Having upgraded all of our WRI work laptops to current models, I’m phasing out our older machines. This means I’m able to buy them for a nominal fee. Last week I grabbed a 15″ MBP for Finley, who has been using a tablet at school and borrowing my laptop to do schoolwork during snow days. I spent some time flattening a spare drive and installing El Capitan (I fell prey to a somewhat common bug with all of the USB installers I’d created before I got one to work) and creating a user account for her. I’m now in the process of locking it down as tightly as possible. The parental controls in OS X are a new adventure for me, but with a little research and some experimentation, I think I can make it kid-friendly and lock out all but the G-rated sites we’ll allow her to browse.
At the same time, I’ve got to rebuild my work laptop from scratch. About a month ago I had a dumb travel accident with my coffee thermos and soaked the lower half of the case, which prompted a trip to the Apple store and an emergency rebuild. They left the hard drive but replaced the lower case, display, motherboard, and several other components. When I got the machine back it booted up into an older version of my user account, but it’s been acting funky. Playing video from the internet sometimes blows up wireless connectivity and/or crashes the browser, and the Microsoft Office suite goes up and down randomly.
I grabbed a spare drive from my stash at work and cloned the drive. Over this next weekend I’m going to do a full reinstall of the OS and build it clean from the ground up.
Meanwhile, Jen’s laptop, which is newer than mine, decided it was time to throw a tantrum and blinked off. It’s doing something I’ve never seen before: the startup sequence drops out about 2/3 of the way through and blinks to a dead gray screen. Booting into Recovery Mode, the Hardware Test, or from an external recovery drive has the same result. I’m stumped, so I pulled her drive and transplanted it into Finn’s computer until I can diagnose the hardware problem. Great!
Another repair in the works is our balky plumbing system. Last fall, when I was in Abu Dhabi, our new toilet stopped flushing. Jen had plumbers come in to diagnose it, and they replaced the toilet after snaking the lines. Soon after that, the basement flooded, and they snaked the line again. That was when we found the pipe was clogged under the magnolia tree, and we dug a very expensive trench in the yard to replace it.
After Christmas, to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, the toilet clogged again.
The plumbers put a camera down in the line and diagnosed a problem with the cast iron pipe that links the second bathroom with the main waste line; when the original plumbers installed it, they didn’t add any downward angle to the last length of pipe, which runs about 2/3 of the width of the basement. This means the waste didn’t have any help moving to the main sewer line, and sat in the flat section of pipe, where it hardened and clogged. So, they replaced that entire length of iron with PVC at a proper angle on Thursday. It was expensive but if and when the upstairs bathroom ever comes into use, it’s necessary for keeping things flowing smoothly.
Friday morning, we woke to a cold house.
The boiler decided it didn’t want to stay lit, which meant we needed to call the plumbers out. Again. This time, the diagnosis is a bad spark unit, which is a module about the size of a sandwich. Unfortunately, the boiler itself dates back to Jimmy Carter’s term in office, so the part isn’t normally in stock anywhere. My plumber couldn’t source it today because his supplier is doing inventory all afternoon, so I’d have to wait until Monday. So we’re going to find a couple of space heaters, close off the outside rooms of the house, and hunker down tonight.
I made a few calls and found a different guy in town who can get the part for me by tomorrow morning; I’m going to take a $160 non-refundable chance and put it in myself (it’s three wires and two screws). If that fails, I’ll have to keep the plumbers of the world in business myself. I don’t have the money, after paying for a fancy new toilet, a trench in the front yard, two more visits to unclog the lines, and a new waste pipe, to put in a new boiler, so I really hope this works.
I’ve had my iPhone 6 for over two weeks now, and I have to say I’m impressed. It’s bigger, yes, and slipperier–the first thing I did was buy a Skech case for it, which I like–but having touch recognition is frickin’ magic. iOS 8 is much peppier on upgraded hardware, obviously. It’s amazing how much difference three years’ technology makes. The screen is huge compared to the 4s–the difference in pixel density alone is tremendous. I took some time to consolidate five screens worth of icons down to two, which meant I ditched some stuff along the way, but I haven’t bought anything new to add.
I took in the Superbowl last night at my neighbors’, in front of three widescreens. I was the only one rooting for the Seahawks, mostly because I don’t like the Patriots all that much. It turned out to be a fantastic game, and I thought the Patriots had sealed things up in the last three minutes. When the Seahawks drove down the field, I was thinking we were going to see a miraculous comeback. As it turned out, I was wrong–and I still can’t believe the play they called.
The yeast in my session IPA kicked in with a vengeance on Monday night, which brings me a sigh of relief. There’s at least 2″ of krauzen at the top of the carboy and it hasn’t slowed down since it started.
Jen tells me my new iPhone is sitting in a box on my desk–just in time. I think my 4S knows its time is up, because battery life has plunged off a cliff in the last week or so. However, the case I ordered (and fancy touchscreen gloves) won’t be here until tomorrow.
Not much else happening on the home front. It’s been too cold to do anything on the house, and schedules just haven’t worked out to get anything done on the weekend. I’m getting itchy…
After Jalopyrama yesterday, we followed the Morrises into the crowded center of Annapolis to grab a bite to eat. As we bit into our dinner, my left kidney began to throb, and within about 15 minutes I was up in the men’s bathroom splashing water on my face, trying not to throw up. Jen and Finn bundled me up in the car and hauled ass all the way to the Howard County hospital, the folks who took such good care of Finn before she was airlifted to Hopkins. (The Morrises texted me in the car on our way home: “Best dine N dash ever! LOL”)
After an X-ray, a CAT scan, and some urinalysis, it turned out I was dealing with a kidney stone working its way down to my bladder. Jen found a bed for Finn at the neighbors’ and came back to pick me up when I was discharged. For most of the overnight I was OK, but at about 6AM I had to bust into the pain meds to get back to sleep.
Nothing has come out yet as far as I can tell, and the afternoon has been pretty mild compared to dinner yesterday. Hopefully I’ll see some progress tomorrow, because I’m staying home from work until I’ve got an idea of what’s happening.
Renie mentioned she’d upgraded her 4S to iOS 8.1 and it’s been much better for her, so I’m looking at a progress bar on my phone this evening. Hopefully I won’t have to try and roll it back. As it turns out, I can’t use Instant Hotspot with my phone, as it requires a 5 or higher. Most of the Continuity features require a 5 actually, so I’ll probably stick with my upgrade plan.
I did some minor housekeeping here at IK central while I was on the couch, mainly moving the sidebar and utility links from the bottom of the page over to the sidebar. Given the average length of the posts here, it was getting to be a drag to scroll all the way down to find the search and links and other functions.
Hooray! We’re going to Jalopyrama #11 on Saturday. Nothing but 1962 and earlier American hot rods, customs, and race cars. I will be bringing a good camera and a big memory card. We’re also meeting the Morrises there to hand off their iMac and maybe see the sights in Annapolis.
My home laptop is now running Yosemite, and seems to be pretty happy. I like a lot of the new features they’ve baked into things, although I won’t be able to take advantage of a lot of the phone -> computer functionality until I upgrade my iPhone (dialing and making calls on my laptop, Continuity with my files, or tethering). Most likely I’ll wait until 2015 for a new phone, as the holidays and some home renovation projects demand my extra cash. Or maybe they’ll have a good update to iOS 8.1 that makes my old 4s happy.
Also, I used a feature of Mail.app I never knew existed until last week: Preferences -> Junk Mail ->Reset. I’ve been getting more and more spam mail over the last two years, to the point where 95% of my inbox was junk (at a rate of about 150 messages a day). Each evening I’d waste 5 minutes of my life weeding through spam mail and moving it to the junk folder. Having reset the filter I’m seeing 3-5 junk messages make it through and another 2-3 valid ones get marked as spam, but that’s a much better average than before.
I loaded Yosemite onto my work laptop yesterday morning, figuring it would make a great test case for the rest of the machines I run (my home laptop, Jen’s laptop, a workstation under my desk, client machines, etc.) and overall it’s pretty nice. My work laptop is a Retina 13″ with an SSD, so installation took about 10 minutes and everything looks wonderful. It seems to be fast, there’s no performance hit with anything I can see, and all my apps seem to be running just fine (Adobe Creative Cloud, CS6, Office 2011, and a handful of utility apps I depend upon). The real test will be the aforementioned laptops–my home machine is an early 2010 model MacBook Pro which might not like as many of the visual improvements in Yosemite.
Amazon delivered my copy of Information is Beautiful this morning, and I can testify, it is, indeed, beautiful. An entire book of charts, graphs, and visuals well-designed and displayed, about a huge range of subjects. Go to the site, absorb some of the work, and buy the book. It’s well worth the money.
Monday night I went out to the garage and started running wire to the ceiling for overhead lighting. Currently it’s a mishmash of plugin fluorescent fixtures scrounged from my old job run off extension cords, and I’ve dreamed of simply having a switch next to the door to light the space since we moved in. I ran wire from the panel to a new switchbox near the door and then started fishing wire up to the ceiling, then stopped because I wanted to make sure I was running the wire correctly. It’s looking like I’m on the right track based on this diagram, so I’ll continue getting things in place in preparation for buying the fixtures and a new breaker.
Apple announced new iPhones and a watch yesterday. The phones are nice; I’ll probably upgrade my 4s to a 6 when they’re released, because my 4s is beginning to get a little flaky on battery life, and I like the idea of Apple Pay. Having printed out a full-size comparison of the 6 and 6 Plus, the Plus is HUGE. Like, Mini iPad huge. The watch? Meh. I could care less, although it probably does some cool stuff. As I’ve said before, I’d rather spend that cash on something classic instead.
There hasn’t been much else going on, other than on the weekends; work is busy but exhausting. I have been playing around with digital sound recording and syncing with video for the past two weeks, and I think I’ve got both of our digital recorders figured out when connected to wireless lav mics. I shot some interviews earlier in the summer and while the video looks beautiful, the audio settings I was using were too low. I’ve run a bunch of tests on syncing up digital video with audio through the mic/recorder system, and I’ve now got it dialed in. There’s talk of recording an interview here at work in the next couple of weeks, which I think I’m ready for.