Chrome…

Google Chrome is a remarkably powerful web browser. When running on Mac OS it’s also an incredible power and memory hog. At least once a week it bloats so badly that it makes my desktop unusable. Starting today I’m going to take a trial run of living life without Chrome.

Since it’s Mac native, I’ve given Safari the honor of being the first test platform. Although today’s tests have been limited, it’s held up admirably – and more importantly hasn’t slowed the machine down to an infuriating place. As it turns out the threshold for victory in these real life tests isn’t going to be all that high. Anything that lets me get through a week without crashing the computer will likely get a pass as a better option than continuing on with Chrome.

There was a time I’d want to go out and try all the obscure browsers hoping to turn up something with wow factor to spare. These days, I’m mostly about simplicity in use rather than wow. I don’t care so much how the machine runs just so long as it does. I’m not going to spend a lot of time wanting to tinker around under the hood until it behaves “just so.”

I’d love to place all the blame squarely on Google here, but if I’m fair, I’m currently running a slightly more than 4 year old machine that was a touch under powered when it came out of the box. The ever increasing demand for raw processing power in a computer hasn’t been kind to my Mini. Truth is, switching browsers is probably the last ditch effort to coax a bit more life out of the machine before bringing a replacement online. If I were smart, I’d go ahead and make that purchase now instead of when something finally fails on me… but then needing to buy a computer right-the-hell-now after the old one has crapped out is pretty much one of my oldest continuously observed traditions.

Ditching Chrome won’t solve all that ails computing here, but it could well alleviate the most obnoxious symptom of aging equipment. For today, that would be more than good enough.

Neutrality…

​With our political and media celebrities having trouble keeping their dicks in their pants, the possible end of Net Neutrality is something that’s not getting as much coverage as it probably should.

There’s a big part of me that generally favors deregulation. Having worked under and been responsible for writing government regulations, I can attest that they often have a certain stifling effect on whatever they touch. I also recognize that “the internet” isn’t some ubiquitous “thing” that sprung into existence in nature. It’s a network that exists because companies went out and designed, built, installed, and maintain the infrastructure that has come to deliver us the connectivity we know and love. The “net” in net neutrality, then, is underpinned by a whole lot of businesses that spent a whole lot of money based on the assumption that they’d make massive amounts of profit by doing it. You didn’t think they developed the net out of the kindness of their hearts so we could exchange funny animal memes did you?

​On the other hand, I’ve learned to despises Comcast with the burning fire of a thousand suns don’t want to give them any more control over the internet or give them and the other cable/intent providers the chance to bleed me for even more money every month than they’re already getting. It’s a painfully interesting case of self interest versus governing philosophy.

​Google, Apple, and the rest of Big Tech are arrayed against Comcast and the companies who own the “pipes” the internet flows through. It’s not like they aren’t profiteering off our data left and right themselves, though.​ Unlike the cable companies who take their cut month by both, the tech giants skim theirs in the more subtle way of data mining and selling the personal information that we’ve all chosen to give them. Most of us choose not to notice that bit.

My bottom line is that the internet is going to be controlled by someone – some big business pursuing their own self interest in collaboration with big government who wants to keep an eye on all of us.​ Whether it’s the cable companies and monthly fees or its big tech mining our personal information, probably doesn’t make much difference in the end.​

So which side do I fall down on? I don’t know yet. It feels a lot like picking the lesser of So What or Who Cares when it’s really just picking which set of companies will run the show for the foreseeable future.

Almost a fiasco…

Saturday morning I discovered that my local Apple Store had in stock availability of their new flagship, iPhone X. I wouldn’t usually venture anywhere near a mall two days after Thanksgiving, but the desire for new and shiny tech got the better of me. Stunningly, I arrived five minutes after the mall opened and parked within 20 yards of the door. It seems that their “holiday hours” are poorly advertised and almost no one realized they were opening an hour early. Fine by me.

I was an AT&T cellular customer since back in the mists of time when they were known as Cingular. I was generally a satisfied customer, too – until I moved to Fortress Jeff, which is located in a black hole of their coverage map. I could make and receive calls over wifi, but when wifi was down, my cell was pretty much an expensive paperweight. Unacceptable. With this change of phone, I wanted to make the jump to Verizon, who neighbors promised had at least a bar or two of coverage even the local power and cable is out. It happens more often than you’d imagine out here at the end of the transmission line.

Without going into details, I’ll just say that AT&T, Verizon, and Apple corporate policies all threw up roadblocks to converting from the Apple Upgrade Program under AT&T to the same program under Verizon. The guy I was working with, though, was an absolute bulldog and took the problems first to the floor manager, who was as confounded as we were. The floor manager then elevated the issues through two layers of management “in the back.” Finally they decided there was actually no way to get from Point A to Point B using existing policy and procedures. That’s they point where one of them decided “we’re going to break the rules” to make the sale.

I can’t say for sure if any rules were broken, but if the number of Apple employees standing around looking concerned while they fiddled with various entries on their tablet is any sign, they were certainly doing something unusual. In the end it took six people and almost an hour to make the sale.

It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t seamless, but in the end I walked away with exactly what I wanted. I appreciate that level of tenacity when the easy answer was “we can’t.” I appreciate it even more when I’ve got two bars of service when the wifi’s off. Well done, Apple. It’s a wonderful lesson for other business out there that customer services really, truly doesn’t have to suck.

Why I didn’t upgrade…

The chance to pre-order the iPhone X for delivery on release has come and gone. It’s a fact only remarkable because it was the first time I willingly took a pass on trying to snag the latest miracle from Cupertino on day one. There are a couple of reasons for that – and at least one of them has to do with the phone itself, although Apple is largely to blame for the other reasons as well.

1. $1149 is a tough, tough price point to swallow for someone who remembers $200 cell phones and offers of “free phone with contract.” Sure those were old school dumb phones or “feature” phones of the past, but it’s still a memory fresh enough to trigger thoughts of “what the actual fuck” when it comes time to fork over a grand.

2. My Late 2014 Mac Mini is slowing down under the weight of everything I’m asking it to do as a primary computer and mini-server for the house. It’s going to need replacement sooner or later and that likely means stepping up to the iMac and swallowing another $2400 bill from Apple.

3. My first generation iPad Air, now 4 years old doesn’t quite have a battery problem… yet. It’s still burning through a full charge fast enough that it’s days are numbered. There’s $950 more allocated for tech refresh either this year or next.

4. Pre-ordering is tied to my home address in Maryland… and the state will happily charge me $68.94 for the privilege of ordering a new iPhone and having it shipped to my door. If I’m patient enough to wait until the phone is widely available, I can walk into the Apple Store in Delaware and take delivery and only pay the standard Apple Tax instead of getting hit by Maryland too.

5. AT&T and I have been together for a long time – closing in on 20 years now. The problem with that relationship is that when I’m sitting in my living room I hover somewhere between zero and one bar of service. During the great ice storm of 2017, with my internet connection down I ended up with no cell connection at all… while neighbors running on the Verizon network were still able to call out. Having minimal voice and data coverage at home during an emergency situation is kind of a priority, so it’s likely time for a switch. As an Apple Upgrade Program member there isn’t a clear way for me to change carriers during a pre-order purchase.

So there it is, five distinct and fairly reasonably assessed reasons why I couldn’t bring myself to upgrade right away this time. It’s the right decisions, but I still don’t feel any better about it.

The case of the mysterious disappearing playlists…

One of the many wonderful things I’ve found myself able to do while working from home is to set up my personal computer to do some of the tedious update activities so that I can click “next” and “ok” in the background while hammering out the next great PowerPoint briefing or staff memo on my work laptop. It’s become an awfully convenient method of making sure I’m running the latest version of applications, everything is backed up, and my tired old Mac Mini is in as good an operational condition as possible. Up until today the process had been a happy and productive one.

Today, though, some combination of changes in iTunes and on my phone conspired to delete all of my hard built playlists from both the computer and the phone simultaneously. The music files are still sitting safely in iTunes, thank God, but such playlists as “Angry,” “V. Angry,” “Sleepy,” and “Depress me,” are nowhere to be found. I’m left with just the main list of everything from Music for the Royal Fireworks to songs that are so filled with pop goodness that I’m not even going to mention their names here.

I know I should just get with the program and stream my music like a normal person. You see, although I live among the millennials, I’ll never quite be one of them. My music habits were formed at a time when you went to a store for your music – and you came home with a shiny new jewel case filled with liner notes (and you got the privilege of slicing the hell out of your finger trying to get all of the security packaging off the product). Even though I don’t buy music on physical media much anymore, I do like the idea of knowing that I have all the correct files sitting on my hard drive waiting to be served up to me instead of just expecting them to live forever on someone else’s cloud. Maybe it’s the last vestigial piece of my analog self in the digital age.

So now I need to rebuild my playlists. It’s daunting, but perhaps guided by the spirit of WinAMP it won’t take five years to get things sorted and back in service just the way I like them. I know listening to music doesn’t need to be this hard… it’s just another fine example of liking what I like with all logic and simplicity cast aside. If that doesn’t give you a deep look into who I am as a person, I don’t know what will.

Goodreads…

I’ve had a hit or miss relationship with a lot of different social media platforms over the years. Facebook is a net good overall with its snark and funny animal pictures. LinkedIn was useless for me given my utter lack of interest in professional networking. Goodreads, though, has always been something of an odd duck in my estimation. I like the concept, but so much of it was duplicative of things I was already getting from Amazon or Barnes & Noble – reviews, recommendations, and so on.

The tempo of my reading has picked up over the last year or so. I’ve found myself plowing through more fiction than usual. Given my habit of picking up bundles of books on the cheap at antique shops, Goodwill, and in other non-online places, more than a few times I found myself with two copies of the same thing – usually something that I had brought home but not yet read. The ability to set books into an own it, read it, want to read it, and host of other statuses could be just the trick to help me avoid this in the future. unfortunately it also meant that I had some homework to do.

I’ve spent a bit of time each of the last few weekends cataloging the collection. Today I can report that I can account for all of the physical books I have on shelves here on the homestead, all of the ebooks, and even what’s sitting out there on my Amazon wishlist waiting to be shipped over to me. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a comprehensive list of what I’m reading put together. I spect I’ll find it surprisingly useful to have access to it in my pocket at all times.

Both my inner geek and my outer compulsion to have a world that’s neat and orderly are well satisfied at the moment.

Ten Years of iPhone…

I’d be hard pressed to point out any of the flagship iPhone versions that I haven’t had on my hip at some point over the last ten years. As our friends in California rolled out their latest and greatest this afternoon, I can only sit in awe of their ability of convincing me to part with a large chunks of cash on a near yearly basis. It’s a pretty slick business model if you can get people to go along with it. Based on the numbers that Apple keeps putting up every year, a lot of us agree with them.

Because I was late in getting my hands on the iPhone 7, I’m a few months out of cycle for my regularly scheduled replacement. It means I’ve got some time to ponder the next purchase – which is rarely a good thing when it comes to “need it now” devices.” Then again $1,000+ on something that’s going to live in my pocket, locked in a metal case at the office, hooked on my belt, or repeatedly fall off the dash onto the floorboard, and then be traded in twelve months later maybe it should be more of a thoughtful process. It’s the very definition of a depreciating asset. 

I’m planning on changing carriers (thanks AT&T for sucking so bad while I’m sitting in my own living room) so I’ve also got that mess to figure out. Based on the estimates of availability, there’s going to be plenty of time to sort out those details too.

A big part of me wishes there wasn’t, because as usual, I’d really like for Apple to just shut up and take my money.