Author Archives: christoplummer

Hipsters, audiophiles, and young people like vinyl, but why? 🤔

A friend has been raving about Spotify (or other streaming music services) for several years.

It’s hugely convenient, you have access to TONS of music whenever you want, and the quality is “digital”. Can’t argue the first two points, but as for the “quality”—at least when I had Sirius some years ago—I was frequently annoyed with the “flanging” distortion in streamed music. Same with Pandora, which I gave up due to the ads. Maybe it’s better now? Anyway, this same friend is now getting into vinyl mostly because his daughters are into it. 😎

Hipsters, audiophiles, and young people like vinyl, but why? Me? I’m old enough to have had three or four hundred LPs, and a selection of stackable equipment and big speakers. None of which I miss much. I sometimes miss the aesthetic. With LPs you take time to listen. It’s not immediate or convenient. And there is, the…

  • Visual —large print liner notes, and cover art
  • Tactile —the process of removing a disc from the sleeve, wiping the dust from it, placing it on the turntable, lowering the tonearm
  • Auditory—that first moment when the needle catches music in the groove

Great, and Do you remember these?

  • Scratches
  • Warping
  • Skips
  • Turntable rumble
  • Inter-groove modulation
  • Needle issues—especially proper tonearm weight and balancing

    Only some of this may be resolved with expensive, high end equipment. For others, you have to replace your precious vinyl!

Is it the sound?—Is the appeal the retro-aesthetics of mid-century music reproduction? Or is it the sound? If it’s the sound, it’s not that it is “more realistic” or “genuine”. Because it can’t be. Not if you understand the analog fundamentals of how LPs and tape work. I won’t bloviate about that here, (although I could.) To keep it simple: the specs of most audio equipment don’t even match the range of human hearing – usually 20Hz-20kHz. More pertinent to my point, the alleged analog “warmth” of LP sound has more to do with the “RIAA Rolloff”—a standard process by which the sound is filtered and equalized as it is recorded and played back. It’s not just pure “analog”, unmodified sound. If you want the details, this is a really good article that explains it.—> https://ledgernote.com/columns/mixing-mastering/riaa-curve/

Theoretically, you could use an equalizer to tweak your Music or iTunes player to make all your CDs sound more like vinyl. Or, if you still think an LP sounds “better” than a CD, try this experiment—If you have the equipment, cables, etc., (again, this is your DIY project, not mine). Record one of your favorite LPs on your computer, and then play it back, on your computer (if that’s the only way), but preferably through the same amplifier and speakers you use for your LP. You could even record it onto a CD (If you still have that ability. These days, those are fading fast!) Play that vinyl album from the CD. Is the sound different between the source LP and the digital copy? I’d contend that the digital recording can capture and reproduce all the “warmth” of the LP. Try it. I have.

I’m not against vinyl, I’m just against dumb reasons for justifying its use. Hang onto those LPs, enjoy everything about them that is different, but don’t tell me it’s about the sound unless you can definitively prove that you can always tell, “Is it Ella? Or is it Memorex?”

Cheers!

— TechWite

So-Called “Creators” vs. #GoodTech

Sheesh. “Creators”. Not to be confused with “Creatives”, those UX Designers, Graphic Artists, and other creative people for whom I have a great deal of respect. No, “Creators”—often called “Influencers”—frequently celebrities, but also the kids who make some brain dead cat video or self-absorbed “Hey guys!”, eye shadow review, and thousands of other kids watch it, and brands offer them big bucks for endorsements and product placement on their social media and podcasts. In our mixed up Internet media world, this situation creates the illusion that what Creators do is actually work, and work of value. And of course in that case, they should be paid fairly!! To quote John Mellencamp, “A’int that America?”

…so these two women create an app to compare rates, so the “creators” can be paid fairly and not get screwed by the brands. In a crazy world, that kind of makes crazy sense. The app is subtly titled, “F*** You Pay Me”. (Without the asterisks, of course. This is Generation Z, the free speech generation.) After all:

“[Brands] they need us, more than we need them!”

— A. Creator

UMM, no. They don’t really need your cat video that much, or your vapid “Hey guys!” review. With or without a helpful app, you’re not all going to get paid $125 million a year like Slappy Dingdong, or whatever his name is with his 16 bazillion “followers”.

This would all be pretty funny if there weren’t so many people in need, so many hungry, so many people willing to do real labor for reasonable pay if only they could get a job. This is the same aberration as the SVG (Silicon Valley Genius) who spends his days figuring out how to make a goofy mustache and giant eyeballs stick to a face on a video on Instagram. Or for that matter, on Apple Messages (To think, I used to MOCK the Windows Cursor design team!!) We’ve got no universal healthcare, the planet is burning, but Silicon Valley Geniuses are going to fix bad traffic with flying cars, and there are plenty of bazillionaires going into space on their giant penis rockets.

Listen, if you’re smart, creative, or have money to burn, maybe you should examine your priorities?

🌎 Right now, the world needs more #GoodTech !!

— TechWite

🙏🏻QR Code Controversy? Really? Calm down America.

Since Covid, QR Codes have become popular, especially as a “no-touch” tool to view a restaurant menu using a cell phone. Sometimes you can even order and pay using your cell phone. Although this New York Times article doesn’t outright suggest that using QR codes is risky or dangerous or a threat to your online privacy, it doesn’t do much to explain how a QR Code works, leading many readers to assume that the QR Code is some sinister new technology that will steal their identity, or worse.

Reader reactions to the article were just off-the-charts, paranoid-whacko. I tried to help out with this soothing comment:

“QR codes save you typing in a URL to get to a web page. As suggested by others here, any “damage” to privacy etc., results from the security threats already present on web sites and the internet. If this idea drives you to action, then get off Facebook and Amazon, both of which do far more damage than a restaurant web page.”

Christopher Plummer, Reader Comment, on article “QR Codes Are Here to Stay”, NYT, 7/26/2021

By this evening, there were almost 300 more comments about the article, mostly paranoid-whacko comparisons to the dystopias of Huxley and Orwell and horrified exclamations of former customers who swear they’ll never go to a restaurant again…and so on.

America, calm down! There are plenty of reasons to #AvoidtheInternet, but QR Codes used by restaurants are not one of them. If you use the simple camera connection in your phone or tablet that recognizes a QR Code, it:

  1. Translates the text that the “code” represents
  2. Recognizes that text as a URL (the kind you would type in your web browser)
  3. Passes that URL to your browser
  4. And opens your browser to that specific web page

That’s all that is happening! QR Codes can contain other information—addresses, phone numbers—but if all you’re doing is reading the code with the camera on your device (and NOT using a 3rd party QR app), then the not-sinister QR Code is saving you some keystrokes to get you to a web site. THAT’S ALL.

As I imply, once you get to the web site in question, your security and privacy is entirely up to you, and contains the same risks as any other commerce web site that may use trackers, cookies, spy pixels, profiling, blah, blah, blah, all the reasons you have to be smart and consider that you might want to #AvoidTheInternet, #DeleteFacebook, and so on. But please, don’t blame the QR Code.

This code takes you to a photograph I took.

Be Careful Out there! 🙂

—TechWite

😎 Apple Flashback 2001: Dell Fire Hazard

Snail Desktop Picture“I’m a PC, and I’m on Fire!”— Snail promotes Intel, Justin Long promotes Mac, er, Windows…  “Unpredictable Mac”, Explored the difference between Macs and PCs back when it mattered…

 

“Hey, Dell just recalled 200 THOUSAND plus batteries from their Wintel laptops because of overheating. There is at least one known case of a battery causing a fire. This is the SECOND major recall of batteries from BELEAGUERED DELL COMPUTER. Did you hear anything about it? Did Wall Street jump all over them? Is the press drooling for Dell’s downfall??

And That’s The Difference.”

— from “Know The Difference” UnpredictableMac Issue #17 May 04, 2001
“It’s a new millennium.”

Back From the Dead—But not using a bootable drive…

My Mac Backup Strategy, was:

1. Backup to Time Machine regularly to have access to that data.
2. Backup regularly to a fast “bootable” external drive “clone” using a nifty 3rd party tool such as SuperDuper.

Having an external bootable backup meant that if my internal drive(s) failed, I could quickly fire up a workable system and continue working, until I restored it all to a replacement drive. But as I discovered last night…

At this writing, you can’t make a bootable backup disk with Big Sur. And the M1 (non-Intel) Macs can’t boot from an external drive. Now what? You could (and should) keep using Time Machine of course, but that is just saving your data and apps, not creating a “boot disk”. You’ll have to repair/replace your drive or Mac first, then recover using Time Machine. Unless you have a backup computer and work with all your data “in the cloud”, hours or days of downtime is inevitable with a hardware failure.

Short version: Make multiple backups of everything that is important to you. Including backing up to (a non-bootable) external drive with SuperDuper or other “cloning” utility. If your recovery strategy is “Make an appointment at the Genius Bar”, make sure you allow for at least a few days of downtime. If your business can’t afford downtime, try to work with all your data “in the cloud”, have a spare Mac, and be sure if you shut one Mac down, you can still do everything you need to on the other. And Test and Verify that this actually works!!

Readable Technical details and workaround(s) at Shirt Pocket Watch (SuperDuper developer’s blog) www.shirt-pocket.com/blog/, and this thorough summary from TidBITS: The Role of Bootable Duplicates in a Modern Backup Strategy.
— Read on

P.S. TechWite is also back from the dead. At least for this one entry. I’ve always been UNPREDICTABLE. 😎


—Techwite

Old Data Never Dies… 🤙

 

Ladders Bad Data

Date: September 3, 2017 at 8:00:43 AM EDT
Subject:Notice of Updated Terms of Use & Privacy Policy – September 2017
Reply-To: jobs

Somewhere, somebody is looking at a report about job hunters on “the Ladders”. My personal information there is obsolete. There’s a number in that report that represents my ancient sign up on their site as a participant and job seeker, that is bogus. Because? I am not a participant in “the Ladders”, nor an active member, nor a  job seeker, nor have I been for years.

Don’t they take any responsibility for the “freshness” of their data? Of course! They send out Policy and Terms of Use update notices. Obviously anyone who doesn’t respond is still a valid member, desires to remain on their roles, and agrees to the Policy changes. That’s how everyone expresses agreement right, by silence?

This is not just a “Ladders” issue; it’s another example of the convoluted backward logic and misleading or outright fraudulent data that permeates the Internet. It’s in a company’s interest to have more users, more members, more eyeballs, more job seekers. Those numbers are important—everyone knows they are inflated, don’t they? (THAT’s a rhetorical question. NO, I don’t think “they” do.)

A responsible Internet company will periodically roll-off and clear out that data (making the assumption that true data would be more valuable). Most even have a mechanism in place to do this. How? The former job seeker/member logs in and updates his/her information or maybe even closes the account.

But, relying on the user? Asking someone to clean up an old login they used more than a few years ago? This is worse than getting off a snail-mail catalog subscription, where you can usually call an 800 number! If the user has to login, or send mail from an old or non-existent email address, or go through an annoying and time-consuming password upgrade process? Too much work! It’s not happening.

If companies were serious about truthful data, they would make this process easy. How? Notify the user that the account is about to expire, and the data will be expunged or otherwise no longer considered “active”. No response: assume that the data should be cleared, and clear it!

They’d rather have bigger numbers. True data is good, but to these jokers more data is better. More members even if they are imaginary. The companies want your data, even if it is wrong, and they are getting more obstinate about keeping it.

🤙🏻

— TechWite

(And no, I’m not nuts about this. Maybe someone has a reason not to be online and away for…a few months, or years? So put a mechanism in place to put everything in archive mode first, before it disappears permanantly. These issues are not that difficult.)

 

Clickbait is Killing the Internet

theattentionmerchants_coverDid that headline get your attention?
Did you click a link to get here? Why? What did you expect to see? Okay, sorry, that title was “clickbait”. I want you to read my blog. I want you to stop whatever you were doing and visit the TechWite site, so I created a sensational title. That was my motivation. What was yours? It’s worth thinking about…


ClickbaitDo we really need to define this? It is what it sounds like: A title, heading, or image designed to DISTRACT the web user from whatever s/he is doing, click a link, and “go” somewhere else.


Clickbait is often about advertising, the end result to get you to BUY something. But it’s also about EYEBALLS, to get you to look at an ad, push up the “readership” of a page, a video, or person, or site. It’s not just in Facebook and gawdawful “news” web sites like nj.com. It’s on LinkedIN.

HINT: If an article has “Steve Jobs” in the title, especially if it’s about “Tim Cook is NOT Steve Jobs” it’s clickbait. If it’s about Apple or some other company being doomed or “beleaguered” it’s clickbait.

Dishonest clickbait is infuriating.
Let’s say just because it sounds interesting, you click on one of those links, “The Five Worst Plastic Surgeries of Playboy Bunnies”. That GRABS your attention. But gosh, now you’re on a page with an article about lawnmowers! Where are the bunnies? Nope, not even the kind with long ears. You’ve been had. And somewhere, somebody gets to claim your click and say their link got you to look at a web page. This is getting so bad that on YouTube you’ll click on a link for one thing, and end up watching a video for something completely different. And before you know it, minutes, maybe hours, have gone by. Where? Can you remember what you watched? Do you know what a “black out” is? I’m inventing a new term today: “the CBO“- Clickbait Black Out. If you’ve experienced this, it’s time to take a look at your digital life.

Think before you click!
Internet people, TechWite—newly committed to spending less time in a browser—is not going to write a long essay about this. Not today. But TechWite will offer you some sage advice: Think before you click. It could save your life, a few minutes at a time. Think before you click. Take a couple of seconds before you take the bait. TRY to remember WHAT you were planning to do today. Be aware. Right here. Right now. And may you go for a walk, outside, in nature.

—TW

Want to know more? These links open in new windows, think before you click!!:

Partly covered as a topic in this book by Tim Wu, “The Attention Merchants“.

Or read or listen about it here:  How Free Web Content Traps People In An Abyss Of Ads And Clickbait : All Tech Considered : NPR

Apple Flashback 2001: SoundJam a Goner

soundjampanelStill Waiting for the music alarm…

October, 2016, iTunes version 12.5.2 released. By most accounts iTunes is still a mess, as Apple tries to clean up the application that has for years devolved into the baffling, unmanageable compost pile of all Apple media. But fifteen years ago, iTunes was a gem, a minimal Apple interface quickly slapped on top of a great third party app called “SoundJam”. But what would be the fate of the real “SoundJam”? The one that had the VU Meter/scope display, karaoke mode, and other cool features that iTunes lacked?

“Sound Jam 2.5.3 – You figure this out, I sure can’t. What is the status of Sound Jam?? One day there’s an article on MacWorld about them abandoning development for OS X. The Sound Jam web site is getting real old, and the product shows all the signs of being abandoned, BUT NOW there’s a new update to version 2.5.3. The web site says 2.5.2 is the most recent version. This all sounds WEIRD AND FAMILIAR. Remember the TWO YEAR death throes of WORDPERFECT MAC at the hands of those FOOLS at COREL?? A little TRUTH from Casady and Greene would be nice. I like Sound Jam better than iTunes, but I predict we’ll all be using iTunes before long…”

“…back in U&O #16  I predicted the demise of my favorite MP3 player, ‘SoundJam’, at the hands of Apple’s favorite (free) MP3 player, ‘iTunes’. What I didn’t mention is that I wrote the CEO of Casady and Greene, suggesting that he COME CLEAN and tell the Mac community what was going on with SoundJam. I even wrote a press release for him. Did he listen to me? Who knows. But today C&G announced the end of SoundJam MP as of June 1, ‘at the request of the developers’—who all work for Apple now. I only hope Apple will add the missing SoundJam features to iTunes, such as the ability to use it as an Alarm Clock. And we should appreciate that Casady & Greene like any GOOD MAC COMPANY, DID THE RIGHT THING and told us the truth.”

—From Unpredictable Issue #18 May, 2001

The Federation is Going to Hell

Flashback: September 23, 1995

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-4-11-51-pmLife was so much simpler then. Or was it? Not for the Star Trek Population of three or four quadrants. At the time, I had a friend in the US Foreign Service posted in some obscure country who wasn’t getting to see any of the new shows. There was NO video on the incipient Internet of course. He tried to get his hands on some episodes on VHS (tape), but was hopelessly lost with everything that was going on. So I summarized it for him:

“…By now you’ve probably got your hands on some Star Trek episodes. If not, I have most of the original series (which you probably don’t want), most of TNG. I don’t have much of Deep Space Nine, although I think there have been a few really good episodes on an otherwise dull series.

The new series, Voyager, which I’m not taping, is more like the original. A strong (woman) captain, a mixed crew, even a (black) Vulcan science officer. Lots of action. They’ve been flung out into the unexplored Delta quadrant and are making there way back to the Federation. If they don’t find a better way, it will take them 75 years to get back. At warp speed. Wow. (It might be wishful thinking on the part of the studio that interest in the series will last that long, but who knows?)

Meanwhile, back in the Federation, things are going to hell. Kirk came back from death in “the zone” (or whatever Guinan called it in the “Generations” movie) long enough to team up with Picard against Malcolm McDowell, who is so keen on getting that great high of “the zone” that he’ll kill 200 million people just to get there. Of course they bump Kirk off once and for all—so Paramount can get a new crew to kick around the full length universe. While the two Enterprise captains are trading quips, Riker, that boob, has lost the Enterprise D to a couple of troublesome Klingon sisters, ruling family wannabes, pirates basically (since the Klingon empire is pretty tight with the Federation ever since Kirk managed to get rid of Christopher Plummer in “the Undiscovered Country”). They have to destroy the Enterprise in every movie now. So they do, and well that’s most of the movie.

But wait, there’s more. The politics are just awful! On DS9 Commander Sisko has finally been promoted to Captain, and they’ve given him a battleship called the …oh hell…anyway, which was designed to battle the Borg (Who are no longer a threat since they were totally neuroticized by the virus planted in …, And the misguided leadership of Data’s brother Lore). To make things interesting, every now and then Sisko zips off into the Gamma quadrant to hassle the Dominion, the empire ruled by Odo’s people, the shapeshifters, and their batttle-bred drones, the Jem Hadar.

The Dominion in turn has infiltrated the Federation, and intend to take it over, and the Romulans and the Cardassians too. Speaking of the Cardassians, there’s a secret faction in that empire that is not satisfied with the treaty with the Federation (surprise!), and they’ve been making it difficult for the Federation colonists on the border. Since the Federation has provided virtually no support for the colonists, they have created their own rebel force, called the “Maki” (mach-ee), to protect themselves and force the Cardassians into open warfare that the Federation won’t be able to ignore.

Disgruntled Federation officers have joined the Maki ranks (literally), including Riker’s “brother” (Richard?) who was duplicated from Riker in a bizarre transporter incident, and that Bajoran bitch Ensign Roe, who humiliated Picard by defecting to the Maki while working for him undercover. In fact, the whole Voyager series began because the Federation asked the Voyager (on leave at DS9) to pop over to the Gamma quadrant and track down a Maki ship. Not such a great idea, as it turns out.

No sooner have they popped out of the wormhole, than they get into this nebula and are sucked by some whacko technology from the Gamma quadrant to the Delta quadrant. They find the Maki ship and capture the crew, and since they’re all “lost in space” (remember, we’re talking about a 75 year return trip!) they decide to team up and let the Maki rebels be part of the Voyager crew. (This obviously provides plenty of opportunities for conflict on the ship if they run out of other script ideas. In fact, they already lost one Maki member—another disloyal Bajoran bitch, of course—to some Delta quadrant villain race. The Voyager crew caught her in the act of trying to sell Federation technology, and she managed to escape to the villain’s ship. Think we’ll hear from her again? I’ll bet we do!)

So there you have it. As I say, the Federation is going all to hell. Pressure from the outside, and infiltration and defection from the inside.

Kirk must be rolling over in his grave—or pile of rocks and twisted metal as it were.

And that’s the way it was…

—TechWite

 

 

 

“Courage”, Innovation, and Headphone Jacks

 

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-4-22-08-pmA word about “Courage”:
Phil. Seriously? At this particular date, with all of its significance, the word “courage” applied to the way people use their $600 telephone is a mind-jarring mis-use of English. Is this just another case of pandering to the drama of Ellipticals? They can deal with it. It’s just a freakin’ jack!!

The crazed, emotional rants in advance of the official product announcements were generally from people complaining that they don’t want to give up their wired headphones. You don’t have to give up your headphones. You lose the jack.

Read the details people.

  • The iPhone 7 comes with Apple lightning connector “Earpods”—you connect them to your phone with a “lightning” connector. (The same connector used for your power adapter.)
  • Apple also includes a little “dongle” to connect your current headphones using the Lightning port.
  • This only applies to iPhone 7 and newer Apple devices going forward.
  • For now, you can’t charge your phone and listen at the same time. Wow. Big inconvenience.

iMac 1998—What’s a Big Inconvenience?? The first friggin’ iMac was a Big Inconvenience!
The first iMac was the first Macintosh with USB connectors. Printers? Scanners? Modems? Hey, none of the old stuff worked!! You had to buy all kinds of new cables, adapters, and peripherals. USB was brand new. And mice? Thank you, Jonny Ive, who designed this crazy ROUND mouse (which became known as “the Hockey Puck“) that spawned a whole industry of replacements and add-ons because it was so useless. AND there was no floppy drive to install all the new drivers!! Gone! All those boxes and stacks of 3.5” floppies were now about as useful as…well, nothing. We didn’t call that “courage”, we called that “Steve Jobs fixing Apple”.


screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-4-22-51-pmAirPods?
As for the new wireless earbuds, airbuds, EarPods, AirPods, whatever…those beautifully designed Dyson-style, GI-Joe sized, mini-hairdryers will only work for people who can put them, and keep them in their ears. I can’t. Love the technology. Hate the shape.

Here I am giving away another brilliant idea again: “Pod Shapers”, a special adapter for the AirPod to hold it on your head because it won’t stay in your ear. Especially for the Boomer market, available in a range of fluorescent colors to make them little buggers easier to find!

To The Whiners—If you really hate Apple roping you into its eco-system and “forcing” you to go wireless and buy airbuds, EarPods…whatever, then go on, buy a Samsung. Just, make sure you also buy a fire extinguisher. 😎

—TechWite