Jul 27 2015

Sneaky Trackpad batteries

Adel Gabot



I’ve long griped on the blog about the Apple rechargeable batteries of my gear and how they’ve degenerated to a mere husk of themselves over the years, now lasting just over a week between charges—at least with the trackpad.

Well, I think I’d better revise my assessment.

Usually, the iMac gives me a heads up when the charge is low (about 20% left), and I usually take it at face value and just recharge them. Usually these days it gives me the warning every seven or eight days, and last July 8, it warned me again.

But I figured, after all this time, maybe I should run them down until they really give up the ghost and recharge them from there, maybe that’ll improve the capacity a bit and reset it from zero.

Today, 19 days later, they’re still going. Or course, the iMac constantly reminds me to recharge them, and it’s gone down from 20% to 5% power left, but it’s been that way for a few days now, and the charge level hasn’t dropped.

So, it’s been going for close to a month now—29 days, to be exact—and it looks like it’s going to go for quite a while yet.

Maybe the batteries are suffering from a simple case of a bad recharge setting, and actually has a much better running time than the meters say. All this time I’ve simply been operating under wrong. miscalibrated batteries, and all my complaints are for naught.

We’ll be able to tell definitively when it finally runs down and I can recharge from zero, and until then I’m hopeful. And the other AAAs of the set are probably operating under the same miscalibration—the Apple Bluetooth Mouse and Apple Bluetooth Keyboard batteries are also likely just fine after all.

Turns out Apple Rechargable Batteries are hardier than I thought.

Sheesh. And here I was, worrying about them and getting ready to purchase new ones.

Jul 24 2015

Journey, again

Adel Gabot


Honestly, I’d forgotten I’d bought Journey when I still had the Playstation 3. I thought it was just one of the freebies that came with a PSN account. It was re-released for the PS4 a few days ago, remastered and upgraded, and sold for $14.95, but was given free to previous buyers from way back. Apparently I’m one of those, so I gladly downloaded it. Again.

I hadn’t gotten around to trying it out yet, so early this morning, in the throes of my pesky insomnia, I played it through. I finished it in under a couple of hours. It’s a pretty short game, but you’d never really notice, you get so engrossed.

The gameplay and controls are dead simple. You use the left analog stick to move around, X to fly/jump, and Circle to “shout” out to fellow players. There are no real rules, and you can’t really “die”, just get a bit stunned by flying “dragons” but you recover quickly.

You play a silent, mysterious robed character that moves around in the desert, ostensibly trying to find a way to a shining light in a distant mountain, and you move across various deserts, deserted cities, underground passages, climb tall mountains and generally explore a vast open world. You can fly, albeit in a limited fashion. There are some objects in the scenery that allow you to charge your “scarf”, and when it’s charged, you can fly about, but only for a few seconds as the charge lasts. Then you settle back slowly into the sand to resume your walk.

You sometimes come across other players in this world, but you can’t really chat with them other than give them a wordless “shout” to let them know you know they’re there by pressing the Circle button. You can cooperate and work together, or you can just leave them alone and go your way. It’s up to you.

It’s the wordless exploration of this open world, the engrossing soundtrack and numerous simple puzzles that really get you. You keep pressing on, eager to find out what’s around the next dune, and pretty soon you’re deep into the game without realizing it.

I played this game before on my PS3, and I finished it over the course of a week, as I didn’t really have time to play it through in one go. But this morning I did, and I finished it in one sitting. I vaguely remember how it went, so there wasn’t much surprises, but I enjoyed going through it again. I actually have the game’s Grammy-winning soundtrack by Austin Wintory in iTunes, that wonderful, atmospheric, esoteric soundtrack, so the game hadn’t really left my consciousness. I’m going to listen to it again later when I get home.

Journey is a classic game, worthy of endless replays, and is a keeper. I’m glad I have it again.

Jul 24 2015

Can’t frigging sleep

Adel Gabot


I can’t seem to sleep, no matter what I do. My insomnia is back. After many years gone, it’s finally back.

I went to bed early last night, as usual, at about 10:30, woke up at 12:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep anymore.

I tossed and turned for a couple of hours uselessly. I turned on the TV hoping that I’d fall asleep watching ShopTV, but I almost bought an organic milk-free ice cream maker.

It’s been this way for the past week. During the day, I doze off in my chair, and it’s kind of becoming embarrassing.

I think I’ll ride through one entire day and night and go to sleep at the proper time, maybe that’ll reset my clock.

Here’s hoping.

Jul 20 2015

The simple glory that is the iPod shuffle

Adel Gabot


Apple just released a long overdue update to the iPod touch. You would have thought that they’d abandoned the product, what with all the iPads and iPhones they’ve released in the interim between iPod updates.

All things considered, it’s basically the same as the previous one, albeit with a faster A8 processor, better graphics and camera, and some new colors. But it’s essentially the same iPod model. And it’s still selling better than that damned Apple Watch.

I’ve owned many an iPod in my day. I got the very first one, that thick, heavy behemoth that had only 5GB—today, my iPhone 5s has a measly, pathetic, penny-pinching 16GB. I remember buying it from the Power Mac Store in SM Megamall and obsessing over it, fussing over the gadget like that Apple fanboy that I was.

I eventually sold it and upgraded to new models, and in my time I’ve had several of them, ranging from video units, nanos and shuffles. Right now I have two, a 16GB nano and a 1GB shuffle, not counting the iPod-ness of my iPhone 5s or the iPad 3. Indeed, the duplication of the music function on the iPhones and iPads makes the iPod one thing Apple should just do away with altogether. But noooo, they even update the thing.

I don’t have any desire to get the new units (although it would be nice to have them), although I find myself going back to the simplicity and usability of my simple 1GB shuffle, and to a lesser extent, the 16GB nano, and eschewing the latent iPod-ness of my other devices.

I’ve gone through many earphones in my day, but the one constant has been the iPod shuffle. It’s unobtrusive: I usually keep it clipped to my baseball cap’s strap in the back, and these days I connect a very short set of Sony earphones that are long enough to just reach my ears from the back of my head.

The shuffle is just 1GB, but I find it just enough to contain all my current favorites from iTunes, collected from my hundreds of different playlists, and shuffled to play a steady stream of songs that I’d like to hear. And it’s gone down a bit through the years, but the power still lasts long enough to get me through my day.

It’s an old, old unit which I got from a PR firm when they were promoting the shuffle when it first came out. At first, I just threw it in my cabinet and didn’t really pay it any mind since I had other iPods to distract me back then.

But when I finally got to use it, I found it surprisingly simple to use. No muss, no fuss. It was near indestructible, and had no screen to speak of to break or wear out.

I throw in it a bag whenever I had to leave town (along with the obtrusive and unique USB charging/sync cable, which is the only drawback to the whole thing—you know, with a device that small, something’s got to give), and it’s served me well. I’ve gone through several of these charging cables (of which Apple is unfortunately the only manufacturer, so it’s as expensive as hell), and the clip is threatening to wear out, but the shuffle itself has been flawless all these years. Sturdy, dependable, it’s all I’m ever going to need musically in the near future.

You can keep your spanking new iPod touch and stuff it.

Jul 15 2015

Still at it

Adel Gabot


Fifteen days later, it looks like I’m still at it. Making daily entries here, I mean.

I know I said at the beginning of the month that I’d stop doing it, but the habit seems hard to break. I took a look back and saw that I’m still churning it out. It seems that I pick up the cudgels for the blog whenever I get free time, and these days I seem to be getting a lot of it.

I gotta consciously stop; this is getting really silly.

Ok. I promise to give it a break. Really this time.

See you guys here again in a few days while I goof off, OK?

Jul 14 2015

Pluto isn’t a dog

Adel Gabot



I got to see an wonderful documentary by National Geographic on NASA‘s Pluto mission yesterday, just in time for the culmination of the nine-and-a-half year project tonight.

Pluto the “planet” has had a very interesting story ever since astronomers discovered it in 1930. And not just about the fact that Walt Disney named his beloved cartoon dog after it.

It’s long been a controversial discovery among astronomers and NASA, which all came to a head a couple of years ago when they voted to demote Pluto to a non-planet, drawing the ire of the public, but nobody really knew much about it.

We knew that it wasn’t very large, which lends the term “dwarf planet” some credence. We also know that it takes forever to make a circuit of the sun in its elliptical orbit, and that in the entire time we’ve known about Pluto, it still hasn’t completed a single circuit (it takes 246.06 years). We also know that it has four moons, the largest of which is Charon, which is half Pluto’s size.

Other than that, we didn’t really know much else. All the photographs till now just show a dark, indistinct blob in the sky.

Nine and a half years ago, NASA launched New Horizons, a small, grand-piano sized spacecraft, to do a fly-by of Pluto in an attempt to discover more information. Since then, the spacecraft has been zooming along its three billion mile path to Pluto at a million miles a day, but still, it took almost ten years to get to its destination. Transmitting data back to Earth takes four and a half hours for the information to get back, so that complicates things a lot.

New Horizon’s fly-by will last for just two hours, and in that time instruments will try to gather as much information as possible about the “planet”. It will reach its closest point to Pluto sometime around 7 tonight, in just a little over an hour. The ship can’t simultaneously transmit back data and  has to twist the antenna to point back to Earth before it can.

But already, we’ve discovered more about Pluto in the spacecraft’s approach than we have in the last 85 years we’ve known about it, as evidenced by the shot above.

Still, it’ll take time for the craft to send the info back, so we won’t really know anything more until about sometime past midnight when it completes the flyby and turns around to communicate with the Earth.

New Horizon’s fate still isn’t determined until it does the job and reports back. The speed at which it’s going makes the debris around the Kuiper Belt, a field of space trash at the edge of our solar system, into deadly missiles which could damage the ship and render it useless. A tiny sliver of rock traveling at ten times the speed of a bullet could damage important components of the ship and turn it into a large flying space-paperweight.

Fingers crossed.

Jul 13 2015

Reset again

Adel Gabot


I had to go accompany my Dad to Camp Aguinaldo this morning so he could reset his ATM card at Veterans’ Bank so he can continue to withdraw his pension.

My Dad normally makes me withdraw from the ATM the maximum amount allowed for the day (P10K) several times during the month. He could do it himself, I suppose, but he’s part Luddite (most people his age are like that), so he makes me do it. At least in between the times he has to have the card reset, like now.

We get to do this reset every three months or so. I think the government disables the ATM cards regularly so that they can verify that the pensioner is still alive and kicking. Wouldn’t do to continue to give the pension to someone who’s gone, right?

We’ve only done it once before, but that first time the bank official told us we’d be coming back every three months to reset the card. So I knew to photocopy Dad’s ID before we went in, because they made us do that the last time and I had to go find someplace with a photocopier. This time I was ready.

It goes like this: we submit the photocopied ID, present said disabled ATM card and fill up a form, sign and put my Dad’s thumbprints on it, while the teller verifies his account. Then they make us fill up a withdrawal slip for the remainder of his pension so we can get it over the counter. And then we wait (a long time) for his name to be called so he can get his money.

But he always asks me to accompany him on these trips to the bank. He’s pretty hard of hearing these days, but he’s not completely deaf, and I think he asks me just to have company. Least I could do.

We were through a little past ten and had an early lunch at one of the turo-turos nearby. Then we went our separate ways: him to whatever little things he does at the Camp, and me to my little things.

Nice start to the week.

Jul 12 2015

Armada redux

Adel Gabot


I have a problem with Ernie Cline’s new novel Armada.

As I pored through it, I was constantly bothered by Cline’s endless use of nerd cultural references, The entire novel is shot through with them, to the point of it being maddeningly ludicrous. It was as if he was just stuffing the novel with references like it was going out of style and it was up to him to keep it alive.

I mean, it’s one thing to use them casually, as an aside or a necessary plot point, but a half dozen per page? It’s distracting as hell!

Another problem: Cline has this habit of making his characters shift their motivation willy-nilly, on a dime. A character would be saying something to another when he would suddenly shift their mood in mid-scene and make the conversation go off on an unexpected tangent, without warning. Like Zack, the main character, would be discussing something seriously with his father when he would suddenly shift to naked anger without any prelude or indication that he was going there. And Cline’s characters do this all the friggin time.

His pacing also leaves something to be desired. Plot points and developments just whiz by as if Cline wanted to get to the action right away and didn’t want to spend time with necessary exposition and character development, so he just jumps right to it. Just like an amateur novelist.

It’s as if Cline didn’t know how to write at all and was just winging it! Tsk tsk.

I didn’t see these shortcomings in his first novel, Ready Player One. Either that, or I was just enamored with the novelty of referencing nerdisms in a book and glossed over it. But here in Armada, it’s worn out its welcome and reading that style yet again is a damned slog.

I know saying this would be sacrilege to the geek and nerd culture that I’m very much a part of, but… I didn’t really like reading Armada.

There. I said it.

Oh, well.

Better luck next time.

Jul 11 2015

The El Capitan public beta is… still kinda wonky

Adel Gabot

11:30 AM

I installed the OS X 10.11 El Capitan public beta yesterday, and it wasn’t exactly a wonderful experience.

First off, it disabled my media drive, the one I use to store all my movies and TV shows. The drive unlock software doesn’t work on it anymore, and it tells me to use the physical CD to unlock the drive. Thing is, there isn’t a physical CD; none in the box the drive came in, and none downloadable. In essence, the drive was permanently locked, and I couldn’t have that.

It disabled Little Snitch, something I count on to disconnect my system from some servers developers make the apps connect to to ensure that the apps are… licensed. (I’m not particularly proud of using pirated apps and I try to minimize it, but you can’t seriously survive in this digital age if all the apps you use were legit. He he.)

It disabled MenuMeters, a small utility I use to tell me in the menu bar how my computer is doing in terms of network bandwidth, drive usage and CPU use, and is an essential app as as far as I was concerned.

It also disabled CleanMyMac 3, a maintenance app I use to keep my Mac spic and span. I don’t really care much if I used it or not, I think it’s largely a superfluous app because the Mac OS generally takes good care of the system just fine, but nevertheless it grates that it doesn’t work.

El Capitan also forced me to download Java 6 so I could run “legacy” apps when I never needed to before, and I don’t know how many apps would be screwed without that download.

Most of all, the system became very laggy. Everything slowed down appreciably, from bootup to simply opening the Applications folder. I almost thought the computer had hanged, it was taking so frigging long.

So I decided I could do without it, and just wait for the official El Capitan release. I’m currently restoring the Yosemite system through a Time Machine backup.

Shouldn’t have expected a lot from a beta, but really, I was looking for lots better, Apple.

Jul 10 2015

El Capitan and OS 9 Beta

Adel Gabot


At last they released them for the public beta testers!

OS X El Capitan and OS 9. Am downloading them now, although it looks as if I have a ways to go.

For one thing, El Capitan is damned large—6GB. Coupled with the slow internet today (caused by the bad weather, I think), it’s going to take me a while. Even with the LTE speeds of my iPhone 5s. Damned slow. Might even take me until tonight to be able to install it.

Oh, well. No rush.