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.

 

 

 

 


Jul 13 2016

Pokemon Go away!

Adel Gabot

 

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8:03AM

I keep a regular bookmarked list of things I check up on everyday on my browser, and this morning I went to the Time Tech website to see what’s new.

Of the top seven headlines on the front page of Time, one was a speculative article (again) on the look of the forthcoming iPhone 7—and the other six were all about one thing: Pokemon Go.

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I was shocked to see how far the game app had come in so short a time. It’s crazy. The game has taken the whole world by storm, and millions of people are actively, furiously playing it.

To those living under a rock, Pokemon Go‘s basically an augmented reality (AR) game on your mobile device where you search for and capture Pokemon—those little weird, cute creatures that your kids (and some adults) have been obsessing over since they first came out years ago. You do it by using your live camera to look for them in your little piece of the world, wandering about in random places all over the city.

To do so, you have to get off your ass and physically go around and look for them. At least I think that’s how it’s done. I’ve haven’t downloaded it, and I don’t think I ever will. Horrid little thing.

Stephen Colbert made the comment that they’ve finally made an app you can’t play while sitting on the toilet. It’s so true. Millions of people are actually getting on their feet and wandering around looking for the damn things, and getting the most physical exercise they’ve probably had in a long time—and causing havoc.

Aside from the many safety issues and concerns the game has created, nothing is more worrying than that it’s putting some people in danger. They’re rushing across streets without looking, heedlessly going to dangerous areas of the city and entering private spaces and homes just because the app has denoted the place as a Pokemon “gym.” Stuff like that.

 

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Pokemon Go was just released last week on July 6 in the US, New Zealand and Australia, and an international rollout had to be staggered and delayed because the gigantic influx of new players was causing server issues. But despite not being as widely released as originally planned, it’s already generated US$14.04 million as of this date.

In fact, Nintendo, the creator of this monstrosity, has seen a 24% jump in stock price and a 34% increase in stock value just in the last couple of days. Pokemon Go has reached the top of the Top Free and Top Grossing ranks on the Apple App Store since it first came out, and the Google Play Store says the app has been installed 10 million times on Android.

The media, especially, has been going to town on this explosion of use, as seen in the Time example above. TV, cable, print, online—it’s everywhere! The whole world has gone Pokemon crazy. And it’s going to grow crazier still, as the international rollout continues. Hollywood already has plans to make a Pokemon Go movie, for goodness’ sake!

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Actually, I’m pretty glad this is happening now, but purely as a proof of concept—that the world can actually go apeshit over something as inconsequential (for now, anyway) as an AR game. Developers should keep the Pokemon Go phenomenon in mind when making their apps in the future.

Because Pokemon Go isn’t a game; it’s a technology, and it’s a technology in its infancy. We still have way far to go. Pokemon Go is an AR game, but our phones and tablets aren’t really AR devices. Wait till we actually get AR devices in our hands and the technology matures, and we’ll see how this goes.

We would do well to tread carefully as this technology continually develops, and brings us worse things to think about and consider as we enter the virtual world of Ready Player One.

I really hope this fad dies down as quickly as it caught on.

For our sake.

 

 


Jul 5 2016

Breakthrough!

Adel Gabot

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6:32AM

I’ve long wondered why my many TV shows refuse to show up in the Plex Media Server menu of the Apple TV app on my flatscreen TV. None of them ever showed up on the screen, but all my movies do.

It’s damned mysterious.

It’s been like that ever since I began using Plex Media Server on my Mac and the PS3 years ago. The problem has prevailed through the PS4, the 3rd gen Apple TV, and now on the 4th generation ATV. Never could figure it out, and have been suffering the problem all this time.

But I’ve had a breakthrough. A bolt of lightning from a clear sky.

It just occurred to me last night that they weren’t showing up because the TV shows were buried deep in a nest of organized folders. Plex couldn’t see them!

So to test my theory I tried dragging a folder up to the second level and checked the menu on my TV—and the shows all showed up!

Apparently, one of the shortcomings of Plex Media Server is that it cannot see any content past the third nested folder level. If the shows were on the fourth level or deeper, they might as well be invisible as far as Plex was concerned. That’s why they weren’t appearing on the on-screen menus.

My problem was that I was organized to a fault.

I meticulously deposit the video files in complicated nests of organized folders. As in, as an example, in descending order of folders starting with TV on the top level, then New Episodes, then Completed Seasons, then Marvel-Netflix, then Daredevil and finally Season Two. Then, and only then, you get to the actual files of Daredevil Season Two.

That’s six levels of nested folders before you get to the actual files.

Plex, in its infinite wisdom, only sees files up to the third folder in the hierarchy. The files were in the sixth level!

Now why would such short-sighted programming be in a modern, top-tier app like Plex?

Damn it.

So I spent some time reorganizing the TV shows to only three levels of folders at most, then re-directed the Plex app to find them there. I did this for a couple of other media formats that were suffering from the nested-folder problem also, and now they all work. My menus were suddenly all filled out!

Now if only Plex would helpfully sort out the files on the TV.

Sometimes I think I ask too much of my apps.

 


Oct 7 2015

Listening to radio again

Adel Gabot

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3:03PM

So I’m working on my computer this morning, all the while idly listening to the radio finishing Daryl Hall’s Wildfire when the announcer goes “It’s half past ten in the evening and you’re listening to Chicago’s 103.5 KissFM.”

I was jolted out of my writing. Evening? Chicago? Oh, yeah, I forgot.

I was listening to a talky female evening jock with a relaxed, sultry voice on the radio, live, half a world away in Chicago, and not from one of the local Metro Manila stations. You see, I was able to download a new app (for the console, anyway) on the PS4 called iHeartRADIO early this morning, and as a result I can listen again to a whole host of international radio stations live, in real time, on the audio system.

I had the app on the Xbox 360 when I still had the old console and made a habit of listening to some American FM stations all the time, but I sold the 360 some time ago (because I wasn’t using it much anymore) and had to quit listening. Now, this week, Sony introduced a version of the old app on the PS4, so I downloaded it, revived my old account and began listening again. (Although, in retrospect, I’m sure there is a way to listen online to iHeartRADIO on my iMac, but I never really bothered to check. So sue me.)

Of course, I can listen to Spotify or even iTunes in a pinch (and I sometimes do), but real radio has been a old addiction—especially since I spent over two decades of my life working at, and managing, local FM radio stations, and old habits die hard.

Listening on my sound system via the PS4 is a nice, comforting experience, recalling my 96.3 WRock, Magic 89.9 or 103.5 K-Lite days when I’d work the mic for four-hour shifts and then still listen to the stations all day even when I wasn’t on the air. It was the soundtrack of my life, as an old radio promo for another station said all those years ago. Today, FM radio quietly plays in the background again while I write, and keeps me company.

The “international” part of iHeartRADIO is the attraction for me. It’s like I’m in another world, another environment. FM radio in the Philippines has devolved into cheap, talk-centric, personality-driven programs and the industry is infested with pretty-boy-or-girl announcers hired for their youthful, telegenic looks and a passable twang rather than their announcing talents, not like in my day when we were all, uh, better heard than seen. But boy we gave good radio back then.

These days I listen to mostly American classic rock, top 40, pop, jazz and R&B old-style radio stations, and a few British, Canadian and Aussie ones, mostly because of the language. Some of the Asian and European stations are nice, musically speaking, but I balk when the announcers come on and spout Mandarin, Korean, Malay, French, Italian, or German spiels. I’ve gravitated to KOST Los Angeles, V103 Chicago and 106.7 Lite FM New York because they’re basically old-fashioned and sound like the late 80s and 90s of my radio heyday.

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The PS4’s implementation of the app is elegant and simple: the program opens with the iHeartRADIO logo and a simple four-item menu on the top of the screen, a graphical bar in the middle of the screen featuring all your favorite stations, and then a simple logo of the currently playing station and the playing track on the bottom. Then after a bit, it morphs into a full-screen faded background graphic of the artist, the app logo on the upper right, the album cover on the center of the screen, and then logo, track title and artist on the bottom left.

The Xbox 360 implementation was a bit more confusing and complicated back then, and it had a damn sight more buffering and playback problems than the PS4’s. Of course, it’s next gen technology with the PS4, so I guess that accounts for the improvements. In fact, the PS4 doesn’t even pause or buffer at all, doesn’t skip or jump, and has a consistent, steady playback, even if my home network is otherwise heavily loaded.

It’s great. I’m thankful for iHeartRADIO, and will have immense fun listening again.