Aug 23 2016

VR!

Adel Gabot

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1:01PM

Having nothing much to do this morning (despite it being a bit rainy), I went to see if I could still catch the Playstation Virtual Reality demo they’re supposedly having at the Sony Showroom at SM Megamall. I only found out about it from a PS4 thread on the regular Mac users’ forum I moderate, PhilMUG.

I wanted to kick myself for not knowing sooner and getting a chance to try out the VR for myself, but I said, don’t get your panties caught in a bunch just yet, it might still be there.

So I went this morning, and it was.

I was pleasantly surprised. I was half expecting a blocky, pixellated demo with lousy head tracking. Instead what I got was a smooth, flowing, detailed, immersive experience you can actually get lost in. Bravo, Sony. Worth every centavo.

There was a small crowd when I got there, and there was a wildly expressive, demonstrative teenager trying the VR out. You’d think he was on the moon, from his crazy, albeit unconscious antics there on the show floor. I’m sure he felt embarrassed and sheepish the minute he took the headset off.

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I had worked my way to the front of the crowd, and immediately asked if I could try it as soon as the teenager stepped off. The demo guy obliged and asked me to sit down. I took off my baseball cap and was about to remove my glasses when he told me I could keep those on if I wanted. (It was great of Sony to make allowances for us glasses people.) Aside from the visual headset, he made me put on a big pair of cans to complete the picture.

I saw a five-minute shark VR demo, and boy it was fantastic! I was supposedly in a shark tank being lowered into the water, and I saw the various flora and fauna of the deep on my way down. I looked to my right and left, and up and down and around to the back—it was seamless and fluid. The headset tracked my every move. I saw fish, coral, turtles, jellyfish, everything. I really felt like I was there.

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It was like that until I reached the dark deep where the sharks were. Then it became scary. A great white shark loomed out of the depths and proceeded to stalk me, then attack. It bit at the cage and proceeded to tear it apart until I was out there and exposed. The great white prepared to lunge at the now-bare me and then, all of a sudden, it was over, and I had to take the headgear off.

I’m sure I looked as stupid as that teenager.

But I was pretty impressed by the demo. I’m sure in retrospect there were a lot of things lacking, like it wasn’t really that realistically rendered, and the whole tableaux was a bit dark, but I was caught up in the heat of the moment. I was sure the much cheaper and decidedly less advanced PS VR certainly couldn’t match the superior technology of that other major VR gear, the Oculus Rift, but it seemed to me today that PSVR held its own. It was just fine.

And here I was, thinking Sony was releasing the newer 4K PS4 as a way to patch the technological hole left by VR, that the older units couldn’t really handle it reliably and they needed the extra oomph to really make it shine. Yet here it was, running off a first-generation PS4, and it was doing great.

I was sold.

The problem was, Sony was only releasing 100 units in the country this year, and they’ve been sold out for weeks already. Even at the slightly higher price. I could buy it abroad, but it’s also sold out there. I can always get from the gray market, but at exorbitant prices for sure. I left my card with the demo guy just to be sure, but it’s a very long shot.

Hmm. How to do this?

 

 


Aug 8 2016

You remember that thing about restoring my system…

Adel Gabot

12:45PM

It’s been a week, and I realize I have to talk about it eventually.

Remember me writing about how my iMac system screwed up a week ago, and how I set about restoring it successfully? Well, not quite.

It screwed up again, and I’ve been busily trying to restore it for days, which is why I haven’t been blogging the past week. Doing a four hour re-install cycle is exhausting, and I’ve had to do it repeatedly this week trying to repair the errors. To tell you the truth, this is the first time my Mac setup has screwed up royally in the years I’ve been using it.

The system just refuses to keep my external drives mounted, and drops them after an hour or two. Still does, after repeated re-installs, and I’ve just about given up trying after a week.

Additionally, iTunes refuses to sign on, resulting in me being locked out of my own account and disabling updates to my apps and device backups. I’ve had to transfer my backups to iCloud and update the apps directly from the devices themselves. Thank God podcasts still download, and I can access and play the library on the Apple TV.

My Photos account refuses to rebuild its library, telling me something messed up and it cannot be restored. I’ve had to recreate the library from scratch. iMessages didn’t register any of my text messages the entire week, and I’ve only managed to correct the problem just this morning. Plex Media Server now acts wonkily, most likely because it can’t consistently access the movie libraries I’ve spread out across my various external drives. The carefully managed file catalog is gone, and the poster icons and file names have been messed up. The list goes on and on.

Jeez, it’s been hell.

Now, a week later, I’ve resigned to not mounting the external drives anymore, and turned off Plex Media Server and just turn it on when needed. The iMac is finally running as usual, but without the frills I’m accustomed to. My libraries—reading materials, software repository, documents, and various and sundry files—aren’t readily available, and I have to go through a bunch of loops to get them online and access them.

But it’s all good; I just have to learn to live with it for now. It’s gonna be tedious, but I’ll survive. I think.

I can’t wait for macOS Sierra to be officially available, and finally get a chance to correct (hopefully) all these problems.

Sheesh.

 


Aug 2 2016

Two extra Remotes!

Adel Gabot

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1:43PM

Apple finally released a dedicated software app to specifically emulate the Siri Remote of their latest Apple TV on the iPhone today.

It ain’t any earthshaking thang, of course. But it’s always nice to have other options to control the fourth-gen Apple TV, seeing as it’s totally dependent on the remote for all the options and controls, and there’s no way to operate the thing without it.

Besides, I’m always anxious I’m going to lose the remote at some point. It’s so small it’s easy to let slip into the side seam of your couch, or simply get misplaced. And getting a replacement is damned expensive! The 32GB Apple TV and the remote costs P7,500 at the store, but a replacement remote costs P4,200—more than half the cost of a full ATV set!

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It’s specially made for the iPhone, and very nearly duplicates all the functions of the Siri Remote. It works exactly like the actual remote, up to and including the Touchpad and the Siri functions, as long as you’re on the same wifi network as the ATV you’re using it with.

There have been other emulators, but none this specific to, and specially made for, the ATV. The app also works on the iPad, but as a windowed app, not as a dedicated, native application. (Which is cool by me. I got no complaints.)

So now I got two extra remotes that I can use in addition to the original one—my iPhone and my iPad. Yeah, baby.

The nice part is, it’s free off the App Store. Of course, you have to first own a 4th-gen Apple TV to even use the app, but that’s a given.


Jul 29 2016

I caved, Postscript

Adel Gabot

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6:42AM

I tried. I really tried.

But the macOS Sierra beta is still really screwed up.

Most of it’s pretty fine, although it’s more of the same old same old. A bit snappier in some areas, streamlined in others, and on the whole, great job, maintaining the boat.

But no matter what I did, its version of the App Store refused to update the Sierra beta to Version 2, which should be a better deal than Version 1.

I’ve been trying to download the newer version of the beta for two days now. Often, it won’t even register that I started the download—Version 2 and the Sierra Recovery Disk update, around a 1.2GB DL. The few times it did, the download mostly went through, but borked with just a few minutes to go before finishing, whereupon it would restart, and then ultimately hang. Many times over.

I even re-installed Sierra a couple of times, from scratch, on the off-chance it was just a one-off screwup. But no, it still refused to download, no matter what I did. On the remote chance that my original Sierra installer was the one that was screwed up, I re-downloaded it on El Capitan and installed that new one, and still it borked.

And there’s no other way to get the update outside of the Apple App Store, so I guess that’s that.

In addition, Menumeters, a tool I deem essential to my computing experience, also refused to install into Systems Preferences. And a couple of others, notably SizzlingKeys, a utility I use for my alternate mechanical IBM keyboard which I dearly love, also refused to load. Not to mention the many other (still) non-functional components of the new OS.

Dammit. But boy, am I glad I didn’t take the plunge and just install it over my current working system as I normally do! Aside from Siri on the desktop, there isn’t really that much new. Everything’s largely the same.

So I decided to fall back on my original plan: just wait for the official release this fall.

I dutifully reported the problems through the Feedback system Apple provided with the beta, then went back to El Capitan early this morning, used Disk Utility to erase the partition and take back the 100GB space I set aside on my hard drive, and restored my system to its old self.

No harm, right? At least I can say I tried.

 


Jul 28 2016

I caved

Adel Gabot

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7:32AM

Huh. I finally gave in. I caved.

I installed the macOS Sierra beta on my iMac.

I’ve been wanting to do that for weeks. I’ve been intrigued by all the hype about the changes they were going to implement, and most of all I wanted to try out Siri on the desktop. Siri on the desktop, man!

I didn’t go all in, like I normally do though.

Normally, I have implicit trust that Apple will do everything in their power to make things relatively trouble-free for their users that I just jump in and install their OS betas on my working, mission-critical system when they become available. But not this time. I’ve long been a staunch and loyal beta-tester for Apple, but this time I didn’t know.

When the year started I became very stingy and penny-pinching on my disk space, and have deleted and uninstalled every single piece of software I wasn’t really using. As such, I’ve trimmed down the load on my 1TB main drive from 700+ GB down to 350GB—almost half the old storage! I’ve also redistributed my data on three big external drives, to further slim down the main hard disk. (I can still relocate my iTunes and Photos libraries, but I’m not that far gone.)

Been living with this svelte drive since the beginning of the year, basking in the knowledge that I have so much extra space to play with if I wanted to. Thing was, I never really played with anything anymore. I’ve finally gotten to that stage where I don’t like to try anything new, and everything’s fine just the way it is.

I’ve whittled down my main drive to its bare essentials, without any real reason to. I got everything humming to such a strict, streamlined efficiency that I dared not tamper any more with it.

Which was why I was antsy to install a still-unproven OS beta on top of it. I guess I’ve gotten cautious and wary in my old age. Or maybe I simply just quit being foolhardy. I just couldn’t bring myself to install the macOS Sierra beta on my nice, working system.

So yesterday, I decided to partition a 100GB portion of the drive off, and install a bare-bones Sierra setup there. (Which, in hindsight, was something I should have done with my other older beta installs anyway.)

At first, I was thinking of doing a bare install of El Capitan 10.11.6, and then restoring my MacBook Pro‘s Time Machine backup to that, then upgrade to Sierra, so I could have a working installation complete with everything I needed to comfortably work. But then again I thought, what the hell. Install Sierra fresh from the ground up, then install the most basic software I needed to get by. Get rid of that retro baggage I’ve been carrying for years for once in my life.

So that’s what I did. Took me most of the late afternoon and evening, but I finally did it, and installed all the other software I couldn’t live without: Pages, WordPress, Twitter, Dropbox, Menumeters and all those other third-party apps I couldn’t imagine not having. I setup extra Spaces for the apps and got everything working the way I liked it. Came up to around 20GB for the full install plus the other software. Hey, I still had an 80GB buffer!

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Siri worked as well as could be expected (which wasn’t saying much). I got to shove up some of my essential data to iCloud, got a few nice improvements and additions to the notification window, some nice add-ons to Messages and had a few new usability tweaks, but in the end, it was largely the same as before.

I really shouldn’t have bothered.

I ran into some glitches right off, too:

  • some of the apps would jump their assigned Spaces and move around willy-nilly;
  • some of my external USB drives refused to get recognized unless I disconnect and reconnect them first;
  • my Apple ID refused to be recognized by the system until I’d rebooted a couple of times;
  • but most tellingly, the App Store refused to download the newer, second Sierra update and other related software, as if it was telling me not to bother and just wait for the official release.

I’m seriously thinking about it.