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Tag Archives: technology

The Whim Becomes A Wham

The other day, I jumped on an idea to upgrade the storage in my computer.  Lucky for me it was Amazon Prime day, so I got a pretty good deal on a couple of 8TB hard drives.  I laid out the technical idea in another post, which at the time seemed all very logical.  It’s been about six years since I built this computer and it’s been serving me very well all this time.  The only thing it really needed was a better storage structure.

With the new drives arriving in a couple of days, I began planning the conversion.  I don’t do much hardware work anymore, just software, so I have to look some stuff up as I go.  In order to use a drive that is over 2TB in size, you need to partition it as GPT (guid partition table).  All of the drives I have now are 2TB or less and all of them were MBR (master boot record) partitioned.  So the first thing I checked was if MBR and GPT drives could coexist.  I didn’t really get an answer on that, because my question changed to: does my computer support GPT partitioned drives.  And the answer to that turned out to be, no.

In short, I had two drives coming in the mail that I could not use in my computer.  No problem (actually a minor problem), I’ll just upgrade the motherboard.  As I soon found out, you don’t just upgrade a 6yr old motherboard.  Technology has moved on.  Ok, so I’ll get a new motherboard and CPU.  Sorry, your RAM isn’t compatible with newer motherboards.  Ooook, I guess I’m buying a new motherboard, CPU, and new RAM.  Essentially, I’m buying a whole new computer.  Falling down a technological rabbit hole.

And that kinda sucks, because my computer is working just fine.  It doesn’t run slow, it doesn’t crash, it’s fine.  But in order to utilize modern hard drives, I need a modern computer.  And it kind of shows that I’ve gotten off the technology train a while ago.  Computers now are super-powered, because they’re used for a lot of really high-powered gaming.  I don’t game, so I don’t need that level of computer.  Good for me, I guess.

At this point, the thing I have to do is evaluate what I need from my new motherboard.  When I bought my current one back in 2012, I was coming from a small desktop and I wanted as much expandability as possible.  Over time, the cards I had installed in my system came and went based on what hardware I was using, and now, I have to determine what’s really being used anymore.  For example, I have an expansion card that gives me more USB ports and FireWire.  I don’t think I have anything plugged into that card at all.  I have a card that gives me eSATA and also a couple extra SATA ports with RAID.  I don’t have my eSATA dock anymore and I use Windows RAID now.  My motherboard has 6 SATA ports – plenty.  So what’s remaining?  I know I have a video card and a video capture card.

Oh but wait, the motherboard has some new features on it, like support for M2 SSD drives.  Do I need something like that?  Well, it’s pretty cool, and the drives are pretty cheap.  Geez, I paid a couple hundred for my 256GB SSD and now, I can get one twice as big for $55.  Again, do I need it?  Well, I am modernizing my computer; I don’t want to be left behind again, right?  And then there’s the video card.  It’s pretty old, too.

Hold on, stop.  Let’s just focus on what’s needed here.  I quickly placed the order for CPU, motherboard, and RAM.  $311 total.  That’s now in addition to the $300 I spent on the new drives.  So back in 2012, I spent $430 on CPU/MB/RAM, plus a case, and this year it’s $311 for CPU/MB/RAM.  Seems like things are about the same.  And that’s what, about $50/yr to stay current?  Not too bad.

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A Whim

Sometimes, well, maybe more than sometimes, I am prone to impulsiveness.  I’ll get an idea and the more I can justify that idea, through a series of tiny connections, the more likely it is I am going to act on it.  Sometimes, I can stave it off by focusing on the financial aspects of the idea, and other times, it seems the cost isn’t really important or maybe I do more rationalizing of how the cost is justified.  And that is where I’m at today.

This whim is technology-based, so it hits on a few different pleasure points.  It’s a new idea for me, so there’s the novelty of trying it out.  It’s an improvement, so I can justify that it has value.  It supports another of my on-again, off-again obsessions – archival, so there’s indirect benefit as well.

So here’s the idea, which probably won’t make any sense to non-technical people.  I’m going to replace all the hard disks in my computer, and make all the drives virtual.  I’m using some terms very specifically there (and I’ll be inconsistent everywhere else) – I say “disks” to describe the physical hard drives and “drives” to mean the individual drive letters.  Most people have a C:\ drive on their one hard disk.  My system is a bit more complex, for organizational purposes.

Here’s what my computer’s Disk Manager shows.

Disk Mgr 1

I have five hard drives in my computer, one of which is an external USB drive.  What you see in the image is that C: is one hard drive, D: and S: are on another drive, and Y: and L: are paired up on two mirrored drives.  The M: drive is a virtual drive whose file is held on L:.  The B: drive is the external USB.

If you look at the free space of my drives, the M: drive is only 6% free.  This drive holds all my music files, so if you’ve read any of my blog, you would know this space is going to run out soon.  Then there’s other little things that are bothersome.  D: has 95% space free, but I can’t really use it for anything because it’s unmirrored (and thus vulnerable to a drive failure), and also, it’s on another drive anyway.

So, again, here’s the plan.  Get rid of Disk 1, 2, and 3 and replace them with two 8TB mirrored drives.  Right there, that’s nearly 4x my current storage.  Then I could create D:, S:, Y:, and L: all on that mirrored drive.  That would be cool and all, but when it comes to resizing and reorganizing partitions, it can get messy.  For example, taking 100GB from D: and adding some of it to S:, you end up with broken pieces of the drive.

image

To avoid this, and be cool and modern in the process, I’ll do with all my drives what I did with the M: drive.  Everything will be its own virtual drive stored on the mirrored disks.  To reiterate, M: is actually a file on the L: drive.  M: is 500GB and L: has a 500GB file on it.  With my new design, I’ll have one massive 8TB drive, with five large files on it, one for the D: drive, one for the S: drive, etc.

What’s that gain me?  In the case of Disk 1, shown above, it would just be one partition, D:.  S: would be on a totally different disk, say Disk 5.  The drive will always consume 100% of the disk it is on – no sharing or splitting.  So when I expand or shrink the virtual disk, it will always be 100% consumed by the drive.  The change in free space will be reflected in the 8TB drive hosting the file.

What else do I get out of it?  Well, I don’t have to use up the 8TB right away.  I can build a temporary drive for whatever purpose and destroy it when I’m done with it.  That’s kind of the way things are here at my workplace.  We have a massive drive array and whenever we need a new server, we just carve out some drive space and make a new server.  It’s one step closer to me having a entirely virtualized network.  Also, by not using up all the space at once, I can grow the individual drives as they need it.  I don’t have to try and anticipate how much I’ll be using.

Looking back in history, the last time I discussed my computer storage was over five years ago.  So that’s actually a really good run for the 2TB drives I’m using now.  It’s one more bit of justification for me to indulge my whim.

My Non-Concern For The Coming Robot Apocalypse

I’ve heard the warnings.  I’ve read about the myths.  They say a vampire can’t enter your house unless invited, and one would surmise the same would apply to robots.  But I have added a new automatron to my brood, without consulting its natural-born enemies, the cats.  It’s a new Roomba, my future Terminator.

Since I’ve recently replaced all the carpet in my house with laminate, I now have all hard-surface floors, which is a virtual playground for a Roomba.  I’ve considered buying a roboto vacuumo a few times in the past, but, damn, they were expensive.  Now, it seems you can get the older tech pretty cheaply, so I was able to justify the purchase based on the lack of interest I had in cleaning my floors and the amount of stuff that was on the floors.

With two cats, the biggest things I have to deal with are: cat hair, cat litter and the dust that comes with it, and shredded cardboard from their scratchers.  I suppose I shed a lot of hair, too.  But, without kids or dogs, I don’t really have to deal with wet things: puke, slobber, drinks.  So a Roomba to pick up all the dry items blowing around like tumbleweeds is perfect for me.

But, back to the idea of extinction.  I’m certainly not afraid of robots killing us off.  Even watching Boston Dynamics nightmare videos doesn’t do it.  I have no fear because really, robots actually suck pretty bad.  I mean, they work, but they’re in no way autonomous.  It’s also why I will never own a self-driving car in my lifetime.  Autopilot?  Mmmm hmmm.  Sure.

My first experience with the Roomba was when I set up the charging base and set the vac down on it.  It lit up and started charging.  I went off to read the manual and I heard something talking.  The robot was talking to me.  I have no idea what it said, but when I came back, it was blinking a couple of lights at me.  They looked like alert and battery lights.  I assumed it was because the battery was run-out dead and needed to get an initial charge, but an hour later, they were still blinking.  I pushed some buttons and it spoke to me again.  “Charging error 1!”  Ok.  Research says this could mean a failed battery or a poorly-seated battery.  I took the vac apart – and to iRobot’s credit, this is extremely easy – and pulled the battery and reseated it.  The Roomba was now charging.

My next experience was when it was on its maiden voyage around the house.  I was satisfied with how it was behaving and the cats were generally spooked by the same.  I went out to dinner and in line for my food, I get a message on my phone. “Clean roller brush!”  Yeah, this vacuum can complain to me remotely.  How wonderful.  Since I’m away from the house, I am unable to serve my robot’s demands and have to wait until I get home.  I find that the little death machine has sucked up a washcloth and became inoperable.  I’m so worried for my life.

The last experience of the night was when I was winding down for bed and the Roomba was wandering around under the watchful eye of the little cat.  I heard it bumping into things over and over and over.  I looked across the house to see it had gone into the bathroom and shut the door, trapping itself in the room.  I’m sure the floor is pretty clean in there now, but again, I’m not worried that robots are going to figure out every potential way a door can be blocked in order to get through.

And that’s my first night with my new Roomba, the T-671.

Changing My Tune With A New Band

I posted before about the recent death and dismemberment of the Microsoft Band.  I had pretty much given up on fitness tracking and fitness in general about a year ago.  In that time, as you might expect with someone not as young anymore, with more health issues than none, it had a detrimental effect on my wellbeing.

Without dwelling on the negative aspects of that situation, I powered back on again.  With a new blog tagline to lead the way, I began mentally preparing myself for change.  Positive change, I mean.  I’ve had plenty of other changes already.  Along the way, I happened to see something about a high-feature, low-cost fitness tracker, the Huawei Band 3 Pro.  Very interesting.

In my mind, I was just imagining it as the next version of the MS Band (which stopped at v2), but the design was more standard – no extra bits in the strap and clasp.  But, it did have the one feature that kept me from immediately replacing my MS Band – built in GPS.  And the price was about 25% what I paid for my last MS Band.  And it’s waterproof, which doesn’t mean much to me, but might for others.

I bit the bullet the other day and ordered one, in blue of course.  I’ll be able to use it this weekend.  In the meantime, I’ve begun walking on work breaks again, which is something that ended with the departure of AK, right around the time I gave up on my Band.  Of course I would begin this just as the furnace of summer heat is kicking on.  But a start is a start; building momentum and all that shit.

So, to remember a little about my last post, I’m putting my trust in a new company to let me use their hardware and software for as long as I can.  Will the hardware outlast the software this time?  We’ll have to see.  At least I won’t have paid too much for the experiment.

I Made It Work Again

Over the weekend, I made a roadtrip in the interest of thrift shopping.  It was a generally easy-going, low-stress trip that turned up plenty of CDs, mostly smooth-sided cases.  Along the way, I also picked up an early CD player, 30 years old, for $7.  I figured it would be interesting to have an opportunity to experience newer and older players and see if I could determine sonic differences between them.  The price was good, so why not?

When I got it home and fired it up, I found out why not.  It wasn’t operational.  When powered up, it would immediately eject the CD tray.  Pushing the close button did nothing.  If you pulled the tray out a little further, the close button would work, but after a second or two, the tray would eject again.  Huh.

My first thought was that there were some sensors that were dirty.  The ones that tell the player when the tray is fully opened or fully closed.  It seemed like something I could fix.  So I opened the case and disassembled the tray assembly.  I didn’t really see any sensors like I expected.  I did see a pressure switch that would toggle when the drawer was open or closed.  Opening and closing the drawer, I could see that when closing, the switch was not being contacted.  I think I was on the right track here.

Considering why the drawer wouldn’t close fully, I had a memory of a web page I had read about CD player troubleshooting and the primary takeaway was that the great majority of player failures can be fixed by replacing the drive belts.  I inspected the drawer assembly and found only a single belt.  It seemed to be in good condition, maybe a little loose, I don’t really know.  But I figured I could change it out easily and maybe that would do it.

I ordered a pack of various sized belts from Amazon and they arrived the next day.  Without too much trouble, I installed a new belt of near the same size, maybe a little smaller.  The reassembly was a little sketchy since I wasn’t exactly sure where to set the gear so that the open/closed pressure switch would get hit in both directions.  But for my first test, the drawer stayed closed when I powered on, which it should because the switch indicated the door was closed.  I pushed the open/close button and the drawer ejected.  I checked the switch and it indicated the drawer was fully open.  I pushed the open/close button again at the drawer closed.  Then I saw something I hadn’t seen in previous attempts: the laser lens moved up and down trying to focus on a non-existent CD.  And the drawer stayed closed.  I ejected the tray and put a CD in.  I closed the tray and the CD spun up.  I pressed play, the CD spun and the display counted up the time.  I fixed it!

That’s a plenty good feeling to repair something so easily, just a single part replacement and the part was a tiny piece of rubber.

From The New To The Old

Looking back, the last couple of years has been actually a pretty big upheaval in my media consumption world.  Starting it off, on Black Thursday in 2016, I got televisions.  For ages, I had an old tube TV I never watched.  And that was interesting for a while.  I never did much with it.

A few months later after getting these TVs, I got a game system – a Wii.  Snicker all you want, but it was, and occasionally still is, fun.  If nothing else, it gave the TV a reason to exist.  A few months after that, I bought a couple of Roku sticks, which I plugged into the TV, giving the TV more reason to exist.  Finally, this year, I implemented the Plex server on my network, so I can stream music to the Rokus that are on the TVs.  And all this time, I’ve had a old home theater system with a 5-disc DVD changer and VCR, with 5.1 speakers.

Despite having all this possibility, things are kind of a mess.  The biggest problem is the sound system.  If I watch the Roku or listen to Plex through the Roku, I can only get sound through the TV speakers.  If I watch a DVD, I have to mute the TV speakers because it doubles the HT 5.1 system.  If I play the Wii, I have to turn on the HT system and mute the TV.

The root problem is that the TV needs to be the center hub of all video and audio and the audio from the TV needs to be routed to the HT system.  Because the HT system is downstream from the TV, if the HT system is serving audio and video back to the TV, it will short circuit the audio path and playback will perform as expected.

So, evaluating my options, I have two older components that need integrated with a newer component.  In this case, the TV will be the hub for audio and video, but the Wii and the HT system are only analog.  This affects the signal path in two places.  I only have one analog input to my TV, so either the Wii or the HT system will have to have the signal converted from component (RCA) to HDMI.  Then, the only audio output from the TV is digital optical, so I need another conversion from optical (SPDIF) to RCA.  Upconverting one direction and downconverting the other.  Ridiculous.

Finally, I’m not entirely sure the digital output from the TV will be unmixed, meaning that if I turn the TV speakers off, or mute them or turn down the volume, will the digital signal still be sent or will it be muted?

The optimistic end result is that audio from all sources: Roku/Plex, Wii, and DVD will all go through the HT speaker system’s Aux input.  When a DVD is played, the HT system will still play through the speakers and when the DVD is not played, it should return to Aux.  Maybe I’ll have to change the input on the HT remote.

Fortunately, the converters aren’t very expensive, less than $15 each.  Here’s to hoping it all works…

Migrating Music

I had mentioned in my last post that I was testing out the possibilities of streaming my music collection throughout my house and elsewhere.  The experiment has been pretty successful and I believe the cat is all the happier for it.  Some of the “phase 2” features I’ve been digging into haven’t been as easy to implement as I would have hoped, but there’s no rush on any of those.  But in the process of learning and applying, I made what could be considered a radical change to my music collection.

In long-ago posts, I’d talked about ripping my CDs to MP3, then re-ripping them in WMA Lossless only to delete it all and keep my MP3s.  Then the light bulb came on and I re-ripped them again to WMA Lossless and have kept that library for years now.  It’s grown to nearly 450GB and has served me well all this time.

Why WMA Lossless?  Well, I was in the Zune ecosystem all that time.  The Zune software was compatible with WMA and it was the only way to get lossless files onto the players.  For many years the open source crows have been squawking, “FLAC! FLAC, FLAC!” and I have been ignoring them.  Because of Zune, of course, but also, all the available FLAC music players sucked.

But finally, Microsoft caved to the pressure and built FLAC support into Windows 10, and the Groove player also now supports FLAC.  I still had my WMA library and was fine with it.  But in reality, I didn’t really use the Zune software much anymore, I just used VLC (which supports FLAC) instead. 

During my experimentation with Plex, I enjoyed a neat little feature that lets you see the current server activity.  That means I can watch the living room TV’s stream and see what song my cat is currently listening to.  Something that caught my attention on that screen was a status that said “Transcoding WMALOSSLESS to AAC”.  This was mildly concerning.  It meant that my media server was spending extra CPU converting my media files to a format the Roku on the TV could handle.  My server is pretty beefy, so like I say, it was only mildly concerning.  However, when I streamed my library to the GF’s Roku on her TV, I experienced some slight dropouts or other minor disruptions in the audio.  I wasn’t sure if this was a bandwidth problem or a conversion problem.  I read up a little on FLAC and it seemed FLAC might be a better choice for efficient decoding and possibly for streaming.

I gave this a little consideration.  If I converted my entire library to FLAC, it’s likely I wouldn’t need to do any transcoding anymore.  I could still play my files with VLC or Groove or Plex – no more Zune devices.  Is there really any downside anymore?  And so, I downloaded a program to batch convert my entire collection to FLAC.  It was about 4 hours of processing time, which actually isn’t too bad.  All the metadata was preserved (and some bad data was exposed along the way).  And I saved about 50GB of drive space, too.  I deleted my old WMA files and replaced them all with FLAC.

Because my collection was all new files, I had to refresh the Plex database, which probably means I’ll have to clean up the artwork again, but that’s fine.  I also need to rebuild the playlists I’d been curating, which is more of a bummer, but hopefully it’s a chance to do it better this time.  I quickly recreated the cat’s playlist and when I streamed it to the TV this morning, the activity monitor in Plex stated “Direct Play”.  No more transcoding – success!

Because I’m generally a contrarian, it hurts just a tiny bit to fall in with the FLAC crowd, because they’ve always been a bit pompous, like “if you’re not using FLAC, you’re an idiot” in the same way Linux people tout the wonders of their chosen OS.  But, the solution is working and I can’t complain about that.  So, now I have an Android phone and a music collection in FLAC.  I suppose the next thing I need to do is start coding in PHP and Angular.JS.

He Just Snapped

Just so we’re clear where I’m coming from, I’m old.  In Internet years, I’m a fossil.  But I am an active user of technology, so I do have at least a small idea of what’s going on in the world.  Because of my age, a lot of things fall into the “I don’t understand this” bucket.  Not because I don’t understand how to use it, it’s more an issue of why would you use it.

I’ve only recently gotten into the modern phone game (meaning Android), having been a Windows Phone user for its limited lifespan.  And I recall one must-have app that caused a lot of WP users to move on to Android or iPhone – Snapchat.  So when I did upgrade to a can-do mobile OS, I was sure to install and utilize Snapchat.  Snapchat falls so hard into the “I don’t understand this” bucket, it punches a hole through the bottom.

First, the app offends me from a technical perspective.  I do understand that all modern applications have eschewed any form of friendly UI design and that design quality is called “clean” or “immersive”.  That design style involves removing all identifying command buttons, so you have mystery navigation where you have to randomly tap and swipe to figure out what the apps capabilities are. This app is no different.  Resource-wise, Snapchat is a killer.  I will give this a pass because the real-time video filters are impressive.  But, man, it hurts my phone.

Next, the app offends me as a photographer.  Here is the full text of their website home page:

Snap Inc. is a camera company.

We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.

We contribute to human progress by empowering people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together.

I am painfully aware that the word “photography” is not used anywhere in that manifesto.  And if you wanted to take issue with my issue about Snapchat offending me as a photographer, you could use that against me.  But for the main populace, a camera is the gateway to photography.  And photography is about recording a moment in time.  And what does Snapchat do?  It makes photos that disappear.  That’s the opposite of photography.

An advertisement for Snapchat says: “It’s a camera for talking because a Snap says more than a text.” This is probably true in the sense that a picture is worth a thousand words.  But if that picture disappears, your words have been lost.  You have said nothing of value.  The ad also says, “So, yeah, Snapchat is a camera—where how you feel matters more than how you look.”  This is clearly a dig at Instagram.  I have read elsewhere that Snapchat is intended to be used spontaneously instead of having heavily “produced” photos like those in Instagram.  But that goes back to recording a moment.  You plan and produce an Instagram shot to capture a mood (or feeling) to be shared. So yeah, Snapchat is a camera, where how you look or feel doesn’t matter.

Next, the app offends me as a communicator.  If you haven’t noticed, I blog.  I also email and text.  When I write something, I am creating something.  It’s meant to persist.  And what happens in Snapchat?  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a picture or a chat, it’s all disposable.  It’s “living in the moment” as Snap wants you to.  It’s a YO-fucking-LO, get out of jail free card, where your past can’t be brought up to hold you accountable for your actions.  At the same time, it’s an admission that you don’t matter.  The things you create are not worth permanence.  The past is useless and there is no reason to preserve it.  How depressing.  And maybe that’s how things are for the youth of today.

But how about those filters?  I said, they are impressive.  It’s a very clever use of technology, but it’s also pointless.  The issues I take with Snapchat dovetail nicely with the filters.  “…How you feel matters more than how you look.”  Oh really?  I’m going to call bullshit on an app that distorts every face into an anime-grade caricature, smoothing out skin blemishes, enlarging eyes, contouring cheeks – it’s all about how you look.

But it doesn’t really matter anyway, because it’s all transitory.  The silly augmentation filters, while good for a laugh today, are going to be the MySpace embarrassment of the future, if any images manage to survive.  Wait and see.

Expired Insurance

My computer is down.  Well, one of my computers is down – the main one, the desktop, the one I do all my serious stuff on (even blogging).  My house has been a hotbox for some time now and until the new AC unit gets installed, there’s not a whole lot I can do.

When I came home last night, I shook the mouse to wake things up.  I hit the keyboard.  I noticed everything was strangely quiet.  I pushed the power button on the tower.  Getting annoyed, I pushed the power on the UPS.  Nothing is starting up.  And it comes to me quickly, then.  The power supply is dead.  It’s not an uncommon occurrence and it’s one that most people don’t give much consideration.  But not me.  I’ve had times when my power supply dies and it becomes a scramble to get a new one to get back up and running quickly.

And the last time it happened, I said I wasn’t going to be scrambling anymore, so I bought a spare power supply and left it in its box in the closet.  If my computer ever decided to crap out again, ha.  I was going to bring it right back.

But that night, I just wasn’t in the mood.  I had settled down with a nice snack at my desk and was munching on the apple slices staring at my dead tower.  In my head, I ran through the hassle of changing the power unit.  Not only all the cords and cables plugged into the back of the tower, but all the wire runs and connections inside the tower, too.  I continued to eat apple slices and procrastinate as much as possible, because I just wanted to do stuff.  Not that stuff.

Finally, I got down on the floor and started yanking cables out the back.  Might as well get this over with.  I took the tower out to the kitchen where there’s good light and a big work surface.  Popped the case open and started unrouting all the power cables.  Inside the case was a collection of dust, which is expected and was all cleaned out.  Ready to go?  Let’s start the bullshit of putting in the replacement.

I went to the closet, fished out the spare power supply and noticed, huh, it’s a 430 watt unit.  The one I just took out is a 500 watt.  Part of me was concerned because I did have a lot of hard drives in the tower, along with other modern pieces that might use a lot of power.  But it should be fine.  It will probably be at its limit, though.

I open the box and pull the new power supply out and take it to the tower.  Then I see that this just isn’t going to work.  The power supply was too old for my tower.  When I bought the power supply, which was many years ago, the power standards were different.  I wouldn’t be able to power my hard drives with this power supply.

The replacement power supply had a bunch of:

256px-Molex_female_connector when I really needed a bunch of:sata-hard-drive-power-cable-connector

So I was stuck.  Off to Amazon to buy two new power supplies: one for now and one for later.  Am I dumb for possibly getting myself stuck in the same situation next time?  I don’t think so.  It’s just an insurance policy.  You may never use it, but you pay for it in the rare event you need it.  Some people carry spare tires in their car.  I don’t have anything in my car and luckily have never needed it.  The one time I had a flat, I filled the tire up and drove the car really slowly to the service center.  If the situation’s ever really bad, I’ll just call roadside assistance from my insurance company.

But anyway, this time, my insurance policy was expired.  I tried to cash in on the policy and it was invalid.  So I bought another policy.  It will be in tomorrow.

 

All Things Must Pass

It was a little over a year ago that I knew my phone was obsolete.  I was one of the few, brave Windows Phone users remaining and Microsoft had announced that there was a Samsung Android phone being sold as a “Microsoft Edition”.  That simply meant the phone was preloaded with all the MS Android apps and you could get assistance on using it at a Microsoft store.  Whee.

And this change was a surprise, but not really so, since there was a Microsoft division that was doing nothing but writing nice software for Android and iOS and not writing anything for Windows Phone.  The up-and-coming mobile powerhouse apps hadn’t been developing for Windows Phone for a very long time.  But none of that was a concern for me, since all I needed was a way to call, text, read email, and browse the web when I was bored.  And play Solitaire. A Windows Phone did all that just fine.  Until it didn’t.  And that became infuriating, because I don’t ask much from my phone.

Early in my WP days, I used to visit Yahoo’s news site, but then Yahoo changed something and the pages started locking up, where I couldn’t scroll anymore.  So, I switched to MSN and happily used their news site for many years.  Recently, though, an odd bug started happening.  After a minute or so on a page, the page would reload, sending me back to the top of the article.  And it would happen again a minute or so later.  And again.  Then the browser would literally give up.  It would display this message:

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Now, there’s a message to piss off your users.  “We’re having trouble so we’re not going to try anymore.”  And when you clicked Back, you didn’t return to the previous page, your history was wiped out and you went back to the Start page.  Keep in mind, this is a Microsoft device, using a Microsoft web browser on a Microsoft website.  And it doesn’t work.  I’ve determined the root cause of the bug is the advertisements injected into the page by script, but without any ad-blocker or other customizations, a fix is out of my control.

Another recent shutdown Microsoft did was of Zune>XBox Music>Groove Music.  I don’t use streaming services, so I didn’t think it was a big deal.  But I also didn’t think it was going to affect Cortana’s music search feature (which is like Shazam).  I searched for a song recently and I got:

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Good job finding that song.

So that’s it.  I made up my mind I’m going to do what Microsoft wants me to do, switch to Android.  Now, where before I had a few available models of Windows Phone, I now have a choice of probably thousands of phones.  Which one should I get?  As a creature of habit, I chose a new model from an old company.  The Nokia 6.1.

Soon, I’m going to be able to be up-to-date on all the apps.  I can start collecting rewards from stores and restaurants.  I can start tracking this and that through apps.  I can use any fitness tracker I want.  I can play games – all the games.  I won’t have to get all pissed off and feel left out when I see:

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And hopefully, I can browse a goddamn web site without the pages reloading until the browser just shits the bed.

I ordered the phone on Amazon for all of $287, which I think is pretty cheap.  What do current phones go for now?  A good place to buy Android phones is the Microsoft Store.  Let’s see.  5 models for sale:  1 Windows Phone (out of stock), 3 Android Samsungs, and 1 Android Razor.  They are priced from $699 to $929.  Nope, I will not be getting any of those.  I don’t need a $1000 Solitaire game device.