Tuesday, October 29, 2013

¡RevoluciĆ³n! - or 'I have about had it with Google'

I've been using Google's mail and chat solutions since March of 2008 and I've about had it with the crap.

For quite some time, I've been irritated by Google's "forward-thinking" take on mail folders, having instead replaced them with metadata tags. It makes it difficult to find something you popped into the archive in many mail clients, and leads to stupid problems where the fact that IMAP has no standard names for "what do we call the folder where messages the user no longer wants?" and "where do we put copies of the things this person wrote and sent?" Everyone got it figured out with Drafts, but there's trash/deleted messages/deleted items for the former and sent/sent items/sent messages for the latter. That means you have at least two places to look for copies of messages you might need to find.

I get it. Google wants you to use the web client so they can vacuum up someone's precious per-view.

I don't live in a world where I web client constantly, though. I look at my email on my mobile phone, one of two tablets, my mac's email client which can use the built-in notification center to tell me I have messages waiting, and outlook at work where I keep my work mail and calendar. It makes sense for me, and I would wager this to be the case for a large number of people who do things like 'work regular jobs,' to have one place to go for my data. I'm sorry I don't use a chromebook while I scrawl marketing ideas for my etsy storefront in a Moleskine at starbucks.

Then we can start to talk about what's happened with Google Talk. What used to be a strict XMPP-driven chat solution has morphed into a closed implementation of ... something... that enables many-way audio-visual chat with no further interoperability. Google's apparently accused other IM providers of not being open with their private solutions. In a classic case of two wrongs make a clusterwhoops, I can't use Google Talk from Outlook.com or Windows messenger, despite the fact that it was once-upon-a-time based on an open standard.

Accordingly, I became angry. Angry about cities.

So what's the solution?

It'd be great if everyone could bail because of my indignant rage. I don't expect them to. I expect a lot of people are happy to live in their browser, and are happy to use Google-derived products only to access Google apps. I was one until a sexy camera pulled me off my platform. The solution for me appears to be to jump ship and go with a competing product (which has a much cleaner web interface and the ability to attach files larger than 25MB to messages if need be) because I feel the company behind it is doing a better job supporting that product across multiple platforms. Outlook.com works well on my Mac, seems to work well on my PC at work in the rare event it's performing well with any task, and should be quite well suited to life in Windows Phone. It'd be nice to be able to sever from google completely, but there are a few things the company continues to do right, even for someone as picky as me. First and foremost, if I clean my gunk off gmail, I gain another bundle of space for photos at Picasaweb/Google+. Second, Blogger (duh). Third, Android. I still have an Android tablet device and may have an Android phone again at some point in the future. I'm considering swapping out to a Windows 8.1 device instead of my Transformer Pad Infinity, but I'm not in a hurry to do so because the solution works. Importantly, should I change back to Android for pocket computing, using Outlook.com for personal mail will mean I can integrate my mail folders into one app, instead of having vastly different email clients for Google mail and work mail.

For now, I'm going to have to recognize that I have a difficult transition to make (insofar as getting all of my web service memberships swapped from one email address to another), and I know I'll need to keep my gmail account as a part of my regular checks for a while. I'm pretty sure this is the right decision in the long run, though, as it will enable me to whine about something other than Mac OS X mail creating labels for me when I email people from now on.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm back!

After a vacation from writing of over two years, I figured it was time to get back in the game and start to put the world around me into words and pictures once more. I've been taking photos this whole time, naturally, but writing hasn't really been high on my list of priorities, and I figured it was only natural that the whole assembly withered into obscurity since you need words to hold together images. At least, you do if you process things the way I do.

Let's see if I can run a quick up-to-speed post on where things stand with regard to the things I used to share through this venue, then we can talk about moving into new territory (or old territory with new material, whatever makes sense).

Serious photography

Little has changed since Capitol Offense 2011. I shoot with a Pentax K20D and assorted lenses, I have two flash guns I almost never use, and a stack of memory cards so thick I wonder why I never use any of it. One of my goals for the near future is to begin taking more and more photos with my serious gear, to try to win myself back some of the love I used to feel when I shot. I've been debating switching back to JPEG photography instead of RAW, at least for a while, to ease the burden of processing the day's haul after the hike. Part of the problem with getting an awesome tool like Lightroom to deal with your hobbies is that it can become overwhelming in a way that's hard to describe as anything other than "first-world problems." Spending hours looking at your pictures is fun; spending hours and hours looking at and endlessly tweaking your photos to bring them up to some kind of "more" and "harder" is tedious and stupid. Basically, I went overboard, I recognize it, and I intend to fix it. I want to make it fun again!


So let's see. I still have my Mac Mini (early 2009), now running Mac OS X 10.9 Stupidname. I have a stupid pet project of external media drives that failed because one of the new drives was DOA with no return policy. In the intervening two years, I got an Asus TF201 (which sucked), a replacement TF201 (which also sucked), and a TF700 that I got through Best Buy's generous warranty service program. I've been happy with the TF700 conceptually (of course I have the dock, making it a laptop more often than it's a tablet), but the low read and write speeds to the built-in storage make it nearly useless for anything other than sustained media playback or remote desktop. I can write on it, but browsing the web is nigh impossible. That's okay, though - lessons learned, right? Buy it a long time later on clearance once everyone else has already figured out whether or not it's awful! I've also had some experience on a Dell XPS 10 tablet we purchased through work - now that is a slick piece of hardware, except the "won't stay asleep with the dock closed unless you keep a piece of thick paper in it" bug. Windows 8 (and subsequently 8.1) is actually pretty good on mobile-grade hardware, and I'm digging the interface cues more and more as I use the system.

I am, of course, still part of the smartphone crowd. When last I wrote, I would have had my HTC Evo Shift 4G. That was a fantastic phone and I kinda miss it. In the middle of 2012, I could no longer abide by Sprint's service at my house or in Silver Spring or College Park, so since the phone was practically unusable (unusable as a phone, let alone as a data device), I bailed for T-Mobile. My first phone there was an HTC Wildfire S, which I actually still have for some reason. Some reason is most likely that selling things is hard and I have some kind of stupid fantasy I'll keep using it as a media tool for my wireless speaker. It wasn't a bad phone except for the extremely limited internal space; one of the first things I did with it was root it and install a tool for moving apps to an SD card. I knew about that problem going in, though, so I wasn't too disappointed, and was otherwise pleased with it. The time came to upgrade in December, though, as I had some credit through the t-mo prepaid rewards program and got a relatively good deal on a Galaxy SII. I loved that phone. I got Android 4.0 out of the box, it wasn't too long until I got Android 4.1, and it was a great device all around.

Then came the call difficulties.

T-mo was great out and about, but at home, I had to be in my bedroom by the window if I wanted cell signal, or in the basement office or bathroom if I wanted to use Wi-Fi calling. This was an untenable solution, so I thought it over and planned to take my device to AT&T - sure it would cost somewhat more, but at least I'd be able to get calls when I needed them.

aaaaand they introduced the Lumia 1020. So much for not only the SII, but for Android in my pocket.

I love this camera. It is... beyond fantastic to have something wide angle, narrow aperture, manual-everything with optical stabilization that fits in my pocket without any difficulty. It's even better to have a real camera button on my phone. Windows Phone 8 works well enough for me - I like the People hub enough to have not installed Twitter or Facebook apps, and I was able to find substitutes for everything I relied on in the Android days within the first 15 minutes of owning the handset. The only disappointment is that WP8 isn't really compatible with the Pebble smartwatch (yes, I'm that much of a nerd), but even that's come around in the last week as a wonderful saint of a folk has written an app to enable music control playback and time updates, which at least allows me to have some meaning to wearing the watch to the gym. Otherwise, I'm sold on this thing, and if you don't need anything specific to Android or iOS and want an awesome camera in your phone, this is the handset for you. That's where I stand on nerd stuff. That and the xbox 360, but who cares about video games?


I'm back in Columbia. I moved back up here in July 2011 and have been enjoying the new neighborhood far more than the slum in which I dwelt in Laurel. Nobody has prostitutes yelling at them at 3:30am and I don't have the 12-person apartment stealing my parking space constantly.

I still work at UMCP. I've been promoted out of classroom support and administrative services into administrative services and classroom support. I almost left the university for some reason last December, but things have picked up since then and I'm give-or-take enjoying work again.

I'm down a cat. Last November, I lost Casper to his heart condition. That was one of the worst weeks ever and I still miss him. I had (and still have) a long-haired-cat-shaped hole in my soul that I attempted to fill with a nice gentleman named Bailey; he came declawed and a love sponge, even at 9 years old. He quickly took to me, and we had some good times. Unfortunately, he then met Spencer. Spencer, being deaf, picked up on exactly zero of Bailey's stress, and probably interpreted repeated smacks to the face and frenzied retreat into the basement as play instead of aggression or defensive maneuvers. Bailey turned to boundary marking the basement. He sprayed all over the stairway by the front door and the sliding door at the back of the house. Our efforts of cat pheromone diffusers, calming collars, calming treats, and devoted time in the basement weren't enough, so I made the difficult decision to return him to the shelter. He was adopted out again about a month later, so I'm very happy that the esteemed Mr. Baileyman found a new home, hopefully one free of idiot white cats.

The Future

So what's the plan, then? I have two and a half years of back photos to work into stories and posts. I intend to start writing out some day-to-day stuff and reactions to big news. I'm hopeful I can keep this going, as I think it will lend some purpose to the loose creative impulses I feel and enable me to actually do something constructive with my free time. It's hard to say how committed I'll stay to this form of the mission, but as long as the output continues and I stay engaged in it, I'll continue to post here.

The Past

In the spirit of development, I've also reimported the old archive, spanning from 2004 to 2011. Many of the old photo links aren't working any more, but I may try to re-enable them as time allows. I don't want this blog to become a burden like photo processing, though, so the process will be slow and probably will not be something I ever finish. I may, though, occasionally post old photos to help revisit more inspired times and possibly draw some energy from how supercool and awesome I used to think everything was. I might even start geocaching again! Who knows.

The Ride

For anyone that reads this, good tidings and I hope I stay interesting!