So I’m 41 years old, as of fairly recently. And I’ve been programming in some form or another for more than 25 years! It’s funny to realize if you divided programmers into old and young I am now well and truly one of the oldies, as I don’t really feel that way.
But then I realize that coders under 30 aren’t really going to relate much to stuff like the following, or even remember what it was like before home internet connections, and I start to feel a teeny bit old.
In theory we are to finalize ‘settlement’ and receive the keys to the new house this Friday, which I am both excited and apprehensive about. I’ve moved house 7 times in as many years and am rather ready to stay in one place for a while. Moving is really one of the most horribly tedious, stressful activities in life, but in this instance I just keep reminding myself: “But this house will be OURS”.
I don’t actually have a lot of stuff to move, but even so I am kind of dreading it and wishing I had a personal assistant who could do it all for me. And of course, because I don’t have a lot of stuff, it’s not worth hiring movers, which means lots of borrowing vehicles and lugging crap myself– trying to avoid roping in friends as helpers at this point as the only thing worse than moving house is helping someone else move house. A small mercy is that the place I’m currently living could be charitably called “run down”, so I don’t have to be quite so anxious about leaving the odd scuff mark and such as the place was already amply blemished when I moved in 2 years ago, so I’m pretty confident I’ll be leaving it in a more habitable state than I found it.
I will miss the seaside shackiness of it though.
- Ten minutes before the meeting is a good time to suddenly recall that it’s not being held on Skype like all your other meetings are.
- Search your inbox for the invitation containing the URL for the meeting.
- Click on it, and you should get to a page telling you the meeting is yet to start. You will see a big button that says JOIN, which although currently disabled will obviously become clickable when the meeting is about to start, so you’re all set with minutes to spare!
- Just before the scheduled start time this page will refresh, allowing you to enter your name, email and password before clicking JOIN.
- Oh, you don’t have a password…?
- Frantically scan your email invitation, which will helpfully inform you that you can obtain a password from the meeting organizer.
- Have a go logging in with no password first, just to confirm it won’t work.
- Email the organizer, apologising for the slight delay and ask for the meeting password.
- Once you receive the password, enter it along with your name and email and click JOIN.
- SURPRISE! NOW IS EXACTLY THE MOST APPROPRIATE TIME TO FIND OUT YOU NEED THIS JAVA APPLET INSTALLED!
- Enable Java, then download and install the applet, violating every instinct you have.
- Reload the page.
- Your browser should say something like: “Could not load WebbyChat General Plugin Container”
- Restart browser, revisit the meeting page, reenter your login, and click JOIN.
- You should see the same message as in step 13.
- Google: “Could not load WebbyChat General Plugin Container”
- According to some person on the internet it doesn’t run in Chrome on Mountain Lion (you dummy!) so try Safari instead.
- Launch Safari, go to the meeting page, enter login, click JOIN.
- And you’re in! You should now see a shared desktop waiting for you.
- Say ”hello, hello?” a few times out loud, just until it is clear to you that this is not one of those new fangled web apps that does audio.
- Click on that button with an audio symbol on it to be shown a helpful 7 digit phone number.
- Dial the number to confirm it is definitely not a valid phone number, with or without a country code.
- Look in the WebbyChat window and you might see some text chat going on, where someone might helpfully suggest an actual phone number to call, rather than that meeting code you’ve been trying to dial.
- Dial the phone number.
- Listen to the last half of a recorded welcome message.
- Now listen to the first half. It will instruct you to enter the meeting code.
- Clumsily enter the code, pausing just a fraction too long after the third digit so the recorded voice can now scold you for invalid entry and give you one more chance.
- Enter the code again, this time forgetting to press the “pound sign” in a timely manner, the voice is not impressed at all, and starts telling you about the helpdesk for technical problems.
- Hang up and take a deep breath.
- Redial the number.
- Quickly but carefully enter the meeting code, and press “pound”.
- You should now be able to both hear and apologize profusely to your colleagues who’ve been waiting patiently a couple of minutes now. Congratulations, and welcome to the future!
It was indeed bread-like in sturdiness and taste, but was not as delicious as I hoped. A bit of butter and jam goes well with it.
Made from 2 cups ice-cream (vanilla in this case), 1.5 cups self-raising flour, and nothing else. Looks like the idea has been bouncing around for a while, eg here.
Xbox One has been revealed, and according to one slide in the launch it’s “Powered by the Cloud.” So Microsoft is as hip as it ever was.
Just like Sony is apparently doing with the case design of the PS4, Microsoft is getting rid of as many curves as possible, leaving Apple with all the RoundRects. I can’t help wondering if they didn’t try prototyping a sharp edged controller at some point in this redesign.
The most interesting technical point for me was that they’ve abandoned the Kinect’s Structured Light approach to depth-sensing and replaced it with a Time of Flight (ToF) camera, which is in fact a real thing and means that the device actually measures the time it takes for a light pulse to bounce off you and return on a per-pixel basis. Given that light travels amazingly fast, that’s an impressive feat. They don’t give specifications or resolution yet but it’s probably in the range of a centimeter or so.
The presenters strongly emphasised voice control in the presentation, which I’ve realised I will probably never be comfortable with until the software is better than humans at understanding speech (that’s a high bar to clear, but it will eventually happen). I want to mumble and run my words together, and I want to keep my goddamn voice down if I’m talking to my TV. How annoying will it be to have to hear someone in the next room declaiming “Xbox, watch movie!” – At least with Siri you can hold the phone close to keep from disturbing others (but you know you still sound like a twat).
The whole launch felt rather muddled and dull (although I only watched the first 20 minutes or so I am assuming it didn’t get better) and just made me wonder if we’ll see an alternative from Apple this year. Basically an Apple TV with a proper App store will be a far more interesting prospect for developers.
Sick of bullshit cloud sync services? Why not make your own? (with a few friends)
With this method you could easily keep a folder synced with friends/work/home of whatever size you want. It uses BitTorrent to do the transferring so it should be able to handle large files and delta updates well. For private data you could probably sync encrypted volumes/sparsebundles fairly effectively too.
It looks like I need to do this, once again
I hereby commit to not purchasing any products containing tobacco for one year, covering the period from UTC 12PM, 15th May, 2013 to UTC 12PM, 15th May 2014.
PENALTY FOR NON-COMPLIANCE
Should I break the Commitment within the designated time period, I hereby promise to publicly acknowledge this lapse and donate AU$1000 to the Liberal Party of Australia* within 48 hours, after which the Commitment will be terminated or renewed at my discretion.
As you were.
* In Australia the Liberal Party are the conservative jerkwads who court the reactionary vote and think climate change is something invented by the left to undermine good ol’ fashioned capitalism. They’re not as bat-shit crazy as the GOP in the US but who the hell is? It’s unfortunate in that I would otherwise describe myself as a liberal but it’s not worth it here because you have to explain you mean “small el” rather than “large el”
In Australia there is this huge rollout of high bandwidth infrastructure known as the “National Broadband Network”. I’m looking forward to it, and really hope it gets to our new house before a conservative government gets voted in and hobbles the plan.
That said, I’m a little squicked out by the excessive hardware required within the home. Here’s an illustration of what will apparently be gracing a wall in a home with NBN (fibre) installed:
Note that this picture doesn’t even include a wifi router; this gear is just to terminate the optical fibre and provide ethernet/WAN and telephone line. I’m pretty sure that giant power supply (box on the left) will be the most expensive component, even though it exists primarily to provide backup power for the phone line should the mains drop out. I can’t help thinking this is a massive waste, since landlines are becoming almost an anachronism– Everyone has mobile phones now, and if the fibre network is still up it’s a reasonable bet that cell towers would be operational too.
Why is it so damn hard to find a nice convenient place to store my files online? Since the loss of my photos I figure the logical thing to do from now on is just keep my whole iPhoto library in a folder which is sync’ed to online storage. So I investigated a few of the main players and made some notes…
- Apple iCloud
- Given that it’s iPhoto I want to back up, you’d think this would be in the running, but:
- Offers no generally useful storage options (ie no folder sync)
- Deletes items in your photo stream after 30 days.
- Confusing as hell app-centric document storage, eg from Preview.app you can save a PDF “to the cloud”, but good luck finding that sucker in any other application or OS.
- Google Drive
- Flaky client that constantly fails while syncing and doesn’t resume until you quit and restart.
- Hogs network while syncing.
- Arbitrary undocumented limitations on individual file size and who-knows-what else.
- Tried to add my iPhoto library (~ 1GB) and the thing just keeps choking without giving me any useful error info.
- Amazon Cloud Drive
- Should be great, since most other companies use Amazon storage for their back-end anyway, but…
- I wouldn’t know, because the client requires Java to run, and that’s just bullshit. It’s file syncing, not computer science from the late 90s for chrissakes. Even the summer intern who wrote Google’s Drive client on a Friday afternoon didn’t need to resort to Java.
- Everything Amazon touches is just ugly. I think Jeff Bezos is secretly their chief graphic designer, and that before being CEO of Amazon he designed the crawler graphics for television shopping channels.
- Ok, I tried it anyway, and it got stuck just like Google Drive, and then when I quit it, emptied the folder on both client and server side, and then restarted, it got stuck trying to sync an empty folder with an empty folder. Brilliant.
- Microsoft Skydrive
- Hey wait a sec… this one might not actually suck!
- 7GB free!
- Tidy OS X install…
- Oh wait, it’s hung already, with only 7 files of about 8,000 uploaded.
- I give up.
- Ok, it actually works, but…
- Piddling 2GB free plan.
- Upgraded plans cost more per GB than everyone else’s.
- When someone shares a large dropbox file with you it takes up space in your account, even though they’re already paying for the storage.
- Dropbox had a major security SNAFU a while back which demonstrated that their encryption was a total joke, and that alone should have killed the company.
So, Dropbox it is, because it’s the only one that even did what I needed it to do in the end. But honestly, how hard can it be to write a native client that synchronises files between local and online storage? It’s just the storing of bytes; no parsing or conversion required. Too hard for Google, Amazon and Microsoft, apparently. Microsoft and Amazon can’t even get their folder icons to properly match the appearance of OS X ones.
On Saturday the older of my two iMacs started beach-balling for 15 seconds at a time every minute or so, making it impossible to use. Many restarts and disk scans later (that goddamn startup “chooooo!” haunts my dreams) it looked like the internal hard drive was crapping out, and since all my important files are stored externally or online I figured I might as well wipe the drive and try a reinstall.
Although the 2009 model iMac doesn’t seem to have firmware level recovery support, I had an external OS X HD which let me boot off it and run disk tools etc. So after a bit of doinking around I had a fresh OS X install on a newly empty drive.
And of course it was then I remembered that all my files were backed up elsewhere… except for my photos. I had been storing them in iPhoto, on the drive I just nuked. I had a Time Machine backup of the drive at some point, but in the hardware shuffle when I got the new iMac I think I recycled that drive too. Because I was expecting to ultimately transfer everything to the new machine I’ve been treating the old one as secondary… But, largely because I’ve been using the new one exclusively for Windows development, I never got around to transferring my photo library.
This is why you should never make the decision to format your hard drive at 2AM.
So, unless I discover a backup disk I’d previously forgotten about, I realised the only photos that would survive would be those in my iCloud photo stream. I set up photo stream sync on the fresh iPhoto install, thinking that 1000 photos were better than none.
And iPhoto downloaded about 60, and that was it. Turns out iCloud only keeps your last 30 days of photos. Maximum 1000 photos, maximum 30 days.
Seriously iCloud, fuck you.
But before I totally despair, I look on my iPhone I see that my stream has 1000 photos in it. How can that be? Well I guess it’s something to do with the confusing way that photo stream is implemented, and although the older photos get discarded from online storage, any that were synced with the device stay cached locally (but then why the 1000 limit? Again, fuck you, iCloud). Checking my iPad I note it only has about half the photos that are on my iPhone, even though I’ve had the iPad for longer. At this point this is just another WTF in the grand scheme of Apple’s horrendously awful online services.
Ok, so now I just gotta save those photos from my iPhone since it’s the only place they exist right now. Here’s the convenient several-hundred-click method to do that:
- Open your photo stream on your iOS device
- Click Edit button.
- Individually select every single goddamn photo you want to keep, because there ain’t no “Select All”. Get tappin’!
- Save to new album
- Photos will now be visible/downloadable in iPhoto when you connect your device.
iCloud is all, like “keep your docs in the cloud, it’s great!” and yet the only document type I could really use their cloud for, photos, gets fucking deleted after 30 days. I don’t use iCloud to store anything else because Apple went with this moronic app-centric storage model (instead of doc-centric) which makes it virtually useless for general storage.