Over the Air
I recently dropped our cable service and switched our home entertainment system to be centered around the Apple TV (the box, not the service), with an app installed to watch live news, sports, and other local channels. Here’s how I did it.
It's the Price
The recent hubbub about Apple’s earnings guidance has “analysts” and pundits talking a lot about China and the global economic situation. I’m sure there’s something to all that, but my take is simpler… the new iPhones are priced too high.
An Optimistic 2019
CPG Gray and Myke Hurley have been talking about assigning a theme to a year on their Cortex podcast, in lieu of new year’s resolutions. I quite like this idea, and I’ve decided to adopt it. I’ve decided that my personal theme for 2019 is finishing.
Let’s give generously this Christmas, and here’s to a happy new year. May the peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in the coming months.
Software Subscriptions and Bundled Apps
The Omni Group’s recent announcement that they’d have a subscription option for OmniFocus has me thinking about how I’m going to be handling third-party software in the future. I’m not angry at them, they are still (for now) offering OmniFocus for purchase, but I wonder how much longer they’ll want to keep with the old-style model of licensing when and if subscriptions turn out to be far more lucrative.
The Typewriter Project
Less, But Better
I’m becoming increasingly interested in an emerging line of Eink devices that intentionally do less than other devices in the same category. Of course, the oldest and most widely known device is the Amazon Kindle, which my wife still claims as the best gift I ever gave her.
I gave a talk at our school Veterans Day assembly today. I didn’t get everything I wanted to say in, but it seemed to go over well.
Two Months With iMac Prime
The 27” iMac 5K is unquestionably the best computer I’ve ever owned. After two months of daily use, for twelve to fourteen hours per day, I can say without reservation that this machine is fantastic. Obviously, I’m late to the bandwagon on this, better reviews than what I would write have already been written, and although those reviews are from 2014, they hold up well enough for the 2017 upgrade too. The screen is beautiful, like a massive glossy magazine. The machine is fast enough so I nearly never have to wait. Basically, it’s everything I need from a computer.
My Favorite Things About Fall 🍁🍂
Top Four is one of my favorite podcasts. Possibly my number one, although its probably tied with ATP and The Talk Show. It’s a strong contender. Marco and Tif Arment chat about some random group of things, and attempt to rank said things, usually failing because they can’t make up their minds. It’s adorable. It’s clear that the two of them are having a good time, and listening always makes me laugh.
The City Museum
I’m in St. Louis for the Strange Loop conference, and the conference kicked off last night with a party at the City Museum. I didn’t bother to look into the museum much before I came. A few friends told me a bit about it, but it wasn’t enough for me to really understand what the museum was; the City Museum isn’t a museum, its a mad amusement park.
At the beginning of Spring, I signed up for two races, the half-marathon Dam to Dam in the summer, and the full Des Moines Marathon in October. This was my second half, but I’d never come close to a full marathon, so signing up for it was aspirational motivation. I was training with a group running long on Saturday mornings, so as the time for the half approached and I started thinking about the full, I was feeling more and more confident that I would actually be able to run it. Then I ran the half, and things went wrong.
My Next Mac
So, yesterday I cleared off my desk and tried to work with nothing but my MacBook again. No standing desk, no external monitor. It looked great, but honestly, it felt terrible. I wound up hunched over the desk staring down at the screen. After an hour or so of this I decided, yet again, that this style of work is just not appropriate for me.
The book of Philippians is such a beautiful, and challenging book. This is what I needed to hear tonight:
The Life We Live
My daughter’s cheerleading coach passed away last night. What was first thought of as diabetes turned out to be an extremely aggressive cancer that took her after only a few months. She was only ten years older than my wife and I. Her family, and our community, will be grieving deeply for her loss.
Eero and Disney Circle
tldr: If you have a Circle device and an Eero mesh network, plug the Circle into the Eero connected to your modem with an ethernet cable.
In Nineteen Ninety-One, I was a freshman in high school, living in a tiny house in small town Montana. Just me and my mom. My family, like so many at the time, had fallen apart. We had moved around a lot, I felt odd and out of place. I was angry, full of teenage angst, and generally pissed off at the world for the hand it dealt me.
On Computing Tomorrow
I’ve been thinking more about my defense of the Mac as a long-term computing platform, and I’m slowly coming around to understanding that at the base of my ideas is a type of willful ignorance that I should know better than to indulge in. The world is changing, computers are changing, and how we work and interact with them is changing drastically. To get to the root of this, let’s follow the five “whys” of why I need a Mac to work.
This is fantastic, pure Phish. I’m so glad that they’ve just been getting better over the years.
We humans are complicated creatures. I run for miles at a time, even though I’ve got nowhere to go, and nothing is chasing me, nothing but time and old age. Some people collect stamps, others watch birds; there’s no end to the ways that we occupy our time. Some people write stories, or draw, or paint, or make pottery out of clay. Some people write poetry. My daughter, my oldest, spends her time practicing the ancient art of dance.
One of the surest ways I know I’m well on my way to crotchety old man status is not the grey in my hair, but my gut reaction to a certain tradition in our small town. To celebrate homecoming, our high school cheerleaders and dance team spends the night covering the high school football players houses, cars, and possibly yards with toilet paper, saran wrap, and plastic forks. They call it tradition, I call it vandalism, but, like so many other things in this tiny Iowa town, I’m simply outvoted.
Thinking it Through
My favorite new-to-me site is Farnam Street by Shane Parrish. I’ve been experiencing a slow change of interests over the past several months as Apple and tech related news fails to grab my attention. The last time this happened I lost more than a professional interest in the open source community, an area I left years ago and haven’t looked back. I can’t find it in me to care enough about iOS 10 to read the book-length treaties on it at MacStories, in fact the latest iPhone or iOS barely interests me enough to learn what’s in it and if it is anything of use to me.
Studying in the Pit
I just started reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work and I’ve found myself nodding along in agreement through the introduction and first two chapters. His description of the environment needed for intense, concentrated study reminded me of a time I went through a period of deep work, one that is unfortunately difficult to replicate.
Life Long Intellectual Pursuits
I’ve always been curious. I remember having coffee with my cousin and her boyfriend as a teenager and saying, in my naïvety, that I wanted to know everything about everything, to know all that was knowable. Even then I knew that was impossible, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to know as much about the world as I could. As time went on I started to dive deeply into different subjects, and put off others till I had more time. Now that I’m looking at forty and an ever growing list of things to learn and do, I’m experiencing something new… panic at the thought of running out of time.
Overload and Archive
A few years ago I adopted David Sparks’ paperless workflow. I installed Hazel and TextExpander, bought a ScanSnap scanner, and started dutifully scanning all of my paper that came in the mail. I scanned the water bill, my bank statements, and notices from my son’s second grade teacher about upcoming snack days. Over the years, and 2000 documents later, I’ve got a massive database of useless facts.
And everything is changing for me again. The CTO of the company I work for spoke with me yesterday, our office is being shut down and they are laying off the staff. I’ve got till March 1st to find something new.
US Cellular Strikes Back
Let me start by saying that US Cellular has the best coverage in Iowa. No matter where we go in the state, we’ve got a great signal, almost always in LTE. My Internet access is fast, and I can’t remember the last time I dropped a call. The cellular service is great, and the only reason I stick with US Cellular. After days like today I need to remind myself of these facts, because almost every time I interact with them face to face, on the phone, or over the Internet I leave frustrated and feeling like I’m being duped.
Faith, Hope, Love
What if Christians actually lived the way Jesus commanded us to?
My workout this morning called for five miles. Run two, walk one, run the last two. I think in the Fall or Spring it would have been fairly easy, but today, in the July heat and humidity, every step felt like dragging a pair of anchors. My muscles gave out sooner, my breath ran out faster… it was a hard workout. I finished it though, because what I’ve learned is that even when it’s hard, even when you are having a tough time and not going as fast as you’d like, you always have to finish.
I often daydream about not caring about my computer, and being able to go blissfully through my life with little concern about the mix of applications, storage of data, and how I interact with the machine, but that’s just a dream. The truth is I do care. I care a lot. I care enough that I’ve developed my own personal philosophy of computer use. I use this to determine which services and applications I will most likely be happy with. It helps me, maybe it will help you too.
Reading at Night
A couple years ago I started reading classic books to my boys before bedtime. We started with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, then Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, followed unsuccessfully by Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea 1. Next, we read one of my all time favorite books, Treasure Island, the classic pirate story from which nearly all other tellings of pirates are cribbed. We might go back and read that one again someday.
I’m a bit mystified by people who enjoy this book. My boys and I found it quite boring, and I wound up skipping large sections devoted to describing, in detail, the fish and other underwater life. ↩
I pulled into the gas station on my way home after a long day, picked up my phone in my left hand, intending to put it in my pocket, and opened the door of my pickup. While pushing the door of the truck open, the phone slipped out of my hand and fell face down on the pavement, shattering the screen.
It’s nearly midnight on Christmas Eve. I’m the only one awake, perhaps with the exception of my dog, Oliver, although as the minutes tick by I’m less sure of him. Tomorrow morning the kids will wake us up earlier than we’d like, and we will tear into the presents, eat a wonderful breakfast, and have a fantastic day enjoying each others company.
My commute takes me past the sanitary landfill every morning, a daily reminder to be careful about what I throw away, and what I can recycle. Driving by the dump doesn’t bother me per se, but the maniacs who drive the dump trucks do. I’ve learned to watch the turn into the dump, watching for the massive metal beasts, trying to anticipate when they’ll pull out, and if I’ll have to swerve out of their way.
Small Site Update
I’ve been publishing this site with Jekyll for several years. I’m not sure exactly when I switched over from Wordpress, but it’s long enough ago that I’ve forgotten when I started.1 Over the past few weeks I’ve run into a few issues with Jekyll that have caused me to reevaluate if it was still the right choice for me. The short answer is no, the long answer is that this site is now published with my own Python script.
Site Design Non-Update
The site design of jb was very nearly upgraded tonight. Well, upgraded is not quite the word for it. Changed is more accurate. Even though I’m quite happy with the look and feel of the site, from time to time I get frustrated with one aspect of it or another. I’ve spent more time that I want to admit thinking about readability, fonts, font sizes, spacing, kerning, and the like, but occasionally I’ll look at another site and think “that looks good”. And then mine looks like crap for a day or so.
Burn it Down
As the year comes to an end it would be easy to look back and see all of the things that didn’t work. Mistakes were made, endeavors failed, and it was generally a tough year. Some things that I thought would work out did not, and some things I thought I had more time before I had to deal with came due. Sometimes, when things aren’t working out, it’s best to burn it all to the ground and start over.
A World of Things
It is very easy when living in the technology field to ignore the actual physical space we occupy. Skills once thought essential are slowly being forgotten as we move farther and farther away from a culture of being able to create and fix things.
13 Virtues for 2013
Instead of looking back, I like to look forward. As a guide on how I’d like to live the next year of my life, here are Benjamin Franklin’s famous 13 Virtues, written when he was 20:
The office is empty this morning. I just closed iTunes, and I am enjoying listening to my own thoughts. No music, no talking, no background, just quiet. Sitting in silence is a luxury these days, and one that should not be taken for granted.
The Computer User I Want To Be
Learning about computers can be a dangerous thing. Breaking though the veneer of graphical interfaces reveals inefficiencies and inaccurate metaphors. For example, rsync copies files faster and uses fewer resources than the Finder. Copying lots of files is what rsync does best, but being a command line power tool there are a few subtleties with using it that are not readily apparent. As your skill grows, so to does the tendency to eschew modern tools in favor of “power tools”. You begin to see the inefficiencies of graphical tools as problems, problems that you need to fix. I’ve been down that road.
The Winchester Imperative
Major Charles Emerson Winchester III was a fictional character on one of my all time favorite shows, M*A*S*H. While he had many memorable scenes, the one that I remember best is the first episode he is introduced. Winchester was sent to the 4077th to assist while they were short handed, and he was not used to the incredibly hectic pace that the doctors needed to work at to save the lives of the wounded. The doctors tried to prod Winchester to move faster, but he responded with a line that’s been echoing in my mind lately.
A New World
CocoaHeads changed my life. This afternoon I am killing time in a coffee shop, about to head to work for an appointment with HR. When I get there, I’ll turn in my badge, they will wish me luck, and I’ll walk out the door. Monday, I start a new chapter in my life with T8 Webware. To say that I’m a little nervous about this change would be an understatement. I’ve spent time with these guys, they are smart, ambitious, and I believe in what they are doing. I’m going to be part of building something awesome, and I’m extremely excited.
Every so often I get the inkling to make this site more than what it is. Since 2008 I’ve been writing fairly regularly here about whatever comes to mind, and in doing so I’ve covered several topics. I’ve written about Android and Mac geekery, success and failure in Mac development, business, psychology, systems administration, personal stories, and memories. More than anything, I have tried to inspire others, and sometimes, if I’m very, very lucky, I succeed.
My daughter had an ear infection. A common occurrence in children, so I brought her down to our local doctors office. The doctor took one look at her ear and knew what needed to be done. He wrote out a prescription, gave me a few instructions, and sent me on my way. I then had two choices, I could drive the twenty miles into the city to get her prescription filled by Walgreens, or I could drive seven miles over to the next town to see if the local pharmacy could take care of it. I decided on the shorter trip.
Apple makes great products, and Brooks Brothers makes great clothes, but neither make the man. It is pure foolishness to judge another person at all, much less using a measure as trifling as a choice of computer.
Introversion Intuition Thinking Judgment
INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion “Does it work?” to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms.
Principle of Least Software
Use only the software that you need. No more, no less. Choose one application for each task, and become an expert on that application.
As a carpenter has his tools, so do I, as a “knowledge worker” have my computer. I spend many hours a day with my Mac. I have my workflow honed and finely tuned, and I know when something is wrong with my computer, when there is more friction than there needs to be. I am a Systems Administrator, so my knowledge work is to ensure that other people can get their work done. My job is to keep the servers, services, and systems I support up and running 24x7. The tools I use to get this job done mean a lot to me, and over the years I’ve tried many of them with varying levels of success. I know exactly what my ideal setup is, and I’m working towards filling out my toolbox with the very best as I strive to bring my craft to the next level of mastery.
At home, my computer is college, entertainment, finance, photos, blogging, and fun. Mostly fun. There have been times when I’ve walked away from even owning a computer at home, seeing it as a distraction more than anything, but I always come back to wanting one around, if for nothing else than as an outlet for creativity.
In the years that I’ve been using computers, I’ve found that I desire simplicity more than configurability. Favoring fewer options over more. The machine I use needs to be beautiful to look at, because I spend a lot of time looking at it. It needs to be simple to use, because I have work to do, photos to edit, words to write, and I don’t want to have to mess with anti-virus updates or X windows crashing because of some beta driver bug that made its way into the mainstream release. I just want my computer to let me do what needs to be done.
Beautifully designed and crafted, simple to use, powerful… my computer needs to be a Mac. No one else on the market can release a computer that matches a Mac. I’m not sure why, it’s like they don’t know how. They try, but they fail.
Open source operating systems like Ubuntu are not as good because there are far too many cooks in the kitchen. Ubuntu is not an operating system like OS X is an operating system. It’s the Linux kernel, the ext4 filesystem, the Xwindow system, the Gnome desktop, the Firefox browser, and thousands of other open source packages and applications that work loosely together, and are developed by different teams. OS X is developed by Apple.
Windows XP is a suitable operating system to work with at the office, but I am far more productive on a Mac. With tools like Yojimbo, Spotlight, and Quicklook, Macs are far better suited for information management. I hear Windows 7 is nice. My wife has it on her PC, and so far, it is still just a PC.
As much as I love Macs for their design and ease of use, I also see the faults of some business decisions Apple has made in the past few years. The App Store is either a resounding success or a horrible failure, depending on who you talk to. In sheer volume, 200,000 apps is a lot of applications, but like Windows was last decade, most of them are crap. Apple’s decision to approve each app in the store is admirable to a degree, but they are not executing well at all. Some people are philosophically opposed to the app store, saying that the iPod/IPad/iPhone ecosystems should be open for any application to run on them, as is the case on the Mac. I do not care about this aspect, but I do wish that Apple would fix their approval process to make the system much more transparent. There should be clear cut guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not, and those guidelines should be applied across the board. Random app store rejections are the running gag of the current implementation. Its wrong, and it needs to be fixed.
Is the Apple today the same as the Apple so many fell in love with in the ’80s and ’90s? The scrappy underdog that just won’t die? No, and I couldn’t care less. I find it interesting that the era that some romanticize is actually one of the worst in the history of the company. Back when Apple was allowing clones and releasing crap with the Apple logo on it. Good riddance to bad rubbish. OS 9 was not interesting to me. OS X is.
I was using Linux and OpenBSD when I first heard of OS X, my first iBook was a revelation. Finally, someone had put a decent GUI on a Unix box. Apple has only gotten better from there.
I know there are a lot of very smart people who disagree with me. Lets let the next twenty years decide who is right.
Along with the app store debacle, there is Apple’s stance on Flash. My personal feeling is that if Flash were a true open standard, if anyone could create Flash applications without relying on Adobe, it’d be a whole different ball game. As it is, Flash is controlled by Adobe in its entirety, and that seems wrong for the Internet. The Web is the great leveling field, a mechanic in Kansas has the same chance of creating an awesome web site as a multi-billion dollar corporation. All the tools to create amazing web sites are free, and the specs for building the sties are readily available. All you need is a computer, Internet access, and a text editor. With Flash, you need some pretty expensive software. Also, having run a video serving site in the past, I can tell you that HTML 5 would have been a Godsend back then. It would have been so much simpler to just drop a .mov or .ogg file enclosed in video tags than the junk code I had to put in.
I’d like to watch Hulu on my iPad. Netflix already rocks on it. Flash is not a necessity.
Finally, there’s Google. I used to love Google, back when it was a search engine. They could have been happy with just being the best search engine in the world, and making billions, hand over fist, but no… they had to go and get greedy. Eric Schmidt sat on the Apple board of directors and saw what Apple was doing, and thought to himself… Google could do that. So, they “stabbed Apple in the back”, and released Android, and then the Nexus One, a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone. Bad form, old boy, bad form indeed.
Also, I don’t like Google’s business model any more. I used to be fine with it, when they would show ads on the search results. Now though, Google wants to watch everything you do online, and figure out a way to monazite your activity. Your email, calendar, RSS feeds, photographs, friends, chats, videos, music, there’s even Google Health where you can put your medical record in Google. It all goes into the big black box that is Google, to be analyzed for who knows how long. Me, I like to be a little more honesty with my transactions. That’s why I pay for my email service. I give Apple money, they give me an email address, and a few other perks. It’s as simple as it gets.
I think that about does it for the major topics of the day. Of course, in all these things, I might be wrong. However, if I am wrong, and you want to call me out on it, I suggest you do your homework first. I’ve done mine. I have several years of experience, and a finely honed sense of craftsmanship.
I am, after all, strongly opinionated.
My Mama said if I’d be good, she’d send me to the store. She said she’d bake some gingerbread if I would sweep the floor. She said if I would make the beds and watch the telephone, She would send me out to buy a chocolate ice cream cone. And so I did, the things she said And she made me some gingerbread. Then I went out, just me alone And I bought me a chocolate ice cream cone. Now on the way home, I stubbed my toe upon a big ol’ stone. Need I tell you that I dropped my chocolate ice cream cone. A little doggy came along and took a great big lick. So I hit that little doggy with a great big stick. And he bit me, where I sit down. And he chased me all over town. And now I’m lost…can’t find my home. All because of a chocolate ice cream cone!
When I was younger, 20 years ago or so I suppose, the New Kids On The Block (NKOTB) were synonymous with cheesy pop music that was taking over our airwaves. They weren’t just a pop boy band, they were The pop boy band. I remember the thing was that if you were a guy and you were a NKOTB fan, it instantly meant you were gay. Which, for an adolescent boy just before his teens, that meant there was absolutely no way that this band’s music would ever willingly land on his ears. Rumors circulated regularly about the NKOTB being caught, red-handed no less, in one disgusting sexual tryst or another. One in particular that I remember was that one of the members had to have his stomach pumped because he was sick, and they found that it was full of sperm. That was the stigma attached to this band.
Consulting in Coralville
In 2007 I spent two months working as a network engineer for a small tech consulting company. The work there was amazing. They had built a long range, city-wide wireless network, and were providing broadband to rural areas. They were also providing a “one stop shop” for everything IT for small businesses in town. The people who built this business were energetic and bright, and I was lucky to have worked there. I could have stayed there longer, made a career out of it, or perhaps launched my own solo career from there. That’s not what happened, I left after two months. The reason: I was scared to death.
First Things First
My phone went through the wash today. Turns out it happened first thing this morning. I really should be more careful about cleaning out my pockets before throwing something in the washing machine, but to be honest, I never liked that phone to begin with. It had a faulty battery, and a faulty USB charger, so it would almost never fully charge and when it did, it would drain quickly. The Bluetooth on it didn’t work either. So, it wasn’t that great of a phone, and now its gone, and good riddance to it. Now, I’m faced with the prospect of finding a replacement phone, but this comes with complications.
US Cellular has me for another 10 months. My contract doesn’t end with them till November. I can cancel my contract for $70, and I may wind up doing just that, but then I’ll also have to replace my wife’s phone as well. US Cellular is a good phone company, but when I think about spending money on a phone, its hard to justify purchasing anything other than an iPhone, which takes US Cellular out of the equation. I’m eligible for an “upgrade” in May, when I can get a new phone for a reduced cost from US Cellular, but if I want a phone between now and then, I’m paying full price. That’s $159.95 for a Samsung SCH-u340, which boasts an internal antenna and a VGA camera. When I look at that price, and think that I could get a refurbished iPhone for $9.95 <it>less</it>, it makes my wallet hurt.
So, if I buy an iPhone, won’t I be chaining myself to massive monthly service charges from AT&T? Well, maybe, maybe not. We pay right around $100/mo. for our service now. This is for 1000 minutes shared between our two phones. Looking at our phone bills, I find that we do not come anywhere close to using 1000 minutes. We would be perfectly suited to the At&T 450 minute family plan, which is right around $60/mo. Couple this with the iPhone’s required $30/mo data plan, and we are at $90/mo. Of course, I’d have to have two data plans… because there’s no way my wife would let me have an iPhone and not get her one as well, so that’d bring the grand total up to $120/mo. So, $20 more per month than what we are paying now. Since I’d have to cancel both of our accounts at US Cellular to get this to work, that would cost $140. The iPhones, even refurbished, would cost $300. So, for the first month, to get going, we are looking at $560. We are not poor, but we are not rich either, and that amount of money needs to be well thought out, which brings me to the basement.
We’ve got an unfinished basement that I’m working on as time and money allows. I’ve built a couple of walls, made lots of plans, taken lots of measurements, and bought some tools. I’m a long, long way from being able to have a couple of my kids move their rooms down there. The basement is also where I have my desk, which holds my monitor and Time Machine drive, and where I do most of my programming at. Programming takes a lot of concentration, a lot of studying, and most of all… lots and lots of time. Recently, I’ve been thinking that the unfinished basement would be much, much easier to concentrate in, if it were a little closer to being finished.
The phone going in the wash today has actually been a conduit for me re-aligning my priorities. I’m still very intent on finishing my application, but I think I would be more comfortable, and therefore be able to concentrate on development better, resulting in a better product, if I finish the basement first. Since I’m going to have to adjust the budget for the new phone, and since I’m going to need money to finish the basement, I’m thinking that the new phone is going to have to wait. Work gives me a cell phone every other week so I can be “on-call”. Normally I simply forward the phone over to my personal phone so I don’t have to look like some kind of geek Batman carrying around a utility belt full of gadgets. Now, since I don’t have a personal phone, I’ll just carry the one they give me. I suppose I’ll also have to start carrying the pager again. Yes, a pager, and party like it’s 1989.
So, I’ll live without a cell phone for a while, and I’m also going to put development on hold for a while. Not entirely, I’ll still have a little time in the morning, but I’ll probably put that time to use blogging either here or over at The Apple Blog. The rest of my time, and the rest of my money, is going to go towards finishing the basement. After that’s done, I’ll be in a much better position to move to an iPhone, and finish developing Go in peace and comfort.
On Graduation Day
In May of 1995 I should have graduated from high school in the rocky mountains of Montana. Then, in the following fall, say around August or September, I should have started my pursuit of a college degree. Finally, in May of 2000, I should have graduated from college with a bachelors degree in who knows what.