First Time In Croatia

Although there are lots of Das Volk out there that don’t mind long car drives, I ain’t one of them. So. On our way to Istria, Croatia, for a bit of R&R we stopped for two nights in Salzburg. Perhaps more on Salzburg later. Exhausted from the drive from Salzburg to Istria, we eventually found our way driving up and through winding, barely paved road-ways to a luscious Tuscany-like villa with heated pool and a view of the Adriatic that is to die for (pic not included YET). The only problem is the heated pool can’t get heated enough with the chilly fall winds that have suddenly turned on. In fact, after one or two tries and my better-half catching a cold we’ve given up on swimming in here. But enough bitchin’ and moaning (ranting).

Istria is gorgeous. Can’t recommend it enough. Even though you have to drive to get around, if you stay in the outer hills, as opposed to a village or resort hotel, there’s very little traffic–other than a few minor delays due to road work–to stop you from getting around. The only problem is, once you start driving around and looking at all the little walled-in, mini-towns built waaaaay back atop rolling forever hills (mini-mountains?), like Motovun (above), you’ll want to stop at them all.

And then there is the food. Or should I say: the truffles. If you like gorging on truffles, this is the place to be. I only wonder how long it’s gonna last as an affordable place to hang out for a week or two and eat this delicatessen–as opposed to how expensive it is in Italy or France. If you find the right place along one of them hill roads, all you need is a few Euros for plate of perfectly cooked noodles in a butter-wine sauce and then topped with dark truffle shavings (above). The cats seem to know what they’re begging for under your table, too.

And by-the-buy, check out the arrogant über corporate message from LA Times when I was trying to read up on some #SCOTUS bull$hit this morning. Even though the message is trying to be sympathetic and show interest in problem solving, any rational mind knows that what they’re really trying to say is that my grand & missed United Mistakes of #Americant is having a hard time getting-on with the EU’s attempt at reigning in on digital greed and abuse. The whole point of what the EU is trying to do (I hope!) is to right a long standing wrong–as long as the attempt is about users being the ones to decide what happens with their data. FB, Twitter and even the LA Times have no business whatsoever thinking they can own and manipulate what I do on the Interwebnets. That’s right, baby. You may own your software, you may own your website, but if you put it out there on a public network–which is what the Interwebnets is–then you have no right to own, sell or manipulate my data–even if it’s going through your website (or software).

Or something like that.

Rant on.

-T

From New To Old Or Skipping What’s In-Between

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1st Gen iPad Air, 2nd Gen Kindle Paperwhite, a fcuking real book!

Subtitle 1: E-Book reading. Looks like there’s no turning back (for worst-moi).

Subtitle 2: A pseudo-review of e-readers.

I first started e-reading on a Kindle 2. I loved the design of the Kindle 2, especially the analog page change buttons and the odd but fully functional keyboard that enabled the best note-taking (at the time) while reading electronic books. Luckily, including voice dictation, I think I’ve finally found a viable replacement for the only Kindle I’ve ever loved. More on that in a sec. Because the battery died on my Kindle 2 and Amazon offered no upgrade, I broke down and bought a Kindle Paperwhite while it was on sale. From day one I’ve hated the thing. Talk about technology going backwards! Ok. Ok. The “Paperwhite” screen is pretty good, especially during night reading. But to be honest, that really doesn’t matter until night lamps go the way of the Dodo. Also. What can one expect from a guy like Jeff Bezos, the greatest mooch and scavenger capitalist the world has ever seen? Or do you actually believe that hijacking already marginalised capitalism from the likes of Walmart and retail, physical book stores is really such an ingenious endeavour? Please. Amazon and Bezos suck bat balls on account he’s only found a way to lead in the race to the bottom. But before I get to far off subject.

I’ve pretty much given up on Kindle as my e-reading device (for now). Here a few reason:

  1. Eco-system. There’s basically three digital eco-systems that I would consider using. Amazon and Google have lost out to Apple (for now). But to be honest, if/when I have to change eco-systems, my next choice will be Google.
  2. 3G. When I needed it, it never worked. I remember once traveling through Asia and not being able to download a book for a research project. Not only that, when I finally connected to WIFI in an airport lounge, Amazon wouldn’t let me download the book that way either–something about copyright. Go figure!
  3. Performance and obsoletism. We’ve had three Kindles in our family so far. Sure, they are relatively cheap devices but now that Amazon has gone full expensive with their newest fancy-pants Kindle (as of 2016 or so), where’s this gonna go? Their colour screen tablets are a joke. They can’t make a phone. And that voice-AI speaker thing… No thanks!

Of all the Kindles we’ve had (I can’t remember exactly but it’s somewhere between three and four), they are all, after eighteen or so months, great door stops. The third gen Paperwhite in the pic above is also so incredibly slow that it’s no fun to use. Yeah, Jeff Bezos. Innovation ain’t just about bringing something to market but also making it better without breaking the bank.

Moving on.

I gave up using an iPad 4 three years ago. The main reason for giving it up was because 1) I’m a Mac guy and 2) I have an iPhone. Although I did learn to appreciate the iBooks interface and preferred it over the Kindle, the iPad 4 was just too heavy as a reading device. There are times when I read for more than two hours. But last year after my wife upgraded from her shattered iPad Air 2 to an iPad Pro, we also discovered in a drawer her shattered first gen iPad Air. We traded in the shattered iPad Air 2 and she got a pretty good deal on a new iPad Air Pro. But since Apple only lets you trade in one device for another device, we put the shattered first gen iPad Air back in the drawer. While visiting our local Apple store a few months later, I happened across a conversation with one of the dunces in the blue shirts. When I mentioned that I still had a shattered iPad Air he quickly checked inventory and told me that if I trade it in, he’ll sell me a brand new one for €250,-.

A brand new what, I asked.

Oh. Sorry, he said.

Even though Apple had just announced their new low-end iPad line which had a better processor and more storage, the hundred to hundred-fifty price difference wasn’t a factor. Reason? I don’t need an iPad. I especially don’t need a low-end iPad. I mean, let’s face it. As much as I fight it, it looks like Macs are doomed. Apple is going full iOS. I’ve since learned from my wife’s multiple iPad to iPad Pro experience, that I’m eventually gonna have to give in. Of course, it’ll take till iPads can drive a second monitor–as that’s the way I use both my 2016 MacBook and my 2015 MacBook Air–I’m putting off full iPad integration into my life. Again. All I really needed was a new e-reader on account of how much I hate the Kindle Paperwhite!

Long Apple-Store story short: I went home and got the shattered iPad Air. I traded it in and nervously paid €250,-. Gee, I thought, I just got the best e-book reader there is, didn’t I? And not only that. It really was a brand new first generation iPad Air with 32GB and cellular. It’s not even a refurbished one. Say what you will, dear worst-reader, about my lack of scruples when it comes to consuming tech $hit. I mean, I could have easily afforded the  new iPad. I just don’t need a new iPad for anything but watching the occasional video while it’s propped up in the kitchen and I’m cutting onions or I’m consuming lots and lots of research, reading, study, etc. Since the newest Kindle (that’s waaaay overpriced one) cost almost the same… Yeah, it was a no-brainer.

I think I lucked out. I’ve had the iPad Air (version A1475) as a news reader, the occasional Plex client, definitely a useful you-tube watcher and, when needed on account I’ve already purchased books there, it’s great with the Kindle app, for about six months now. And to be honest, I’m enjoying reading/using Apple’s iBooks more and more. Not only is the iPad Air much lighter than that iPad 4, but its also got a much better screen. The only negative with the iPad as an e-reader is the battery life. Yeah, Amazon does have the advantage with that one. Which means I have to charge the iPad every night… along with all the other krapp I have to charge. But then again, compared to the Kindle, it’s a fcuking computer beast.

As stated, I really like to interact with what I’m reading. I like to write short notes in the margins of pages (of real books) and also underscore text. The iPad does that huuuuuugely better than the Kindle. In fact, with the iPad I can highlight text and if I have a comment about the text, I then call up the note function and instead of using the cumbersome iPad keyboard, I just dictate my comment and voice recognition transcribes it. Also, if I need to write anything longer, I can immediately go to Apple’s Note app, which I’ve actually become more and more dependent upon even when using my Mac. So I’m really digging Apple’s eco-system right now. It works great when reading.

Who knows how long relations with Apple’s eco-system will last. Btw, I’m still not using iCloud for all my files. I prefer Dropbox for that. Also, as far as home media is concerned since we stopped watching TV ten years ago, I haven’t and don’t plan on upgrading my old AppleTV3 anytime soon. For one thing, as stated, we don’t consume TV anymore. When we do watch stuff, we do so through the internet or our Plex server which is on a 2010 headless MacPro in the basement. Replacing our living-room TV with a new bookshelf system where my wife and I are able to combine our entire (physical) book collection into a really, really cool private library, has been one of the best choices we’ve made yet when it comes to life and living at home.

Rant on.

T

The End Is Nigh Or Tech World Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Own EVERYTHING

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Screenshot of ending/closing AWS account

It’s finally over, dear worst-reader? Indeed. Not only have I been paying AWS something like $4 a month for the past year for services I had no idear if or how I was utilising, but I’ve even gotten rid of all those domains I wasn’t using that I bought so many years ago thinking I would go beyond worstwriter.com. I get it. I should pay for domains. But paying for “ec2 cloud synthetics” or “route53 surcharges” or or or! So I guess I’ll be saving some money in the near future. But that’s not what this cancellation is all about. I bit off more than I could chew thinking I could handle AWS and hosting my/this blog there. As stated in my previous post, there’s something wrong with a tech company that doesn’t really do anything except offer a platform where others can sell the stuff they do–but then this mediator-like platform is also trying to own everything having to do with the transaction. I mean that’s the gist of Bezos, Facebag & Co, etc., or? That there isn’t a law long since passed that declares my data and everything that I do on the #interwebnets as mine and only mine and only I can decide what is done with that/my data… Yeah, we live in those times. And everything that Amazon represents today is creepier than ever when it comes to data and the #interwebnets, baby. Anywho. The creepiest thing about AWS, i.e. Bezos’ backend of owning everything, is the worst of the worst when it comes to creepy. Not only does Bezos probably think that he can rule the world with his current stock price but he also thinks that by getting either individuals or organisations to utilise his fancy idear of re-selling the tech that he set up to create and maintain Amazon he can own more than the world. And I’ll have no part of it. The interface of AWS reminds me of Win95 regurgitated. The mass of tools available reminds me of a labyrinth of chaos where chaos isn’t needed. And even though AWS claims to offer a “free-tier”service, I couldn’t find it anywhere. But I suppose that’s how they get you–not unlike those subscription services of yore where you got a few music cassettes for free initially but were then liable to continuously  buy more. But I’m probably off subject. I found AWS waaaaay to complicated to use and the interface obnoxious. And Jeff Bezos, like so many other rich people in the world today, just gives me the creeps. I’ll have no part it, baby.

-Rant on

T

Something Little More Than Site Maintenance Or How AWS Might Be Comparable To GM Of Yore

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Screenshot of moving fav domain.

Freeing myself of the juggernaut of scavenger capitalism that’s finally, utterly, taken over tech industry? Indeed. Dear worst-reader. I’ve been worst-saying it for years. Or at least been worst-saying it since that short stint in the advertisement industry–so many years ago–where I had to explain the #interwebnets to a whole host of numb-nut corporate college grads that couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. Oh what am I saying? I finally got around to moving my domain to a better place. Or at least I’ve moved it to a better place. At the least, I’m already relieved that I, in the near future, I’ll be cancelling my AWS account. Yeah, baby. Pretty scary stuff what Bezos & Co. have/can come up with while scraping the barrel.  Anywho. I’m sure Jeff Bezos & Co. are all a grand horde of nice people, once you get around their Dr. Evil, Data (as in Star Trek NG)–looks. It’s just that, well, I gave AWS a try but found it to be an astonishingly ugly tech environment that in its totality completely feeds off the creativity of others–in the purest form of exploitation I’ve seen yet. And to think that enterprises completely rely on Bezos for the their tech infrastructure! Scary. Scary. Scary. Yes. That’s where much of the tech world is today. Exploit. Exploit. Exploit. Forget creativity. Scary. Forget indeed. Or just check out Facebag & Co. In fact, I’d go so far as to worst-write that AWS might be comparable to what GM was when it consolidated the auto industry so so so many years ago. You know, Buick, Chevrolet, Pontiac used to be their own companies. Oldsmobile, too. (Anyone remember that one?) Yes, AWS is the GM of tech industry. Now remember that when the Government bails out AWS in the future. Let’s just worst-hope that there’s at least a Ford somewhere in tech industry that gives us another choice. (That’s right. When my mother had to buy a new car a few years back, I made sure it wasn’t anything from GM. Reason? GM was bailed out (by Barry-O) but Ford wasn’t.)

But I digress.

-Rant on

T

Apple v Pi Or How I Slowly Got My Computing Future On

I tried to become a watch-nut once. Not a real watch-nut, mind you. Of course not. A real watch-nut spends lots of money on watches. Heck, I don’t even like money. Anywho. A watch-nut knows what a complication is. In fact, that’s the only thing that made watches interesting to me. The simpler the complications, the better the watch. That’s why for years I wore a cheap, mechanical watch that within a twenty-four hour period lost at least two minutes of time. But it was a cool watch. Every morning I had to get up and wind it. Which brings me to the worst-subject of the day. As in super expensive and it works or something quite a bit cheaper and maybe, well, it loses two minutes of time a day. You in, dear worst-reader?

As you can see in the confused pics above, I consumed Apple’s #WWDC2018 the other day. Already dislocated from expectations, I was, as usual, disappointed in the show. Long worst-writer, pseudo-technologist, story short: #Apple sucks. The only consolation, as an Apple user, is that Apple will remain the best of the worst for the foreseeable future. That said, I’m not ready to fully go elsewhere for my personal computing needs. Or maybe I am. I’m especially not ready to go iOS. That’s for sure. And that’s what I got out of this year’s WWDC. In other words, if you’re an old-school Mac user like me, it’s probably time to move on or at least get ready to move over rover. That means, iOS is definitely gonna take over fairly soon. And even though the guy with the funny hair and plastic look (pic above of the iPad) claimed that there will be no merge of iOS and MacOS, I don’t believe him. Well, I kinda believe him. I mean, look at him. Compare him to the slimy, filthy ashtray that I refuse to clean behind him. The duschbags running Apple these days are definitely earning their weight in bull$hit. And that’s coming from a guy who has nothing but Apple products in his digital life. Aghast!

In order to prepare myself for the future I’ve been experimenting with what I consider the only true innovation in personal computing hardware in the past twenty years. And when I say personal computing I mean old school stuff as in a keyboard, a monitor and where necessary a mouse. And it doesn’t stop there. I’m also old school because I believe that when I buy a computer, what I do with it after purchase is all up to me. With that in mind, the thing I hate most about iOS and the direction computers are going is the touch screen interface and the fact that that it has exponentially increased the distance between human and the computer and device. Wow. I bet that’s worth a worst-thought or three, eh? Anywho.

Now don’t get me wrong, dear worst-reader. I’m not afraid of change. It’s just that I really do hate tablets. Nomatter how bright, clear and shinny they make those screens, for me there is something awfully wrong with my finger tips hitting a piece of hardened glass in order to interact with the/my digital world. Add to that the closed eco-system these new devices have ushered in to personal computing… at the behest of greed mongering corporations…

The thing to remember to keep in mind while reading this worst-post, dear worst-reader, is that nomatter what Apple does, worst-writer ain’t going to move to tablet computing anytime soon. In fact, so far, it looks like they’re gonna have to pry my dreams of old-school personal computing way of life out of my cold, dead, nightmare hands.

And so…

IMHO the most innovative personal computing product in years is the Raspberry Pi. Since its introduction as a code learning device for young people it has become a viable and versatile computer that has no rivals other than other single board computers, although it’s not quite ready to replace desktop computers. (But it is almost there.) And get this! It costs just under less than 40,-€.  Depending upon use and purpose, total cost of this device is around 100,-€, and that includes audio-boards, power supply and micro-sd cards. Considering what I’ve paid over the years for inevitably obsolete Apple products, that’s pretty impressive. FYI, I currently have three Raspberry Pi’s in full-time use in my house. And there’s this thought: I’m using R-Pis more than any of my Apple digital devices combined, except, maybe, my MacBook. In other worst-words, I’ve replaced what could have been Apple purchases–if Apple weren’t run by duschbags!–with some serious household cost-cutting purchases.

Enough worst-writer anger, though, eh.

One Pi is a Plex media client that has replaced one of my AppleTVs. It’s only a matter of time before another Pi replaces the other AppleTV. My second Pi is an audio streaming device using Volumio and a Hifiberry audio-board. It has 1) replaced iTunes for streaming music in our living room and kitchen and 2) will prevent us from having to buy any of those stupid little speaker thingies everybody and joe is pushing onto the music listening market. Sorry. Let me just put this out there:

Apple HomePod + iTunes + Apple Music + blah blah blah = fcuk you Apple.

That’s right. Finally. I can play my FLAC formatted music collection in its purest form–and with real air-moving speakers. Amen, brother.

The third Pi is the latest device available, the 3B+, and because it has increased ethernet capacity–although still via a bottlenecking USB 2.0 bus–I’ve been testing it as a NAS (network attached storage). Other than a few twerks and quirks here and there, these Pi’s work great and are slowly but surely proving themselves as alternatives to my ageing Apple home infrastructure and, more importantly, my unwillingness to accept Apple’s monopolisation of everything.

On that note, a few words about NAS on the cheap.

As you can see in the large pic above, I’m using a 2010 MacPro as a headless server. In fact, I’ve been using it for almost ten years. It’s where all of my household data is stored and backed-up. Of course, I know it’s time is limited, especially considering what Apple is doing with MacOS. It’s currently running El Capitan and I’m not even gonna bother with Sierra or High Sierra for it or any other OS. What I’d really like to do with it is stop wasting it as a over-energy-consumptive server and re-install Snow Leopard on it and just use it as a awesome desktop computer. Any by-the-buy, the newest MacOS just released, Mojave, won’t run on it at all. Indeed. More obsoletism. And for those interested, I don’t favour going the commercial NAS route i.e. Synology & Co. on account they are just an added complication in something that should be simple, where do I go in the future with my home digital needs they all seem like over priced and over complicated un-neccessities.

The fact that I have to even ask such a question is proof enough that there’s something seriously wrong with the world–or at least Apple’s and its, what I consider, corporate dysfunction. And perhaps this relates to my silly little watch analogy at the beginning of this post because when I heard that the latest Raspberry Pi had increased ethernet speed, albeit not quite gigabyte, I thought it finally time to take the plunge. Indeed. NAS here I cometh–even if you’re off two minutes each day!

Conclusion after about a month of Raspberry Pi NAS testing?

It works but…

Using OpenMediaVault, a 32GB micro-sd card, and a dedicated 5v-3amp micro-USB power supply, and, of course, numerous available HDDs I’ve got lying around–including really, really old USB 2.0 cases–my new cheap NAS is a go-go works great so far. Currently occupying two USB (out of 4) ports I have an old 750GB HDD in a single case that is dedicated to audio. Another dual HDD case that has hardware enabled RAID-0 case and 2x3TB drives in it, gives me a total of 6TB as an experimental backup server. I’m using testing the big drive for shares where I’ll be copying most of what’s on the MacPro to it as an alternative to the MacPro. Btw, the MacPro is a great server but it is obviously wasted in this role. Also, I’m not able to connect any of the Raspberry Pi’s to it unless via a Plex server. Something about Linux file systems and Mac files system not getting along, don’t you know. Anywho.

Hiccups so far mostly occur when I stream music and perform large data transfers. The Pi just doesn’t have enough ethernet/USB to make it all happen. For example. Copying my movie collection, which is about 1.5TB of data, from my MacPro to the big NAS share, the Pi then cannot deliver audio files at the same time. This screws up Volumio quite a bit and has required more than a few restarts and a few frustrating evenings where I was attempting to enjoy music. I’m assuming that these hiccups will decrease once I get all my music, movie and photos copied to the NAS, which is about 4TB total and will take a few days at current i/o bus speeds. And to think I’ve still got two more USB ports on the Pi for more drives… Cool.

Update two days later: All big files have been copied and I’ve had no hiccups with Volumio anymore. Über cool!

In worst-conclusion: So far I’m pleased with the time and effort required to get these Pi’s doing what I want working. And that’s the ticket, along with the price, if anyone wants to free themselves from monopolisation and corporate dysfunction galore. Of course there is a learning curve here. And even though there are forums out there and what feels like a large user base, the Raspberry Pi is not at all like any of the devices that I’m replacing. Obviously AppleTVs worked from the point-of-purchase until Apple makes them obsolete. So I’ve had to do a bit of research, reading and fiddling to get these Raspberry Pi’s to work. Then again, listening to Beethoven through real speakers in FLAC at 24bit streamed from a tiny server in my basement to a device that is hidden, tucked behind books on book shelf in my living room… Fcuk yeah! There is some wow going on in my audio listening pleasure zone, baby. And so. Good ridden monopoly Apple. Hope you choke on your duschbaggery and greed.

Rant on.

-T

PS As far as the two other pictures included in this post, you’re guess is a good as mine. The one with the runners is kinda cool and reminds somehow of Apple’s dysfunction. Yeah, that kid running along the group looks like he’s trying to keep up with his daddy or stop his daddy from running away from his mommy, which is most likely, considering #eurowasteland greed mongering, inevitable. The picture of the smoke stack is Apple, too. Yeah, it’s gotten that big and fat and in the way of seeing a horizon.