The working title was terrible for this piece about technology.

“Constant Craving vs Does it work or does it not work...”

In the movie Heat Robert Deniro has a famous line, it is a maxim about how you should live life.

“A guy told me one time, "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner”

That quote has stayed with me for twenty years, except I remember the quote more like this

“You gotta be able to walk away from anything in fifteen minutes.”

In my mind, I think I was taking the gravity of the quote and giving myself some room to think.  30 seconds isn’t a long time and I’m not a bank robber.  But I’ve come to apply this sentiment to technology. I love any equipment that augments my day to day experience, but I’m not into the thrill of new and I’m not going to stick around if it doesn’t work. I think the question I’m asking a lot in writing is “What does that mean?” What does it mean if you want technology to  improve your life?  If you ‘re a regular person the answer is different from an early adopter or a technologist.

Regular people buy something and they use it till they it absolutely no longer works. They will suffer slow downs, tape it together.  Ignore broken pieces and just suffer what ever inconvenience there is till they just can’t stand it anymore.  The vast majority of them will then replace it, begrudgingly, with the cheapest most ill suited replacement they can find and they will repeat the cycle, which is why you can go online or to a store and buy a blender for $14.  Nobody wants a $14 blender, even the person who bought the $14 blender doesn’t want it.  If you gave them a Vitamixer they’d stare in disbelief, at what a blender can do when it has a boat motor underneath it. 

As an aside this piece isn’t necessarily going where I imagined it.  This is usually where I wander what I’m talking about. When I started this piece I wanted to question my desire to try new stuff and being willing to pay for new stuff, but not wanting to keep a product if it didn’t really deliver on the augmentation it was promising.

I used to be an early adopter, I also used to take drugs, both are poor decisions.  I walked this weird line with buying cheap stuff instead of purchasing the best example of something.  It doesn’t mean I never bought nice stuff, I did, just not consistently, and now I think I just want to buy things that work; with less concern for costs. I accept that sometimes I’ll be justified in buying the cheaper thing, but I’m only going to keep it if it actually works for me.  That is the Heat quote for me.  I will buy it, try it and then return it as soon as possible if it doesn’t work.  And I’ll then write an epilogue and extol the virtues or lack there of.

Ok, so you’re not using a Celeron laptop with a broken hinge, and you’re not buying everything new thing that comes around. But you are still buying stuff.  There are times when you see something, Bluetooth accessories first come to mind, and you think “I could have seven different versions of a device meant to distribute sound to my ear drums” This is ok.  You can still buy shit, you’ve not taken a vow of poverty.  You aren’t sidelined from upgrading when you want to, there should just be a reason for it, hopefully other than boredom. In the case of Bluetooth headphones, no different than corded headphones of yesteryear, one earpiece usually goes south before the other and that headphone suddenly becomes the “nightstand” headset; though sometimes I think I should repair or donate that stuff and move on in my life.

I still may not have any point to draw to in conclusion.  I’m talking about desire and practicality but addressing neither, save for the thought that I don’t mind buying stuff, I want to be happy with it though.  When i buy things now i aggressively look for what I dislike about the product.

The Airpods got disconnected from my phone before a walk and I had to hard reset them and reconnect them while fending off mosquitos, this happened a quarter mile into my walk and was infuriating.  I know why this happened though and I suspected they were not connected before I left the house. This extra layer of connectivity is a double edged sword, a more complex repairing instance if you will, despite that issue the Airpods are still amazing.  The same thing goes for the Apple Smart Keyboard, if it acts weird, it is a weird like no other keyboard manages to do. For example, in some text entry fields on websites, even on Apple sites, the Apple SmartKeyboard can’t type into the field.  The first time it happened I thought the keyboard had disconnected.  The next seven times it happened I also thought the keyboard was disconnected.  This does not appear to be the reason, it just seems as if the Apple SmartKeyboard can’t type into some website text fields; that shit doesn’t happen with a regular keyboard.

Nothing is perfect.  This isn’t the point.  The question is can you assess the good and bad of a product, acknowledge when it isn’t going to work for you and walk away when it doesn’t work.  The other big question is, can you distinguish when the good outweighs the bad. For example, if the Apple Smart Keyboard is more convenient than a Bluetooth keyboard and increases your productivity, is it worth it to spend Vitamixer money on it when you could have just bought a $14 blender.  In my situation the Apple Smart Keyboard is thinner, more convenient and I’ve been typing for work and pleasure on it, so much more than I was when I had the other Bluetooth keyboard.

Here is where it gets really funny.  The more I thought about the Apple SmartKeyboard and how much i enjoyed a real keyboard along with the fact that the Ipad does not work with any websites that are mouse-only in interface: Squarespace, Wisemapping, Smartsheet, I began to ask myself whether or not I just needed a laptop. Here I am with this delightful tablet that I’ve now mated to this keyboard.  I’m writing again, and really the iPod  doesn’t do everything i need to do, why don’t I have a laptop? I had to remind myself that the reason I got the IPad is cause I needed a portable note taker, that could replace pen and paper, because the laptop form factor does not work in the field.  And yes, the iPad does not and will not (for the foreseeable future) do everything I want it to do, but it is damn nice,  And even though it doesn’t do everything, the Apple Pencil is shockingly nice.  The Apple Smartkeyboard is mostly a joy, and the iPad tablet is amazing, but I’m sometimes gonna need to set it aside and work on a regular computer, which is a bummer, but life is pretty good in the meanwhile.

Getting out of the rut

I have tried to make this commitment to write daily.  I always write, but most of what is going on the page is communications to clients.  I have had a pretty good run doing technology writing, but that has created this whole question for me about understanding what my motivations are.

For about three years now I’ve had these concepts that i’ve played around with.  Do I want to document stuff from the past? Do I want I want to talk about these historic restorations? Do I want to everyman the use case of technology in a detailed way? A part of me has wanted to greatly document projects with glorious pictures and a lot of detail.  Another part of me wants to just get some good thoughts out there.

None of this is really so much for an audience or niche anymore.  I’m just trying to bring some sense of purpose to daily activities.

I used to be really good at the routines sleep, work, create, and fucking off.  Somehow I was able to produce and relax and do all those other things.  it seems of late though, work, sleep and not accounting for my time (decompression,) has really been the crux of it and I know that is mostly just cause family life is tricky and I’ve gone back to a heavy work schedule.

I’ve started a few things in preparation of this most recent attempt to write more and store my work.  Last year I started some new hosting, it was a deal and I wanted to go back to hand coding my pages.  I hoped the novelty of coding and wanting to write would just really reinvigorate me; that was a failure.  Adding another obstacle to writing in the form of obsessing over page detail was not relaxing.

I also wanted to rethink navigation in the sense that I wanted to write with less of a linear post mentality and I hoped to just let my mind wander.  We haven’t really seen this kinda inter site linking for a long time, everything is in a CRM of late and just waterfalls down the page.  This concept felt really good in my head, but the thought of touching on a subject and then a series of expounding companion pieces also did not lend itself to more writing.

In the last decade I went from being a very public figure, to remarrying and then leading a private life and watching as the internet turned into a pornographic lynch mob.  A lot of my concerns about self expression are now quaint, though the burden of setting boundaries about what is and is not acceptable to talk about, in my personal life is still to be worked out.

Words have meaning.Thoughts must be reflected on.Posting online is not writing in a journal.I see why it feels safer to muse on gadgets...

Apple Smart Keyboard - 1st & 2nd impressions

Apple Smart Keyboard

When I first tried the Apple Smart Keyboard I found myself unimpressed. What does that mean though? I’ll start with my first impressions

First impressions
 
 
Dislikes

  • Lack of Apple function keys
  • Tapping the keys feels like your finger is smashing crackers.
  • Lack of protection
  • The keyboard is too heavy to stay stuck to the screen
  • One angle fits all.  This is not the Smart Cover with a keyboard, you can only place the iPad at one angle
  • How much?
  • Keyboard sits close to the ipad
  • Am I losing connectivity sometimes?


 Likes

  • Looks pretty cool

Those were were my first impressions over the course of three visits to the Apple store. Crazy thing though, I’ve had it a few days and I think I really like this keyboard

2nd impressions

Dislikes

  • Lack of Apple function keys
  • Lack of protection
  • The keyboard is too heavy to stay stuck to the screen
  • One angle fits all.  This is not the Smart Cover with a keyboard, you can only place the iPad at one angle
  • How much?
  • Am I losing connectivity sometimes?
  • Where the fuck is the backlighting?

Likes

  • Looks
  • Weight, when carrying-while walking or when in use
  • Tapping the keys feels like your finger is smashing crackers
  • Preferred to external keyboard

So what changed? Three days in I’ve not had to switch to my Bluetooth keyboard, so i could get work done.  In no particular order I’ll say these things.

Ok, so smashing crackers doesn’t  feel terrible.  This keyboard has the same dome witches that the current generation MacBook has.  But there is an additional membrane and it rests on top; so you won’t be getting any stuck keys.  It feels very similar to the MacBook keyboard, but maybe it is better.  That might be cause the keyboard cover seems to be vacuum sealed and glued, giving more bounce to the keys when they return to their upright position.  I’d have to get access to a MacBook to really speak better about how close the two seem.

The position of the iPad Pro 12.9 is pretty perfect.  I’ve not once wanted to reposition it, but that is kinda crazy.  I regularly reposition my laptop screen, I mean, I used to.  I don’t actually use my laptop anymore.  My relationship with my laptop is a whole other matter to discuss. Back to the IPad Pro 12.9... 

Only having one position doesn’t feel right, at least when i think about it, it doesn’t feel right, but I haven’t thought about it while using the ipad and the Smart Keyboard. Just to be clear.  The one position they chose for the ipad to lean at is perfect.  I haven’t found an instance yet where it doesn’t work. Weird.

I have a fourteen dollar Bluetooth keyboard that is modeled off of the small Apple Bluetooth keyboard.  This keyboard is fine, it takes triple a batteries, has a solid connection, is not connected to the IPad and work for weeks on a single charge.  This is what I was willing to spend on a keyboard.  I was not able to bring myself to buy the Smart Keyboard when I was at the apple store.  It wasn’t till I returned my Airpods that I even considered it and to be honest, I just wanted to test drive the SmartKeyboard till the new 2018 summer event, with he assumption i was going to buy something else.

I really like this keyboard though.

Three times in three days I’ve felt like the keyboard has disconnected. But I think two of those times I was in Amazon Prime and one of those times it wasn’t seated well.  I’ll keep an eye out for it. I dunno. 

This Keyboard is not backlit, I totally dig why it isn’t, but it sure should be, for the price.  

This keyboard works on your legs like a laptop! Not in a half hearted way, you can really work in a similar manner as you might with a laptop.  That doesn’t sound exactly the same though and that is cause it isn’t.  You don’t have a trackpad, dude, it is an Ipad; that means no wrist rest either.  So my usual bed or couch way of using a laptop or keyboarded ipad would be to have a lap board or a couch pillow. I don’t actually use laptops in my lap very often, if I have a say in the matter.  The Smart Keyboard totally works on your legs though.

I don’t think I’m supposed to review or describe stuff and use “totally” in my description of things.  The Apple Smart Keyboard is pretty pleasing, I think i can break a few rules.

So good I took them back...

AirPod Gen 1

The first thing you understand when using the AirPods is the entire experience will either tittilate you or repulse you.  The design choices feel as if they are meant to bring you pleasure or at the very least make a bold design statement.  The case, with its delicate magnetic clasp and the slight learning curve of removing the headphones is awkward the first few days; but strangely appealing.  By day three I felt delightfully pleased anytime I stopped to take the head phones out, or put them back in.  Someone else might immediately think of titillation as a great inconvenience and that is equally true, cause the first few days i worried about how i was going to either rip the lid off of the case, or wouldn’t be able to get the headphones out.  This is the whole conundrum of Apple, what makes it appealing to some makes it annoying to others.

Here is the good shit though, the AirPods are really great, easily the best wireless ear buds you can get.  If they don’t fit in your ear though you’re out of luck.  If you want long battery life, you’re also out of luck, you’ll get a few hours before they need to go back in the charging case.  This might be a edge case though, like when i was a carpenter i went 10 hours a day with Bluetooth going in my ear, the AirPods wouldn’t have worked.  I’m back working in the office again now, and I think i only had the low battery chime happen once to me.  I also charged the AirPod case twice in two weeks.  Except for long flights, I don’t think many people will hit that wall often.

The W1 chip is deep intergration, being able to switch from iPhone to IPad is easier than Bluetooth, but not seamless.  The W1 does make it easier though and mostly works with out fail.  I can go from podcasting on my iPhone to Hulu on my IPad and instead of going to Bluetooth and hitting a button, i just close my iPhone and go to my iPad and most of the time the AirPod knows I’ve switched devices.  This is that old apple magic.  The acknowledgement is great, a screen pops up and tells you what your battery life is for the two headphones and the charger.  But you still have to change your input to the AirPod, it is as if Apple has made the option of adding a saved device a little better, but still not effortless.  Now I go to the control center and the audio playback option and I select it there.  Is this better than how you do it in Bluetooth? Yes. Is it perfect? No, but speaks to a future that is far more pleasing than the evolution of Bluetooth alone.

I like the AirPods so much i took them back. Hear me out... Every day i used the AirPod it was great.  I have the disadvantage of my birthday being a month or so before Apple announces the new product lineup.  There are a couple of things I want the AirPod to do that this first generation product doesn’t do.  First, I don’t want to tap my headphone twice for Siri.  I want to be able to stroke my earpiece up or down for volume adjustment.  Lastly, I want to switch between my apple devices and not have to change my input, just have the AirPod know and also automatically switch the input over. Maybe they’ll introduce those features, maybe they won’t.  If they don’t, i might just go back to the store and reorder the headphones.  If they do add new features, I’ll probably buy the version 2.0, even if they don’t have the new features I want.  They’re that good.

 

 I thought the first four people i saw using airpods looked crazy, they grow on you. 

I thought the first four people i saw using airpods looked crazy, they grow on you. 


Life without Airpods

I’m on day three of not having the Airpods.  On the first day I just switched to this mono earpiece that I have, which also has a rechargable cradle.  It was fine. I’ve crested into day 3 and I am starting to miss the Airpods.  This is tricky cause I traded them in for a Smart Keyboard (which I dig) and have another three weeks before I’ll even know if the Airpods are being replaced.  The biggest thing I miss is that they always seem to have a full charge.  No really, i use my headphones, probably seven or eight times a day and I’m not usually killing the battery.  My mono piece is always accidentally turning itself on, and draining down to empty, while stuck in full pairing mood.

Tech Writing: Intro

What if money had no meaning? What if you could have any computer you want?  What if the computer you want doesn’t exist? it almost seems like we are in this new age of the form factor.  It used to be the desktop, then the laptop, and now we have hand helds and the internet of things.  How some of us work has changed. I used to work in a world where it was common to have a nice desktop and a pretty good laptop.    But my 2nd career has really changed my connection with computers as productivity devices to aid me on a day to day basis.  In the last year I’ve tried to reimagine my use case for how I integrate with technology. 

I have spent the last eight years or so with a few desktop computers, a couple of laptops, a tablet and a phone, sometimes two phones.  The multiple desktops spent their time at my office and home.  Same goes for the laptop, where it has been common for me to have work laptop and a personal laptop.  Ditto regarding phones and if I didn’t have a personal phone and a work phone sometimes I would just have two phones, cause they served different purposes. My use of so many devices didn’t change when i left IT for carpentry, the number went down, but i still found myself puttering around on multiple computers. But I’ve been like this with technology for years. That is another piece to write on i think.  Lately I’ve wanted to rethink hardware, software and the cloud.  So I’m working on writing a series of pieces which talk about the past and the present.

 

 

It takes a lot for the truth to come out.

Where does the truth come from?

When does the truth come out?

Today I have begun to find myself on more comfortable footing about the challenges of developing a new skill. It has been hard sitting in a project house just kinda staring at a series of works in progress. And meanwhile i’ve been trying to learn and then also get comfortable with making mistakes and learning; i’m not a perfectionist. I’m also intimidated and indifferent with quirky and high end finishes. I also worry that I don’t yet have a true north about my voice or style.

Getting comfortable with developing the skill of carpentry has run headlong into trying to deal with my anxieties of dealing with my ignorance about new things. I apparently haven’t had to deal with new stuff outside of computers, for a long time-except having kids. Even when i’ve worked in the creative realm it has been via the computer, so the baseline has been comfortable.

The truth is also complicated. Looking at things from a sober perspective i’m now taking a lot of risks. The safe money would be on staying in “The Game” (computers,) but these days i’m either going to have to get deeper into project and program management or upgrade my skills. The baptism of fire that I had with management was pleasing but the commitment was high. The compensation was also high, it got me a house and a pretty decent remodel underway, but quality of life was no good.

The truth is that I’m afraid. This is no call to arms. This is being in the dark with fast dimming light. And i’m nearly certain the only way that i’ll have a chance at success is to run headlong into the darkness of my fear. As a person committed to the long game the voices say that I should run back to carpet and cubicle walls. I should learn my way around another nondescript building and gird myself for having to climb the ladder again. There are always voices.

Being into the long play does not mean you’re conservative or afraid, it means you are going long, you are trying to stretch your resources over a long period of time. On some level I have to admit that I structured my IT career around my own planned obsolescence. I like computer support. I like the access to people, I like fixing broken things. I have no interest just sitting in front of a computer for a eight to ten hour work day. I did not want to be a DBA, or a security analyst. I didn’t want to be a network administrator. I wanted to be the guy who fixed your computer and helped you. And I most certainly didn’t want to be chained to a phone. I can stay in the game, but the corporate IT Administrator is being combined with the Network Administrator. The corporate IT support individual is doing everything, every job is becoming a catch all, it isn’t all bad, but golly... Lastly I loved my job and the mix of support and project/program management was super awesome. I was stretched thin, but it was good, a true challenge to juggle and make everything right.

I was not afraid to leave corporate.

I was not afraid to give up the money.

I am afraid at failing at my new job. I am afraid to be a failure as a carpenter.

Why change careers? I mean, why would you give up your whole segment and do something dramatically different. My experience with remodeling and carpentry is mostly from spreadsheet and shepherding the vision. I can successfully remodel a house, that is troubleshooting. Replace this, paint that, make this bad thing better. I can do that. I’m working with master carpenters now, even in the role of an assistant carpenter it is challenging work and every day there is a medley of new shit we’re doing.

house projects

*2 thoughts on 2 things “2 on 2” *

Two thoughts on Architects

Always use an architect.

Never trust anything an architect says... You hired them to make a pretty picture and specify materials.

Two thoughts on General Contractors

Always use a General Contractor

So there is that adage “You can have fast, good, or cheap, pick two.” it is absolutely true. Have that conversation with your General Contractor after you have honestly decided how you lean.

Writing about writing implements

I think I don’t have anything to write about my 12 inch PowerBook G4. Ok, there is one thing... I’ve been trying to get the laptop to stream Netflix. I have no interest using the laptop to play Netflix. I just thought about it one day. Bear with me. I get totally obsessive about eeking performance out of computers. I also take some odd pleasure in getting equipment to do something it was never meant to do. This habit of “I wonder if...” usually occurs when I have nothing to write about.

So I found myself with nothing to write about and was just curious. And since I know you probably own a Powerbook G4 yourself and want to know the answer, it is possible. I haven’t gotten it to work, but it is totally possible, or at least I haven’t given up on it, yet. I’ve currently been having trouble getting into the osX 10.5.8 package.

Getting into packages changes with each version of osX, which if you’re an apple person isn’t so confusing, but if your a windows person it sounds a bit weird. The part where Apple totally rewrites the desktop and OS underpinnings on a regular basis is also weird. And I cannot figure out the terminal command line to write out that will get me into the package and extract it to a desktop. So I keep going back with different syntax trying.

Carpentry

I have this area in my kitchen where my sink, my dishwasher and oven live. This area (sans oven, which we just bought) was a part of the “remodel” that occurred to the house before we bought it. But by remodel I mean some really lousy remodelers took scrap materials and fashioned a partially functioning counter, sink and dishwasher. Like they literally pulled some discarded kitchen materials and cobbled them together to make a kitchen area. The sink leaked, the dishwasher didn’t work, the carpentry (how dare you sir) is of the worse kinda construction. And all of this work was recently done. It’s pretty terrible. No part of this area is level or plum.

To make matters worse redoing the area would require decommissioning the oven, dishwasher and sink and keeping them offline till I rebuilt the space. Rebuilding the space would require literally taking the area down to the studs and rebuilding everything, so daunting. Any compromise means that I have to pick a place where I take my stand.

Do I take the wall down to the studs? If I do, I might get into a bigger project than I imagined. i have to contend with are some really weird framing choices that were made. The sink had one of those ledges behind the counter, y’know that spot. When the house is for sale it would have some olives and peppers floating in oil, all artfully arranged in a ornate glass bottle. Usually that would mean that the framing would extend out to accommodate the ledge and drywall would go around that framed outline.

I know what happened. They changed the layout of the space and brought in the dishwasher. they also did not want to spend a nickel on any change in the piping they had worked around. So they made one cut and added the breath pipe for the dishwasher and then they hit it in the ledge and also rigged up the electrical. Shoddy. Still with me? So I have framing that is extended past the original drywall and not tied into the wall structure at all and then it was also drywalled. So either I rip out the entire structure, all the framing and both layers of drywall and the plumbing and then start over.

That’s what it all boils down to, how much do you want to spend. How much are you willing to inconvenience yourself and your family. And how much do you have to change to achieve your goal? Otherwise, you have to pick a series of compromising starts and work around the structural issues and still manage to make it look good. Pretty tricky, unless you want to wash dishes in the sink and not have an oven. To be utterly honest with myself i’m doing the same wrong things they did. i’m looking at some really warmed over shit and trying to shape it into something else.

In the heart of remodeling this is the big question; what wrongs do you build on? Indeed. Every day we have to make that call.

Snips

*It would be like if Microsoft made Windows XP and then named the next seven operating systems Windows XP1-7 and then stuck on “Windows XP 7 Banana Peel” and then named the next one “Windows XP 7 Orange Rind” and then “Windows XP 7Almond shell” cause that is what Apple did. *

*After we bought the house the Owner/Agent offered to loan us his man to fix the “minor issues” the house had. That was like having the “buy here pay here” warranty, you’re not getting a quality car and you are not getting quality repairs. We declined the offer and closed on the house and got our own guy. *

*We gutted about 85% of the house, guess what we didn’t gut. *

Mumble mumble

Writing about writing on a computer continues...

*If you told me i’d want to spend a disproportionate amount of time writing about what I was writing on, I would have self criticized myself. Writing about writing is bad enough. Writing about what you’re writing with is * probably* worse. There must be some reason though, outside of just having nothing to write about and just looking down at the instrument and that being all that comes to your mind. *

That said...

*I’m currently writing with Pages 09, it’s lean, has a good interface, feels Microsoft Workish. But it doesn’t offend the “I like Microsoft Word” crowd. There is a very pleasing “full screen” mode. This single tasking function gives you a white screen for your text, bordered by a larger black background. The only information it communicates is word count and how many pages you’ve written. The help function is pretty amazeballs and guides you to what you’re looking up and it does all of this in real time. T*

*I’ve wondered about whether I should maybe get out of traditional entry writing business. Maybe I should build a series of entries that I add to and edit. Then I could just have one gargantuan entry about the 12 inch Powerbook G4. *

Website vs Mobile ready: The quotable madman.

I’ve been thinking about getting back into code again, just some simple HTML and maybe a little CSS. It seems overwhelming and overkill for blithering on about random shit. Squarespace seems fine for the more static image centric and self promoting elements I need to have on hand. I’ve also been thinking about bringing back the old KFO, even bringing back the 3.0 interface, but that interface is not mobile friendly and that is the kiss of death now. How do you make a mobile friendly zine that also houses a blog? Should my energy be about trying to figure out a mobile friendly solution which is appropriate for the time but completely abandons the web site model?

And do I go back and touch my old entries? Do I maybe make them bite sized, or quotable? Do I repackage the stream of conscious into tweet era style writing? Yesterdays deep is todays rambling mess, right?

At the mall

Rosie and I went mall shopping today. Rosie isn’t much of a fan of clothes shopping, but she has a gala event coming on and we all agree her wardrobe is not up to snuff. Shopping for clothes can be fun, as long as your goal is to just hang out and trying things on. If your mission is that you have to walk into a store and absolutely must walk out with your required garments, it can be a downer.

We went to a half dozen stores. This was my first time taking her to Nordstorm Rack. Think Marshalls, with clothes at Marshalls prices and in addition to that a rich selection of ludicrously priced stuff that has been lowered to just absurd prices. We did find one piece, matte, non tapered stretch slacks, out of Indonesia. They need to be altered, so next up is establishing a relationship with a local tailor. We now have five days to find a shirt and shoes to go with it. I think we can do it.

Bug Out Bag: Writing

The concept of the bug out bag is that you have a satchel packed for emergencies. When said emergency occurs you’re then ready to BUG OUT!

I have to break in and say that I have two running thoughts going on here. One is about bug out bags as it pertains to writing. The other thought is the impracticality of the bug out bag in a true survival situation. I don’t know if I can merge the two or not.

As it relates to writing I’ve started to think about maybe carrying one computer all the time, but how I should also feel comfortable with maybe having a second computer that I bug out with. The whole reason for this mind exercise is that I have two computers well suited to the experience of writing, with minimal internet distraction. But both computers have strong points.

The Toshiba Portege is strong. The Portege battery is good for about 70 minutes. It wins hands down in lightness, as I think it weighs about a pound and a half. The downsides is that the mouse click button is hidden in plain sight and my thumbs just can’t find it. This next trait is bad and a negative. The linux operating system is lean and stable, the standby mode is good. The choice in word processors is not awesome and i’ve hit some walls trying to get other packages to properly expand on the build. Slightly above my paygrade-and annoying. The Windows XP build is rock solid, with a near perfect hibernate state and has word. I have no complaints about windows xp, it kinda messes with my head, like i’m in the way back machine, but otherwise it is all good. The deal breaker is quite possibly the lilliputian mouse pad and button.

The Apple powerbook is totally... Ok. I don’t know about the titanium powebooks, but all the apple laptops bother my forearm; what’s up with the sharp edge? Part of me thinks i’m allergic to aluminum, but the polycarbonate macbooks are also annoying and hurt my wrist. That is the first downside. Battery life is a bit better on the powerbook, like an hour and a half. Standby mode is nearly magical on the apple, though if i’m going to be honest, Apple standby feels better, Windows hibernate though maybe is more stable, by a hair. The Apple has the glowing apple, the screen feels really great on the eyes, it isn’t retina, but it feels damn nice. And I have every port I’d ever want. I suffer from faberge egg syndrome though when I carry the apple, i totally hate the thought of scratching or messing it up.

So I think I can benefit from both computers. On a day to day basis I seem to be picking up the power book and not the Toshiba. But I have this cute baby messenger that the portege and not much more can fit in and I just really think i can grab it and go. I can’t grab the powerbook and just go.

If i had to bug out in real life, the portege would be more practical.

If we have to bug out we are dead. Bugging out... Dude. There is no up side to it. My survival instinct is strong, but outside of my will to live, do I really have any interest running from place to place?

From a concept of writing though, bug out for me translates to just being able to write anytime. I mean, what i’m trying to do is build back my writing voice. This entire exercise is all about finding a voice to to convey my thoughts. I’ve lost so many of the things which made my previous perspective and defined my voice, time to build something new. I attempted poetry a few nights ago, no luck. The role that technology plays in how we express ourselves, now that is a interesting conversation piece. I grew up desperately wanting a computer, as we were people of humble means my first computer ended up being a smith and corona word processor. All I wanted to do was write and that is all I think I want to do these days...

Return of the 12

Ok, so as i've been wrangling with the Toshiba Portege I was reminded that somewhere in Atlanta there was a restored 12 inch Powerbook that I had parlayed for a nice carbon fiber road bike, many years ago.  I was pretty certain that the powerbook was sitting on the shelf of a friend, in exactly the same condition that it was in when I traded it.  

 

 We're talking pretty old school though, like as old as you might want to go.  For the sake of conversation, that being a conversation where we chat about why you might be inclined to invest in a old computer, there are some fascinating opportunities out there.  I think this scenario of seeking out an old piece of hardware is mostly unique to Apple though.  Occasionally a pc form factor will come around that is very exciting, but not ususally.  The Apple hardware spec is so high end, if you don't have a early off the assembly line dud, or some weird occasional design misstep, you have a highly reliable piece of equipment in your hands.  But why would you go backand when should you do it? 

 

Now we're talking right? This is the reason for me to be writing tonight. "Paul, how can I buy some old shit to fit a needless niche in my life?" Glad you asked... Maybe we’re using computers wrong.  Maybe the smart phone and the tablet should be our consumption devices and we should go back to focusing when we use a computer.  If you’re interested in that idea you’re gonna keep reading, if only to hear the idea out.  All that said, the person you should be getting/buying your old tech from is the frequent upgrader.  This person has two or hree computers, they remember exactly what they paid for each computer and that is part of the reason for why they can't part with their classic collection.  The frequent upgrader sometimes by default becomes a defacto collector cause their love for equipment never quite lines up with their acceptance of depreciation.  

 

The upside of getting vintage hardware from the frequent upgrader is that they have the worlds best hardware (in this instance an eleven year old computer that is still banging around,) and the appropriate software suite to compliment it.  What do we use computers for?  We used to use great pieces of software and we'd store our files on the computer.  The notion of the web as the resource for software, file storage and acting as virtual desktop is a new concept. What really muddies the water is that hardware for the last ten or so years has become "end of life" or retired cause of RAM constraints more than anything else.  And I know for some that is a over simplification, but it isn't far off.  

 

I guess the point is that most computers (when you're not buying cheap and underpowered) are potent for their time.  This 12 inch powerbook that i'm writing on right now is more than powerful enough to write on and do simple image editing tasks and by simple I mean I can break out photoshop, work in layers and apply filters.  I can also check my email and if I want to I can browse the web, but i can't open up twenty tabs and cruise to my hearts content.  It's an interesting idea, but it's only an interesting idea if you want a great piece of hardware that has a very limited purpose, but man oh man, Apple makes some great computers.  

 

This is a sneakernet thing though, while you can go online and buy an old powerbook for about three hundred dollars, you can skip the powerpc line and grab early macbooks and macbook airs for not much more money.  No, you're gonna have to find people who have old powerbooks in their house and they can't just stand to get rid of them.  The same person who couldn't bear to sell their computer for nearly nothing will give that computeraway if they think the other person will use it; sometimes we just want to know it found a good home.  

 

So as deals come around.  The first owner of the powerbook had really loved the computer, but they had killed it.  I then came into possession of it and restored it, my initial investment was that I traded a LCD screen for it and I think that was it.  It was a fair deal, a dead, slightly beat up 12 inch powerbook (and bag!) for a nice working LCD.  I then sourced parts forthe powerbook and got it back up and running.  It's possible I convinced my job to boot the costs, ahem...  It was my main computer for a few years, till I upgraded to a 15inch powerbook.  I then traded it for a nice road bike.  My buddy I traded it too built the roadbike out of parts he had and some ebay deals. I got the upside of that deal, but only in the sense that the old apple hardware hold value and this computer has only depreciated about twenty five percent in the six years that I traded it away.  Today i got it back and it cost me a LCD, we've come full circle.  

 

How can it still be valuable, but not useful? And how did I get it back for a quarter of its value.  One, it's great hardware,  my ten year old pcs have not faired as well-so there is your physical value.  Butthis computer is of no use to the person who wants to open a computer and have said computer be their looking glass to the Internet. Man, I really don't want that and there is a small contingency of people who also happen to be mac faithful who have computers which they use cause of the software, not the web-it is a novel concept.  There isjust some amazing hardware and software out there, some truly great platforms that are nearly discarded cause of the web and cause of upgrades. 

 

Here are the things I like the about the Powerbook 12

 

• Small form factor.  She's dense but a very small package.  Somehow the screen does not feel like a compromise though.  Big upside versus the Portege

• The keyboard is a keyboard from ten years ago.  They made great keyboards back then.  They're really messing up keyboards now.  This keyboard is dense, loud and has great travel.  For a qwerty writer this keyboard is really quite pleasing.  

• The mouse pad feels like something out of Germany, the click is loud and the action is clunky. 

• The screen is a TFT XGA 1024x768 and it is both sharp yet somehow warm.  

• OS X 10.5.8 is a pretty clean OS X instance from the past.  If you're not doing a bunch of web stuff, or working to heavily in say Photoshop, you're in a very stable environment. 

• Last thing.  You have audio in and out jacks, firewire, ethernet, a modem, and a superdrive

• And you get that glowing apple on the back.  

 

 

And here is the deal, mostly I want to type and leastly I want to web.  I want a computer for computering.  I know i'm writing this and putting it on the web-not sure if that is ironic, but there you have it.  I'm gonna work on both machines and see how things shake out.  

 

Magazine Articles

 Mon 25 Jan 2016 09:19:19 PM EST
Today I began to wonder about what the transition must be like for corporate workers who go into other industries.

In my early professional years i'd read Time and Newsweek articles about people (usually well off boomers) who'd given up their high pay, high stress, high status jobs to make cheese, or become farmers, or learn to cobble shoes in Italy.  Often times these fantastical stories had people who really struggled with the decision to go. Other times people were forced out with no choice, whether it was downsizing or burnout.  And in many if not most of the stories the people either took their large savings, retirement fund or some other sum of money to jump start their new venture. 

Trying to understsnd, decipher, make sense of or chart some plan reading magazine articles is for the birds. 

I realize a huge part of my window onto the world was with magazine articles that explained life to me, except it didn't.  In the same way that you really won't learn much about architecture reading Dwell; you really don't. You don't really learn much about the people, the human condition, or how to move through life with the contemporary magazine articles. But back then I had gone through my own transition and I didn't know it then, but I was looking for understanding.

I spent the first 14 years of my life upper lower class, I like to say.  But even that assesment of my life is probably off.  We werent lower class, we also weren't upper lower class.  We were middle lower class.  We didn't live in a ghetto.  My father was not around though, so it was just my mother and I.  We lived month to month and some months we did great, things would be stable, we might even go into a year or two of stability, inevitably we'd gypsy around though.  By the time I was in my early twenties I was in my first decade of middle class life.  We had moved on up as it was.  My mother married, we moved to Atlanta, my step dad started a business and we busted our asses.  If i'm going to be completely honest, they busted their asses and I took some advantage of the situation, but not nearly enough.  We didn't know any better, any of us, we were riding by the seat of our pants. Hell, we were still living month to month, we were just on the upswing. 

As I found myself building a career, moving up in the world, my parents were not able to help me very much with an outlook that offered any perspective on white collar, middle class living.  Enter Time & Newsweek, US News, The Economist. There were not many "So you've become middle class! Here is what you should know" articles to read.  Most of the articles were "White professionals have it good, even when they have to deal with change." And since that is what was out there, that is what I read.  I also read the articles about how bleak it was for blacks, there were a lot of those. 

Many of my life choices were framed by these people portrayed in the articles.  Their life choices influenced my thinking and strategy.  I didn't know it then, but I planned my life with the prism of "What would i do if I was white, successful and looking for a plan b that was both satisfying, fulfilling and still made enough money so that I wasn't destitue." I also entered the job force in the early nineties, which was a dreary time.  The Savings and Loan disaster had happened, it was a brief blip in an otherwise already dreary time.  Japan was beginning it's long recession and the eighties downturn looked like it was holding on to the first half of the nineties. 

There is probably a box of magazines in my basement which chart my strategy in life.

I didn't do too bad... 

I'm currently on sabbatical and debating if I am touristing around another industry or if i am leaving IT. A part of me does not want to embrace this new thing.  If you've ever written a plan for yourself and given your future self instructions for how to live life, don't stop working on the plan for future you. Future you gets pretty dependent on your forward looking assessments to plan their life out.  Problem is old me doesn't read those magazines anymore.  Old me is disappointed with current me and what I made of my life.  Current me doesn't know what the fuck is going on, future me is waiting for instruction. 

Miscellaneous

I spent a few hours in the XP build trying to make it as lean as possible. Out with Java. Out with Flash, no programs loading with startup.  But I still prefer to not be in a "rich" OS. So i'm back in Peppermint working with "Gedit" a no frills text editor. It looks like it has three features, it can save a doc, insert date and time and spell check-we'll see about that.

Spellcheck doesn't work... So it has two really good features.

I don't know how to feel about LED bulbs.

I have some big decisions to make, all of them change my life in a dramatic way, kinda scary.

Thoughts from inside a church.

 1/24/2016 5:21:52 PM

I'm writing my annual blog entry. 

I’ve come to realize that since The Big Change my relationship (symbiosis?) with the computer has been severed… This entry serves as acknowledgement that I'm attempting to reignite my writing voice. 

In the corporate cage there was this balance that the computer and the handheld had. It doesn’t matter what kind of handheld I mean either. Android, IOS, phone, tablet. All of these devices served as companions to my digital journey, but the personal computer was my companion & primary interface, not a 3 inch slab. I don't write on handheld devices* Now most of my hand and eye time is with with tools, the handheld is my R2 unit. I think as a writer and explorer this new interfacing with the interweb is both disjointed and less than what I had before. And my personal relationship with the PC has suffered. Technical work is going along fine, but part of me is the computer. Part of how I express myself is in the qwerty, can be found in stream of conscious, I have lost that. 

Truth be told though this all started a few years ago. Times have changed and who I was in the digital spectrum back then is not appropriate in this day and age. I don't think I could get away with living my life outloud, like I used to. 

 Protege r200-s2031 circa 2007

Protege r200-s2031 circa 2007

So this is how I find myself rocking a 1.3ghz Toshiba Portege with five hundred and twelve meg of ram, running windows XP. This lady has a modem jack, a physical switch to turn off wireless-which is off and nearly (?) ten year old battery that gives me maybe seventy minutes of use. It weighs a pound and a half, is about the size of a eleven inch macbook. I’m going to try to use this device to write without distraction-in small spurts. I find it really hard to take out my Vaio or Air to casually write, without getting lost in the web, picture editing or other fuckery. I think I’ve lost some part of myself and it is has something to do with my new life, gear and living situation. This will be part of what I attempt to explore in this new batch of writing. 

*I don't write on handhelds much, but editing seems to be functional.

Miscellaneous...

This machine I’m working from is dual boot (high geekiness,) so in addition to Windows XP, It also has a linux distro called peppermint. This Linux install used to be a pretty positive build for lean computers, though I think its time has come to pass and the team is no longer updating Peppermint. I still like Peppermint for setting up an old machine, when you have low expectations and low requirements.

Other equipment that I’m using for this penny in time-traveling gear “retro fit” is a fourth gen ipod photo, it’s 30gb. I don’t know what I’m doing with it. I broke it and two other ipads out so that I could revive them and make some use of them in the home stereo system. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but these old totems all tie into an era and this span of technology is in theory cross related in my memory, which could aid in my work on the old tech.

To that end… Each generation destroys the tech of the past. We find ourselves in this rush to assume the latest and greatest; progress is merciless. It works for moving us forward and in some way, it provides opportunities for the old timers to exit the low end of commoditization and become valuable again, the old stuff never completely goes away. It still brings no reason to the ipod. I’ll see if there is anything I can do with it.

1/24/2016 8:15:11 PM

Ok I totally worked out the ipod and what to do with it. While I’m deep scanning drives that I come across, I’m going to slowly build a greatest hits ipod that I can press play on and be ok with every song. In the past I’ve gotten stuck on wanting to have complete albums, which I think was a puritanical thing, not wanting to submit to the “buy the song” movement. Ten plus years later though the single and the album have their respective places. A lot of performers don’t really have an album I them. The new Missy Elliot WTF song is just fine by itself, it does not require other songs and really does make you want to go back to her back catalog. And I hated that Ryan Adams Taylor Swift cover album he did-too Andy Kaufman for my tastes. It is definitely intended as a album, not a single song though. This is Ipod will just be a curated “Every song is good to hear” kinda player. I feel kinda liberated.

Also, Toshiba provided the microdrives that powered the full sized iPods, this drive happens to be the same kind of miniature hard drive that runs in my laptop.  I might need to line up donor parts now if I'm going to be using this little laptop regularly 

 Toshiba Microdrive

Toshiba Microdrive

In The Gutters...

February 2nd 2014

I consider myself a tenderfoot.  I'm on my 3rd house remodel, but there is still so much to know and learn.  I am probably a hybrid of sorts, in each of the house projects I've managed the remodel and also done much of the unskilled labor. In between that I've painted, caulked, nailed and participated in other parts of what it means to rehab a house. But no matter what I learn it seems like there is so much more to know. 

   

 

I am not a Carpenter.  A day after closing though I found myself DIYing a eighteen foot length of gutter. This was my first gutter. I figured I was going to ruin the gutter. I figured I'd try to do one thing that day and gutters were the priority, so I started there. Gutters aren't hard. They come in six and ten foot lengths, you have to cap the ends, they have to be predrilled and glued. If you're joining lengths together they have to be riveted and glued. It's not horrible or complicated, but you can do a good or bad job. I did a bad job on That first day.  

There is something about the process of carpentry, you have to think out what you're doing but once you get started you can only focus on the thing you're doing, you can't think ahead, you can't rush, you just have to go about your action and do it right. The first day, whatever you're doing is a sacrificial lamb, you will butcher whatever you touch. On that particular day I butchered that gutter.

But the first day for me is an agreement of sorts. I know I have to journey into a place where I can't think about a dozen things. I have to get my mind around executing on just one thing. 

So while project managing  is nothing but multitasking, doing good carpentry is one thing. I'm not good at one thing.  My job is nothing but a constant juggle of fires and emergencies. Carpentry is just executing on one thing, then move on to the next. 

So I knew my mind would drift and I knew I would have to give some offering to the gods and I did.  I find the work side of doing houses to be both immensely satisfying and incredibly daunting. 

TheP10Project Phase 2

We bought house number 2!

This time out we're going to try to reach past managing the build and doing grunt work. This time we're going to do much of the work and remodeling ourselves. We're going to envision and do it ourselves.

There is so much potential when you own a home. And so many of us do nothing more than decorate the interior, maybe plant annuals. I'm glad to say we got time on our hands and we're ready to build some sweat equity.

You have so much you have to do when you own a home, or it will come slowly down around you. The worse part is that slow decline. We steep in decay and rot, till it seems to far gone to save.

So we've found a six hundred and thirty square foot cottage. She's a diamond in the rough. Because of her age condition, and the era she was built in we're going to work to freshen the space, we don't want to gut her. We're going to try to celebrate her origin and modernize her amenities, while we're at it we hope to give the neighborhood a face lift.

In the first thirty days we're going to replace the roof, overhaul the HVAC, maybe replacing flooring and update the exterior. It's ambitious, but we need to do it, we got a renter coming and a 2nd inspection.

Transient