. And the new Animaniacs on Hulu premieres tomorrow, I think, so that’s another thing I’d like to watch.
The return on investment for my traditional cable subscription seems to be shrinking, so I am once again considering dropping it. I still watch some news and a few late-night shows, but I could probably get enough of that online if I dropped cable. Most of the drama shows I would have been watching in the fall never started up, and, for a few, I’m not sure if I’m really interested in them anymore. NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans both just started new seasons, and I’m really not that interested in them. Those kind of shows have always been kind of a guilty pleasure for me, but, in the wake of the pandemic and some of the other stuff that’s gone on this year, they seem kind of pointless now. Unless they can find a way to reinvent their formula to work under current conditions, I think maybe it would be better to just take a break for a couple of years on the whole “police procedural” genre. NCIS is side-stepping the pandemic for now, by setting the current season in 2019 (at least to start). NCIS: NOLA set their first two episodes in March 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, and they’re trying to address it, but I’m just not that into it. So, dropping the “police procedural” shows, that leaves maybe the CW DC Arrowverse shows, which should start back up in January and February. But that’s not really enough to keep me paying for cable. (And I’m not sure if I’m all that excited about those shows either, to be honest.)
One related item that I’ve discovered recently, while watching The Mandalorian: The best way for me to watch stuff like that is on my Apple TV, with my AirPods. The AirPods can pair with the Apple TV box directly, bypassing the actual TV entirely. And the Apple TV setting to reduce the loudness of music and sound effects really helps even things out so that I can understand dialog better, I think.
I’ve had a follow-up to my previous frog boiling post kicking around in the back of my head for the past couple of weeks, and I think maybe it’s time to write it up. This is liable to turn into a massive Old Man Yells at Cloud post. You’ve been warned.
First, to follow up on the last post, I still haven’t decided what to do with my cable TV service, though I’m leaning towards dropping back to the “Broadcast Basic” package. I’m not currently watching a lot of TV shows outside of the regular broadcast channels. The biggest one would probably be Doctor Who on BBC America, but I could just buy that from Apple. That’s what I did for the last few seasons, when BBCA wasn’t part of my cable package. (Side note: I didn’t much like the first two episodes of this season, but it’s really picked up steam since. The last two episodes, the ones with Tesla and the Judoon, where both a lot of fun.) Anyway, I’m going to wait for my next bill, see how much the prices actually go up, and them decide.
The next thing on my list is my web hosting plan with IONOS (aka 1&1). I’ve been with them since 2003. Their monthly cost went up to $11 in 2017. I got a notice earlier this month saying that it’ll be going up to $14 next month. I guess I’ll still be sticking with them. I could get cheaper hosting, if I wanted to, but it’d be a hassle to move, and I haven’t had any issues with IONOS recently. I did just move two of my six domains to the “included” domains that come with my package, so that’ll save me the renewal cost on them. I current have “andrewhuey” and “andyhuey” in the .org, .com, and .net TLDs. I really only need andrewhuey.com and andrewhuey.net. I’m not using the “andyhuey” domains, and I’m not using either .org domain. I’m a little worried that the yearly cost for the .org domains might go up if the .org sale goes through, so I should probably just drop those.
One more item is my AmEx card. I’ve had it since college, but they’re raising the annual fee on it to $150 this year, and that’s kind of crazy for a card that I use primarily as a backup card. I should really drop it and just get a random no-fee card to use as my backup. I have this weird sentimental attachment to it though. It doesn’t make any sense, I know, but I’ve had it for so long.
And of course I’m still considering dropping my monthly comic book order with Westfield Comics. But I can’t quite talk myself into that either. I did manage to drop one book last month (Nightwing). Maybe I’ll talk myself into dropping Batman and Detective this month. My backlog just keeps getting bigger.
Lastly, the price of Flickr Pro is going up. It was $100 for two years when I last renewed it. It’ll be going up to $118 for two years now. My subscription doesn’t renew until March 2021, so I don’t need to be in a hurry on this one. And there’s a deal where I can renew for another two years now at the old $100 rate. If I do that, I won’t have to think about it again until 2023. So I’ll probably do that. I don’t upload that much stuff to Flickr anymore, but I’ve got a bunch of stuff up there.
Well, I guess that’s all I had to get off my chest today. I thought this was going to wind up a lot longer, and possibly a bit angrier. In the end, I guess my attitude is more of a “meh, what are you gonna do?” kind of thing.
I’ve been thinking about the boiling frog metaphor a lot lately, both with regards to small things and big things. This blog post is going to be about some (relatively) small things. (And also, a bit, about the sunk cost fallacy.)
My cable bill this month had a notice of a rate increase, starting next month. It’s a pretty big increase, both on my TV service and my internet service. But there’s also a note that says that existing customers won’t see their rate increase by more than $14.50. The wording on this was a bit hard to parse. It said “rate” and not “bill” so it wasn’t clear if it meant that no individual charge would go up by more than $14.50, or if the total increase wouldn’t be more than $14.50. I called to ask about it, and of course it’s the former. So it should be two $14.50 increases, plus a handful of fee increases, mostly in the $1 to $2 range. So my overall bill should go up by maybe $35. If they’d actually done the full rate increase all at once, my bill would be going up by more than $60, and that would likely have moved me to (finally) drop my cable TV subscription. But the $35 increase isn’t necessarily going to push me to do anything rash. Every time I think about dropping cable, I remember that I’ve got a TiVo which would become useless if I drop cable. But I bought that back in 2015, so I’ve certainly got my money’s worth out of it, and I shouldn’t worry about that particular sunk cost.
There’s some talk about the new rates on the DSLReports forums. Nobody’s happy about it, but for folks like me that only have one option for internet and TV, there’s not much you can do about it. I have no other option for internet, so I just have to pay whatever they charge and live with it. And I don’t think I’m ready to drop cable TV entirely, but I’m considering dropping back to Optimum’s “Broadcast Basic” package which is $25/month and just gets you the broadcast channels and a few others.
I did briefly consider dropping cable entirely and recycling the TiVo, but I still can’t talk myself into it. And, heck, I should really stop watching television entirely, since it’s probably going to give me Alzheimer’s. (I may be oversimplifying those study results. Still, it’s probably not good for me.)
Relating to boiling the frog, but not to anything else above: Boil the Frog is a neat service that generates a Spotify playlist linking any two artists together, in a (nearly) seamless way. I tried some random artists and got some interesting lists. The one linking Jimi Hendrix to Boards of Canada is nice.
Back in November, I realized that I had two PTO days that I had to use by the end of the year, so I took today and next Friday off. I kind of thought I might use today to go see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. But I got very sick over this past weekend, and have been struggling through the week. I’ve actually burned an extra day and a half, by taking Monday off and a half-day Wednesday. So I’m feeling a little better today, but not “go out to see a two and a half hour Star Wars movie” better. More like “sit on the couch and binge-watch the original trilogy” better.
Anyway, I’m well enough to kill some time writing a blog post. And I have a bunch of random thoughts I’d been meaning to organize, so I’m going to make this a bit of a catch-up/catch-all post.
First, some post Catalina upgrade thoughts: As I mentioned previously, I don’t have any major issues with the new Music app. I’m a little disappointed in the TV app though. While there is still a list view, there doesn’t seem to be any way to turn on the old column browser for it. So if I want to filter it down to show just, say, my Doctor Who season 10 episodes, there’s no quick way to do that. It’s also gotten the seasons and episodes of Doctor Who quite mixed up at this point. (That may have been the case previously, but I hadn’t noticed it.) See the screenshot below for an example of how a bunch of random stuff has all ended up under “season 1, episode 1.” Doctor Who is maybe an edge case, since I’ve purchased several different seasons and collections, and there are a bunch of odds and ends, like Christmas specials and stuff like that. But there should be a better way to organize it all.
I’m also a little disappointed in the new Finder interface for syncing my iPhone and iPad. It’s mostly fine, but they’ve lost the old status display that used to show at the top of the iTunes window. Now, you just get a tiny circle in the Finder sidebar, so you can’t really tell what it’s doing. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a pain, and there’s no reason they couldn’t fix that. I guess we’ve gotten to the point now where syncing an iDevice to a Mac is the exception rather than the rule. I assume most people either sync to iCloud directly, or don’t sync at all.
Next topic: VPNs. There’s been a bit more news about PIA since I last mentioned them in my blog. Here’s an interview with the COO of the combined KAPE/PIA company. And here’s a recent blog post from PIA. They’re saying a lot of the right things, and it’s cool that they’re open-sourcing their desktop client. On the more general privacy today, the NY Times is running a series on the smartphone tracking industry that looks interesting. There really wasn’t anything in the first part that I didn’t already know. The second part has a fairly simple guide to what you can do on your phone to limit tracking. Again, not much that I didn’t already know, but useful for a more general audience. I found it interesting that they recommended a specific VPN app, Privacy Pro SmartVPN. I wasn’t familiar with that particular app/service, but it’s worth looking into. The third part talks about national security implications, which is pretty important, though again, there was nothing in there that surprised me. The series is still ongoing, and it might be worth reading the rest of it.
Last topic (probably): music. I enjoyed reading The Catastrophist’s 2019 Tech Gift Guide in the NY Times this morning. I wouldn’t give any of these items as a gift, and the only item on the list that I own are the AirPods. And, even on those, I kind of agree with their observations about disposability and the darker side of Apple’s ecosystem. (Though maybe “Your nephew dies alone.” is a bit of a stretch.) And I’m still thinking about streaming music services, though I still can’t quite talk myself into signing up for one. On a practical level, I think either Spotify or Apple Music would make the most sense for me. Spotify is the most popular and has a lot of interesting public playlists available. Apple Music is less popular, but would work better in terms of syncing my existing library to the cloud. And it has a 100,000 track limit, vs Spotify’s 10,000 track limit. (This article is a couple of years old, but as far as I can tell, that’s still the case.) And even if the track limit was higher, there doesn’t seem to be a way to get my iTunes library into Spotify without third-party software. So, I’d probably opt for Apple Music if someone held a gun to my head and told me I had to sign up for a streaming music service today. Of course, nobody’s holding a gun to my head. But every time I look at an artist’s web page and see links to their music on Spotify and Apple Music but no obvious link to buy it in MP3 format, I get nudged a little closer to signing up.
I still have a few thoughts rolling around in my head, but it’s time to give up on this blog post and go do something else. Maybe start into that Star Wars binge I mentioned at the top.