Aug 1 2016

August Blues

Adel Gabot

9:02AM

These days, when it isn’t doing anything important or downloading something or other, I normally turn off my iMac for the night and just turn it back on when I get up. It was like that this morning—although the iMac wouldn’t turn on at all. Or rather, to be more specific, it refused to boot up.

Damn. What the hell was going on?

The 27″ iMac has been a loyal and dependable computer ever since I got it some years ago. Nary a problem in all the months and years I’ve been using it. I hardly even turned it off the first couple of years I’ve had it, and the computer soldiered on without a complaint.

Until this morning. This morning, it stayed on the gray bootup screen forever, and refused to start. Great. Bright and early on the first of August, and it does this. Was it trying to tell me something?

I spent a couple of hours trying to fix it. On the off-chance it was a transient problem, I tried starting up again and again, but it just stayed on that gray screen, and I wasted the first hour doing this.

Frustrated, I dug out my bootable USB flash drive of El Capitan, which I have never had to dig out in living memory, and used its Disk Utility to try and repair the hard drive of the iMac. The system had reported errors that prevented bootup when I checked it using the Recovery Drive partition. So I repaired the drive, or so I thought, but still it refused to go. I went and had breakfast and thought over what I was going to do next.

I had no choice.

I had to erase the drive, reinstall the OS and restore from my Time Machine backup. That’s what the TM backup was for, wasn’t it? Granted, I never really had any use for it until today; it was just something rote that I did, and it backed up my system every hour on the hour in case something like this happened. It was on a large, dedicated external USB drive, and that was all it did, backing up the entire system time and again in case something catastrophic happened.

Today was that day. I’m so so glad I kept a backup all this time. I was supposed to go out and pay some bills this morning, but I figured this took precedence. The bills can wait. So I rolled up my sleeves (figuratively), and got to work.

This required a fresh install: I had to bootup from the USB installer, access Disk Utility, erase the iMac’s drive, and then reinstall from there. I did this instead of just recovering the drive (which was a much quicker process) so that I could flush out any additional hidden, budding problems on the hard drive that may have cropped up in the intervening months and years of uninterrupted use.

But this meant it was going to take me the entire goddamn morning. Reinstalling the OS would take a relatively short time, about half an hour, but restoring my old system from the Time Machine backup would take forever. Or at least a few hours.

And so it did. The software estimates three to four hours to completely restore my 350GB system, and it’s doing that now. Which leaves me with nothing to do while it does its thing.

So I dug out my MacBook Pro and am now using that to write this busywork blog entry.

Sigh. But at least I can recover the system. That’s the important thing.

 

 


Jul 24 2016

Gimbal blues

Adel Gabot

gimbal phone closeup.jpg

10:47AM

In my line of work, I get to review a fair amount of gadgets.

One of my current jobs is as Tech Columnist for Explore Philippines, a modest travel magazine based in Sampaloc, and I review travel gear for them every few weeks or so.

Last Thursday they sent a handheld gimbal to the house for me to review.

A gimbal is sort of a mounting device, usually for cameras, which balances and stabilizes them for video shoots, so that the footage doesn’t turn out too squirrely and amateurish.

The magazine sent me the LanParte HHG-01 Handheld Gimbal for the GoPro action camera and smartphone, and of all the devices I’ve ever reviewed, I’ve taken a particular and peculiar liking to this one.

I don’t know why, but I love it.

It’s got three motors built into the thing, and it steadies and levels a camera in the same way I imagine a Steadicam would operate. They assume (correctly) that I have a smartphone to test it with, but they sent me a GoPro camera as well so I could try it with that.

I had a wonderful time testing the gimbal. I zoomed, jogged and walked in the yard shooting with the camera on the gimbal, walked around the house, and climbed up and down the stairs and generally made a loon of myself testing it out. And it was fun!

I imagined myself to be a director in Hollywood filming long tracking shots for a new blockbuster. The grip kept the camera level no matter what I did (well, within reason). I was amazed and fascinated by the technology, and kept shooting video until the batteries ran out.

I wrote my 1,200-word Control Panel review last night, and this morning I packed the gimbal and the GoPro for shipping back to the Explore office.

I wish I didn’t have to give it back. That happens sometimes, and I get to keep the gadget for myself. It’s happened with Technoodling, but not yet with Explore. Maybe because it’s a bit expensive at P16,000?

But here’s to hoping. No harm in that.


Jul 4 2016

Testing out my mechanical keyboard—for the nth time

Adel Gabot

IMG_0790

7:59AM

Indulge me for a moment.

I’m just using this blog writing thing as an excuse to test out my 32-year old IBM Model M Mechanical Keyboard.

Again.

Unbeknowst to most of you, I’ve been vacillating on my use of this keyboard, replacing it with the supplied Bluetooth wireless keyboard provided by Apple every few months or so, then going back to it again.

I love the old IBM, but the lack of some of the default hardware-based software keys on it bothers me some. That, and the fact that it’s too big for my computer keyboard shelf; it juts out a half inch on either side (while the Apple keyboard is too tiny for the shelf, with three inches to spare on both sides) and I’ve had to make a few adjustments.

This morning, I decided it was time to go back to the IBM. So I dug it out, cleaned it up, put it back on, then tested it again to see if it works properly by writing this blog entry.

So far so good.

Immediately, I noticed a few things:

  1. I type a hell of a lot faster on the IBM, with less mistakes and typos, and it’s seldom that I look down on it while I’m typing. I’m a hunt-and-pecker, have been my entire life, and I notice, because of its smaller size and the lack of tactile feedback, that I tend to always look at the Apple keyboard to see where my fingers are at. With the IBM, I’m practically a touch typist.
  2. In retrospect, I don’t really miss the default software/hardware keys of the Apple. Sure, it’s sometimes a bother having to use the trackpad to access some of the functions absent on this jury-rigged keyboard, but I can live with it.
  3. I feel a lot more comfortable using this big behemoth of a noisy, klack-klack-klackety keyboard. Waaay more comfortable. I could never pin down why I was always so antsy using the Apple keyboard (which is a perfectly usable and wonderful keyboard, all things considered) but I realized that it just isn’t for me. Maybe because it’s too quiet, and the shallow key travel doesn’t sit well with my fingers.
  4. The IBM just feels… right.

The reason I’m testing it again is I’m anxious that it might go belly-up on me at any time; some of the keys might stop working, or the inexpensive USB connector-adaptor I bought in Virra Mall for P60 might suddenly fuck up and give up the ghost. But I don’t really need to worry: the thing is built like a tank, and I don’t think it’ll screw up anytime soon. If it’s been working fine for 32 years, it’ll work another for 32 years easy.

So, writing this short blog post takes care of testing the keyboard out and putting it through its paces.

It’s working just fine, and I’m happy.

 


Jun 26 2016

The city with the worst traffic in the world

Adel Gabot

WIRED_2016-Jun-26

9:20AM

All right, now we’ve gone and done it. We got ourselves declared the city with the worst traffic in the world. See here.

Of course I don’t dispute it. Manila does have the worst traffic in the world, bar none. It comes from too many cars, and too little roads. Secondarily, from lack of discipline. It wouldn’t be so bad if we only followed the rules, but most Filipinos are thick-headed and look out only for themselves.

I don’t feel it much these days, because I sold my car and take public transport. I feel it when I take the cab sometimes, but my commutes are usually short, and for the long ones, like to the Makati Commercial Center or downtown Manila, I usually take the train. The few times I have to travel during rush hour and the trains are packed, I take the air conditioned bus and just sleep through the traffic.

But often, even the short rides are unbearable. Sometimes, the short 2.5 kilometer jeepney rides to Cubao take 30-45 minutes, particularly during rush hour. I could literally just hoof it, and it would take much less time. Believe me, because I’ve actually done it.

When you have to sit out hours-long traffic to traverse what should take you 30 minutes, you know something’s definitely wrong. Even President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte is planning to exercise emergency executive powers to finally solve the problem, I hear. I didn’t vote for you, but good luck, sir.

I’m reminded of one particularly horrible day when I was coming home from work and still drove a car. We were living in a quiet subdivision near Congressional Avenue back then. I was relatively near the house already, but the damn traffic wasn’t moving at all.

I got to maybe just six blocks from the house, and that was around 6PM. By 8:30 I had just moved a few car lengths ahead, and by 9:30 I decided to just leave the car on the curb and just walk home and come back for the car later around midnight.

I came back around 12:30, and the traffic still hadn’t moved much. I couldn’t believe it. I just went home again and slept, and came back at 6AM. Sometime in the early morning the traffic had cleared, and Congressional Avenue was nearly deserted, with just my car up on the sidewalk. I drove it back home and took the friggin day off.

I never did find out what caused that jam, and I never will. But when the world says we have the worst traffic in the world, I believe it.

 

 

 


Jun 21 2016

Aromatherapy

Adel Gabot

IMG_0787

7:31AM

Aromatherapy. I’m getting into it. God help me, I’m actually getting into it.

Although in a roundabout way, really. Let me tell you the story.

As I work on my computer at home, I’m constantly bothered by frigging mosquitoes. They bite my arms, my thighs, any exposed area through the course of a workday (which is anytime, really), and I find myself constantly scratching. Scratching, scratching. It’s irritating in a way that’s unrivalled by anything else I know. Dammit.

I can’t imagine how they get to me, there aren’t any stagnant sources of water around for them to breed in. It only started when the rainy season began, so I guess there must be at least one place near, although I haven’t discovered it yet.

So I went about seaching for mosquito-killing solutions, and trawled the net for them.

The cream-based repellants are out; they’re really a bother to put on and reapply during the day. So are the spray insecticides. Aside from being a health hazard, they don’t really last long, and pretty soon the pesky insects are there to feed again.

I researched the electrified traps, but quickly found out that was a scam. Those things are for other, bigger insects. The mosquitoes aren’t attracted to the UV light at all, so those that are caught are just statistical anomalies and are dead because of the luck of the draw: just 5% of those trapped and caught are mosquitoes. Even if they say “mosquito killer” on their ads don’t ever believe it.

There are those expensive ones that expel CO2 and a bit of heat that really attracts them, and even has a suction thing that pulls the mosquitoes in, but they’re expensive as hell if they’re even available at all. So that’s out.

But I also found out that citronella oil is a good insect repellant, particularly for mosquitoes, and if you burn some of that oil in an oil burner, that would do it. And it smells good too.

Which bring me to aromatherapy.

My wife is a firm believer, and she used to burn oil in our bedroom before, but she used those obscenely fragrant exotic oils that used to just give me fragrance headaches, so I never really got into it.

I went and reseached online a bit more, and found sources for citronella oil, and I even found an electronic oil burner that would simplify the process. But I wanted to try it out again first. Although I didn’t have the first idea where to buy the oil and the damn oil burners.

As luck would have it, I found a new and unused oil burner in the house (imagine that), plus a small bottle of sunflower oil. So I tried it out and lit a votive candle in there and mixed a small amount of water and sunflower oil to burn and put the whole thing in my room, and voila—I liked it!

I loved the subtle aroma, and it made me feel lighter and better about my work. Apparently I preferred the simpler scents; the more exotic, the bigger the headaches.

Putting aside the electronic burner for the meantime, I just ordered online a test bottle of citronella oil, and I’m waiting for it to arrive. While I’m waiting, I keep burning some of the sunflower oil and bathing myself in the comforting scent.

And that’s how I got into aromatherapy.