I haven’t updated much here lately, due to the fact that there hasn’t been much time. Last weekend Finn and I made the Christmas pilgrimage to upstate New York, leaving Mama behind to try and catch up on a backlog of work and proposals. The girl and I had a great time, but we were both exhausted upon our return. I think it’s taken up until today for me to get caught up on sleep. The girls were able to deconstruct the christmas tree and haul the carcass out to the curb the other day, so this may mark the first time the county will have hauled it away as opposed to me throwing it next to the garage and dragging it to the dump in March. This weekend is earmarked for grocery shopping, cleaning, catching up on house maintenance, and two playoff games on Sunday.
I read up on some reviews of the new Mac Pro the other day, and an alternative solution to our storage problem presented itself: a Drobo is basically a 5-bay networked carriage for hard drives, which comes in at a much lower price point than a used Mac Pro on Craigslist. I’m ready to ditch the G5 in our basement, which has been balky and only offers two drive bays; Drobo offers Plex and FireFly compatibility so we can share our media to the AppleTV and to my shiny new Christmas present, a Roku3. Sometime in the spring, I’m going to pull the trigger and consolidate everything.
Life with the iPad has been tricky but workable; I’ve left my laptop home for the last week and a half, and there doesn’t seem to be too much I can’t accomplish on the iPad. Reading books is much nicer than the first gen Kindle. Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are slick; the fact that Spotify is now streaming to mobile devices for free is awesome. I’ve got a great VNC client for remoting to client machines, and Mint’s app is a bit oblique but usable. My big beef is with Yahoo for not offering a full-size Flickr app for the iPad, which feels like I’m still looking at tintypes by candlelight. WTF, Yahoo?
The biggest issue I have now is what my new photo workflow should be. I’m not taking a ton of pictures, but I’d like to take and post more as the weather warms up. With my laptop at home, there’s no easy way to edit and post DSLR pictures until I get home unless I do it on a work machine, which I’m trying to avoid.
I’ve had The Bones of What You Believe by CVRCHES and Days Are Gone by Haim on infinite repeat the last three weeks; obviously my tastes are changing again, in the absence of any good new rock or ambient albums.
I found out, quite by accident, that the maker of my current password vault application was purchased by Facebook some time ago and hasn’t been updating it since then. Password vaults are handy for capturing all one thousand online profiles the modern human needs to have in 2014; I say it’s better to have your banking login secure behind 256-bit AES encryption than on a Post-It taped to your monitor. I’ve slowly been searching for a better solution to having all my passwords available on each smart device I’ve got, and having something that can securely share them is key to the future, but now the need is greater.
After seriously considering 1password, I found LastPass, which is basically a browser plugin but which securely keeps passwords in an encrypted bundle and decrypts locally (so you’re not zinging your info all over the web). It has an iOS app available and the “premium” version is an affordable $20/year, which allows sharing between multiple machines and apps. And why is this so important, all of a sudden?
Firstly, I’ve got two laptops now. My trusty MacBook Pro is chugging along, and remains my primary machine for getting things done. Now I’ve got a laptop through WRI, which isn’t decked out as well as this one, but which has my work email and applications installed—something I’d rather keep off my personal machine. Sharing all of the passwords between two work machines is key to happy telecommuting.
Secondly, Santa brought me a shiny iPad Air this Christmas, the idea being to leave my personal laptop here at home instead of lugging it to and from the office every day. As long as I can access my personal email, passwords, VPN, and basic online accounts through the iPad I think I’ll be in fine shape. I’ve already loaded a ton of books on it, and I’ve got most of the apps I need set up.
Leaving my laptop behind will feel like cutting off my left arm, but lugging two laptops back and forth has been less than pleasant. The only thing I can’t figure out is how to get photos from a phone downloaded and posted without going through my work machine. But that’s a small problem.
A couple of years ago, I got obsessed with finding a large-format laser printer for our home office, and I bought a used HP ColorJet the size of my Jeep off Craigslist. A few months earlier I had the opportunity to horsetrade a Xerox Phaser 790 from a consulting client, so for a short while, we wound up with two huge printers at the house. I couldn’t get the HP to print reliably with fluctuations in humidity and temperature (whenever we opened the office windows), so I decided to bring it into work where it sits in a dry, A/C-regulated office. It’s been a workhorse ever since, printing design flats on 11×17″ paper every week. The 790 was also sensitive to humidity, although the prints we got were richer in color, and after I brought it to the office and cleaned the fuser drum myself, the output cleared up.
Last week my client emailed me to ask if I would be interested in his Phaser 7300, a circa 2004 large-format unit he was storing in his basement. I remembered the quality of output it was capable of, so I quickly agreed to come and pick it up. It’s a big SOB, weighing in at about 160 pounds, so it’ll be tricky to get in the house, but not as hard as the HP was. And it’ll be a great replacement for the B/W unit we’ve got which is refusing to load paper correctly (and which requires a print server to be available to OS X machines). Perhaps the biggest problem will be where to fit the damn thing.
For a while, I’ve been thinking that iPhoto has been messing with my head. I have it set up to display images in descending order (newest first), and every time I pulled photos off the D7000 I couldn’t find them. I’d have to scroll all over the place to hunt them down. This morning, frustrated, I rebuilt the iPhoto database to try and fix the problem. When it had finished chugging through all the photos (I have to bite the bullet and disconnect iPhoto from Flickr at some point soon so that I can remove a ton of photos from my hard drive) they were still all screwed up. Then I peeked at the EXIF data on some recent photos and realized the problem: My camera’s date was set to 2012.
Now I’ve got to find a way to
- Comb through EXIF data to find all the files shot with the D7000
- Replace 2012 with 2013.
There are several applications that can do this, most of which are for sale. I’m told Lightroom can do it easily, and I’ve been considering an upgrade from iPhoto for about, oh, five years.
On the positive side, one of my shots from last summer (a tossed-off iPhone pic) may wind up on a poster for a client. I’ve requested a full-size copy as payment.
Our good friend Linda sent her old Kindle up to Maryland when she upgraded. I pulled it out last week and looked it over, trying to figure out how to get new books on it without erasing what it already held. I’m new to the e-book thing, only having loaded some ePub files on my iPhone a few months ago. Kindles use a different format, so I had to find a way to convert and transfer my books: enter Calibre.
It’s a cross-platform app meant to do a lot of things, so it resembles an OS X app from 2001, before UI standards really got nailed down and people were porting things over from UNIX. It’s cryptic, so it takes some time to sort out what can be done and what will blow things up, but once I sorted out the UI and what I wanted to do, it was pretty straightforward.
The Kindle itself is really nice; I like the fact that it’s got wi-fi and it feels good in my hands. I’ve only played around with it a little bit, so I have no idea what its total capabilities are yet. Jen and I are looking into setting up a house Amazon Prime account so that we can buy more books, as well as stream movies and take advantage of free shipping, and I think that will make it even better. And apparently there’s some way I can access my New Yorker subscription on the Kindle too.
I think eventually I’ll take the plunge and buy an iPad variant, but right now I really like this thing.
On the ride home, a segment about trademarking Idaho Potatoes on NPR got me thinking. So naturally, I sat down and registered Finn’s domain name. I wonder if I should grab the short version too…