Collected technology opinions from the internet, Volume 1

Yes, this is shooting fish in a barrel, but sometimes you have a barrel of fish and a loaded gun and you just can’t resist.

There is a larger meta-commentary here about literacy or something, but I’m just amused by glaring typos and people making wildly wrong guesses about how something is spelled, and more generally what people are willing to commit to virtual paper.

On Apple being boring:
“Not boring, rediculuslly gready!”

A browser less likely to be charged with sexual assault:
“it’s like Chrome, but doesn’t rape your privacy”

Sony’s upcoming console, with rows of cartridges in golden fields:
“If Sony goes cartridge for the plantation 5 than those Blu-ray’s will be obsolete.”

On WoW wooing back players and the need for departments:
“You need to fix the class system for those people who quit to come back. Classes need more dept and more abilities that define the class.”

Good advice for your next system build:
“For the graphics card to work, you need to plug it into the mobo.”

The “cash cow” model for apps

Drew McCormack has an article on Medium from January 15, 2018 in which he explains the rationale behind the somewhat unorthodox purchase options for the Mac/iOS note-taking app he helped create, called Agenda.

It’s a hybrid model that is related to, but not the same as the dreaded subscription model. Even more now than before, we are seeing signs of subscription fatigue from users–something that must be weighing on the minds of Apple’s executives as they get ready to unveil multiple new subscription services at their event tomorrow. McCormack cites the example of Ulysses, pointing out how people have gleefully torpedoed the average rating for the app by one-starring it solely for switching to a subscription model.

And I think that’s valid. It is and should be a dealbreaker. Ulysses’s devs may go on about how it only costs the equivalent of a Starbucks coffee per month, but their subscription doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s one of many apps to now demand a subscription simply to use it. The subscriptions add up and eventually the user will say, “No more” and may even start cutting back. In the case of Ulysses, there are plenty of other writing apps out there that do not charge a subscription fee for use. (Note: As I’ve also reported, I finally gave in and reluctantly subscribed to Ulysses, but only after holding out for 18 months. And my loyalty will only last until I find a better non-subscription writing app.)

This leads into what Agenda is doing differently, and it’s an approach I really like, and hope that other developers will adopt it (maybe some have–it’s been over a year since the blog post was written).

Agenda is free to use–there are no ads, no up-front costs, no subscription. There are, however, a set of premium features that require in-app purchase. This purchase gives you permanent access to the premium features, along with any added over the next 12 months. You can keep using this version of Agenda forever and never pay again. If a new premium feature or set of features comes out after the 12 months has lapsed, you make the same in-app purchase and get those features and any others added for another 12 months, again keeping them permanently.

My only quibble is the actual price–$35 is not a ton of money, but it does seem expensive for a note-taking app. Also, the Mac and iOS versions must be purchased separately.

Still, I think this is an excellent way to avoid subscriptions, while still allowing for an ongoing stream of revenue for the developers, and I’d like to see it adopted more widely.

Maybe if Ulysses switched over to this model they would finally rid themselves of the plague of the 1-star reviews.

Run 603: The deliberately slow as a turtle run

 Run 603
Average pace: 6:08/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 2:30 pm
Distance: 5:04 km
Time: 30:51
Weather: Partly sunny
Temp: 11-13ºC
Humidity: 56%
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 163
Weight: 167.5 pounds
Total distance to date: 4595 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8

Almost two months after my last one, I have finally returned to running outside, where there are bears and trees and stuff.

The reason for the long gap is not the usual laziness, but rather the results of the two previous runs, especially the one on January 26th. To recap, the temperature was 7ºC, which is pretty cool, but not actually cold cold, if you know what I mean. Given my relative level of fitness, I expected I would work harder all the same. The river trail is not really a trail, it’s a service road that is mostly used as a trail, but it is wide and flat. Because of this, it is easy to run fast, even when you don’t mean to do so.

These things combined to give me an overall pace of 5:59/km–not bad given my out-of-shapeness, but it came with a terrifyingly high BPM of 185. This nearly scared me from running, but instead I switched to the treadmill at the Canada Games Pool, where the temperature is closer to 7ºC with a 2 added before the 7. It’s actually possible to start sweating before you even start your workout.

After several workouts where my BPM was a nice 153 or 155, I felt ready to brave the outside world again. The temperature today was warmer at 11ºC (and rose to 13ºC), plus I was running at the lake, where the twisty, narrower trail forces you to run slower–or at least makes it easier to fight the impulse to go all out.

And my plan actually worked! I finished with a slow overall pace of 6:08/km (I ended the 5K right on the small footbridge that they replaced last year, which is more than 200m past the actual 5K marker), though the last two km I did dip under 6:00/km at 5:59 and 5:55 respectively. More importantly, my BPM was 163, a full 19 BPM slower than my last outdoor run, and in line with a typical somewhat-out-of-shape run.

For the run itself, there were no real issues. My knees were a bit stiff and sore, but at this point I don’t think they actually have much effect. I didn’t really think about them during the run. I still hope to investigate the knee issue in more depth this year, because it would be quite nice to have them just behave like normal knees again.

It felt good to be outside again, too. I’ve run Burnaby Lake so many times that even with a few months off it felt instantly familiar again. And I was reminded right away how different treadmill and “real” runs are. Even making a deliberate effort to sloe myself, I was probably no more than a minute in before I could feel the burn in my lungs as I, well, pushed myself.

The trickiest part of the run came in the final km. I started my approach to the athletic fields and noted a number of poop monsters (Canada Geese) present. They appear to be pairing up for mating season, the rascals. A pair of them were in fact on the trail as I approached, one slightly ahead of the other. It looked like I was going to have to thread a goose-shaped needle. I did not cherish the idea.

I went in, reducing speed and trying to look non-threatening and project thoughts about how I don’t really regard geese as foul (fowl?) pooping hellspawn. It worked, as the forward goose picked up the pace only very slightly, but enough to let me squeeze between them with no pecking, hissing or biting from any of the parties involved.

I will probably do my next outdoor run the following weekend, but you never know, it’s now light enough after work that I could try one at the river. But it may be back to the treadmill for mid-week.

Overall, a decent return to the great outdoors.

New PC 2018: Parts chosen (until I change my mind)

Ironic note: This post was written on a Mac mini.

My current PC is about five years old and truthfully, it still does most things I need it to do without any major issues. I can browse the web, check email, write, read, play games, chat and so on, all without gnashing my teeth about the system being infernally slow, laggy or otherwise annoying to use.

It has an SSD as the main drive, so Windows 10 boots and restarts quickly (even if I notice that the Thinkpad X1 Carbon boots Windows 10 and programs even faster). It has 8 GB of ram, which still allows multitasking of as many programs as I’m likely to run. Its 4th generation Core i5 CPU is officially five generations behind, but it’s clocked at 3.3 GHz and still capable.

In the time I’ve had the PC, I’ve only upgraded three components:

  • The monitor, which isn’t even directly part of the PC. I went from a 24″ Samsung TN panel to a 24″ Asus IPS monitor, and the change was totally worth it. The color, clarity, viewing angles and brightness of an IPS monitor are so much better than a TN display. I still have the Samsung as an emergency backup.
  • The video card, from a GeForce GTX 570 to a GTX 770. This was also worth it, though I bungled things by not doing enough research, as the even-better GTX 970 came out just weeks after I got the 770.
  • The OS, from Windows 8 to Windows 10. And technically this isn’t a component of the PC, anyway.

Apart from that, the system is exactly the same as the day I put it together. I’m even using the same 2 TB hard disk from the previous PC as the secondary drive in the current one.

So with everything working, why build a new system?

The best answer might be that while everything works, I am starting to see the upper limits of what the current PC can manage. As programs–and especially browsers–become more bloated demanding, the 8 GB of ram is becoming an issue. Having a small primary drive (256 GB) is slowing down overall performance when loading and saving, because I simply don’t have room for everything on it. Older and less demanding games can still run fine on the GTX 770, but more often I have to turn down settings, accept lower framerates, or just play stuff released 10 years ago. Which Diablo 3 halfway to, luckily.

Also, we are at a point where technologies and pricing have both stabilized with some really good offerings.

If I stick to what I’ve picked out, here’s how the new system will compare to the current PC:

  • 4x the storage on the primary drive (1 TB vs. 256 GB). I would add additional storage on an as-needed basis.
  • 2x the memory (16 vs. 8 GB)
  • Faster video card with 4x the memory (RTX 2070 with 8 GB vs. GTX 770 with 2 GB)
  • A CPU with 2x the number of cores (8 core AMD Ryzen 2700 vs. 4 core Intel Core i5)
  • A larger case (microATX vs. mini-ITX)

The new case is an improvement because I’ve moved the PC back under the desk, so I don’t need a super-small case anymore. A taller one will make the front-facing ports and jacks easier to access, and the case itself should theoretically be easier to work with.

I’ve already gotten the video card, the next step is to figure out where to get everything else. Having amazon.ca ship everything to a locker is appealing (and simple) but amazon’s pricing and selection is surprisingly inconsistent, so I may be going to local dealers, like I did before NCIX self-immolated.

I am both excited (that new toy feeling) and filled with dread (piecing everything together, turning it on, nothing happening). And of course, it doesn’t address one critical aspect–I’m back to using Ulysses, a Mac-only writing app. I’m hoping the developers will eventually use their alleged subscription-fed largesse to port the program to Windows. I don’t think they will because they seem beholden to Apple’s ecosystem, but it would be nice. I like the app a lot more than I like macOS. Maybe I’m just too used to Windows after a hundred years of using it.

But maybe WriteMonkey 3.0 will eventually come out of beta, actually support indents and fulfill all my writing needs. It could happen!

Perhaps most importantly, my giant backlog of games can’t be played on a Mac mini. It’s new PC time.

WoW Report #1

Before I stopped playing WoW last time, I moved the game off the SSD and back onto my old-timey HDD. It definitely loaded faster on the SSD, but performance otherwise seemed to be about the same on the hard disk.

Tonight I logged in after many months away, the game fully patched and shiny. I then experienced some of the worst non-network related lag I’ve ever seen in the game. The framerate went from a high of 60 to as low as 18. Your framerate should never dip below legal gambling age. It was unplayable bad, which prompted me to stop playing. It’s possible the game was caching files after being moved back to the hard disk, but whatever it was, it did not leave me with a burning urge to try again.

But I will, for science!

Tomorrow.

WoW, a free weekend

This weekend World of Warcraft is free for previous players–like me!

I’ll probably poke around, but I think it will only remind me of how I hanker for a massively multiplayer game world that is like WoW, but somehow better. Less focused on combat, more focused on just doing stuff and exploring the world.

Or maybe I just want a good single player RPG.

On a semi-related note, I’ve had several dreams about City of Heroes (2004-2012) recently. This is weird because I pretty much never dream about games and nothing has happened lately to prompt me to have dreams about it. Maybe seeing Captain Marvel triggered the dreams. Maybe my brain is just weird and random.

I’ll report back on my WoW revisit after the weekend. I expect minor shenanigans at best.

Spring 2019: Now with extra spring

As I type this it is currently 15°C and sunny. The temperature is higher than the seasonal norm and the season–officially Spring as of today–has debuted in spectacular fashion. After a good six weeks of below seasonal temperatures in the last month and a half of winter, this is welcome indeed.

Flowers are flowering, trees are budding and people are already getting sun burns. It’s great.

Cooler, more seasonal temperatures and showers are forecast for next week, but for now we bask in the glory of an early spring, the restorative powers of the sun providing an extra boost to the trials of a typical work day.

The five days later treadmill run

In which I feel it a little more than last time, but stay on-track for the full 25 minutes.

This time the timer was set to the standard 30 minutes, so I got the cooldown at the expected 25 minute mark. Unlike Thursday’s run, I did not particularly get a second wind tonight, and I also supped from my water bottle several times during the run. Still, I ran the full 25 minutes, then walked during the five-minute cooldown. I stop tracking the run when the cooldown begins, so the pace doesn’t get thrown off by all the lazy walking.

My BPM was slightly higher at 155, but that was because I was working harder–my average pace dropped from 6:16/km to 6:11/km. You may wonder how you improve your pace on a treadmill that moves at the same speed for the entire time. So do I, a little. Really, though, it’s easy to recognize when I’m over or under-performing. Under performing = moving farther back on the treadmill. Over-performing = running into the grips at the front. I did a bit of both tonight.

Overall, though, an effort I am happy with, and no issues to note.

Stats (note the 2+ minutes difference in time vs. the last run):

Distance: 4.01 km (4.39)
Time: 24:50 (27:34)
Average pace: 6:11/km (6:16/km)
BPM: 155 (153)
Calories: 283 (297)
Total treadmill distance: 38.54 km

Photo of the Day, March 19, 2019

Urban treehouse on Main Street. Seriously, this is just weird. The area around the bottom of the pillars is a nice park-like place with boardwalks and water, though. Also note that one of the pillars–but only one–looks like a tree trunk.

Today I did not wear my winter coat

Today was the first day this year I did not wear my winter jacket to work. It was 21ºC when I got home, according to Weather Underground.

It was nice.