Six super powers that might not be so super: A short list

  • Flight: What if you had a fear of heights? Also, flying into electrical wires would be a constant hazard.
  • Super strength: Almost everything you could do (and pretty much anything fun) would get you charged/arrested or kicked out of some place.
  • Invisibility: A lot of stuff could suck if you’re invisible. You could have the type where only your body is invisible, so you’d have to run around naked to be unseen. Would not work well in the winter. Or if everything you touch also turns invisible, you’d never be able to check your watch for the time or use your smartphone. That could be an upside, too…
  • Telekinesis: Assuming you didn’t go full Carrie, the utility of this seems limited. You’d be a sort of living smart home device, able to turn on the stove or adjust the lights without having to touch anything.
  • Manipulating fire: You’d be a hit at barbecues and beach bonfires. Anywhere else, not so much. Also, probably really easy to accidentally burn down your house.
  • Super speed: Running into something would probably hurt a lot. Like, hurt you to death.

Fighting my Mac: Part 2 of an ongoing series

To be fair, this is more about fighting Logitech’s software, so the Mac is kind of off the hook for this one.

Even though I got the G703 mouse working in Part 1 I ended up moving it back permanently to the PC, mainly due to the hassle of plugging and unplugging the USB charging cable.

Instead, I switched over to a spare Logitech Marathon M705 mouse that I bought on sale “just in case.” And just in case has arrived!

It’s a nice mouse, has side buttons, works wirelessly, and has incredibly long battery life. Best of all, the Unifying receiver that plugs into any standard USB port is tiny. I plugged in said receiver and the mouse began working immediately…but with only the left, right and middle mouse buttons working (see Part 1 for more gruesome details on this).

However, the Logitech Unifying Software (LUS) would allow me to program all the buttons. All I had to do was flip the power button on the bottom of the mouse, flip it back on and wait for the LUS to detect it. Once detected, smiles all around.

Except this happened:

Undaunted, I turned to the tips hidden behind the Troubleshooting information button. This lead me to discover I had another unifying receiver and a not-unifying-but-still-Logitech receiver plugged into my PC. I removed those (the devices they were used for are long gone), but this made no difference. Another tip said to shut down any device that might be synced up to a receiver and I do have a Surface Pro 3 (in the bedroom) and a ThinkPad (to my immediate left). I may have used this mouse with one of them, but the knowledge is lost to the sand of time. Or the sands in my brain. The ThinkPad is currently installing a Windows update because that’s what Windows computers do, but when it’s done, I’ll shut it down. The SP3 is probably on the edge of where a receiver would reach, but I’ll also shut it down and see what happens. But not right now, because it’s getting late and my wrangling-with-technology timer just went DING.

I am not giving up hope, but am leaning toward needing a third party tool or divine intervention to get those precious mouse side buttons working.

I will update this post with a Part 2a soon™.

Fighting my Mac: Part 1 of an ongoing series

I’ve had a few days to acclimate to working with a Mac for an extended period of time. I normally use my MacBook Pro for an hour or so at most and haven’t spent a lot of time tweaking with its settings like I would a desktop computer. Now that I have a Mac mini, which indeed sits on my desktop, I’ve been diving into settings to make it work the way I want it to. The experience has been…interesting.

Today I am going to talk about one thing: mouse support.

Mouse support in macOS is bad. It’s like a lot of Apple’s mice in that regard. Bad hardware, meet bad software!

Here are some of the bad things:

  • No “snap to default button in dialogs” like in Windows
  • No automatic support for third or fourth mouse buttons
  • Even with some settings maxed out, the mouse still feels a bit sluggish compared to how it operates in Windows

While the first and third items on the list are either subjective or more “nice to have” features, supporting the side buttons on a mouse is pretty fundamental. It’s not 1985 anymore. Mice have more than one button.

I was not actually aware of this because most of my Mac experience has been using a keyboard or a trackpad. When I plugged in my wireless Logitech G703 mouse, it was instantly recognized and worked without any fuss. Yay. But then I discovered the two side buttons would not work. Or rather, they worked in weird ways. In Firefox, pressing Button 3 (the one normally assigned as Back) would result in the same action as pressing the middle mouse button, which is to produce a weird little circular symbol on screen that lets you scroll up and down by moving the mouse. It’s a feature that I’m pretty sure no one ever has ever used on purpose after scroll wheels became a thing.

A mini mouse crisis was now underway.

The Logitech Gaming Software (LGS) showed the buttons correctly mapped as Forward and Back, but the Mac remained unconvinced. I began to investigate using my well-honed Google skills. This led me to try third party tools like BetterTouchTool, which did indeed allow me to map the buttons the way I wanted–nay, the way nature intended! But I didn’t really want to use a separate program just to get the buttons to function the way they would in any sensible operating system. I poked around some more and found that Command-[ is a near-universal key command for Back.

I went into the LGS and assigned Button 3 to Command-[. After doing this the LGS software now showed the button labelled with the keyboard shortcut as seen below.

And at least for now, using the Back button on the mouse does just that–it goes back. It’s even working in Finder, which kind of surprises me.

Searching, testing and playing around with settings for this consumed a decent chunk of the evening. For something that works without any configuration needed at all in Windows. I’m not saying Windows is better. But in this case, Windows is way better.

Perhaps mouse support will be improved in macOS XI.

Snow business

I used to get irritated over snow. I even have a tag for this blog called damn snow. But now I just don’t care much about it and I have climate change to thank for it.

Let me explain.

The area around southwestern BC is temperate rain forest. This means it rarely gets too hot or too cold. But it does rain a lot. Like, for half the year a lot.

Except it doesn’t do that much anymore.

It used to be that winters were pretty mild—temperatures consistently above freezing—and we got lots of rain, days and weeks of unrelenting rain. You could almost smell the SAD coming off people as they glumly trudged around through one downpour after another, batting their umbrellas against one another on crowded sidewalks.

When we got snow, it was usually because it just got cold enough for it, meaning it was a heavy, wet snow. The cold wouldn’t last long. Sometimes it felt like minutes. And as the temperature rose, the snow would change to rain.

The rain would relentlessly pound away at the accumulated snow, making it into a slush sea and turning intersections into lakes, with the melting snow jamming up all the sewer drains. It made crossing the street a bit of an adventure. Not the good kind of adventure, though, the “Hey, my pants are soaked up to my knees” kind of adventure.

But for some time that hasn’t really happened. Now it’s more typical for snowfall to occur when it’s too cold to change to rain, and when the weather clears, it stays cold, so the snow melts slowly, instead of turning into vast oceans of slush under ceaseless sheets of rain. This is generally a nice change, because it is more pleasant to deal with slowly melting snow than slush rivers that swallow vehicles whole.

The downside is the snow can hang around a lot longer. I think back two years ago, to our last great snowpocalypse. I ran in the first week of December 2016. It snowed a few days later. No biggie, I think, I’ll miss a week while the snow melts away.

It did not melt. It snowed again. It snowed some more and we had a rare white Christmas. We had a white New Year’s Eve. A white Valentine’s Day. Every time the snow started to melt, another system would sweep in, and because it remained cold, it just piled on more snow.

It finally seemed that by early March the snow was going away for good—then it snowed yet again, making it three months where I could not run outside at my preferred locations because they were never not covered in hard-packed, icy snow.

That was a bit of a bummer. I adapted by running on treadmills instead. It hardly ever snows inside.

All of this is likely due to climate change. The winters here, usually mild and wet, are trending toward dry, with snow taking the place of rain. It’s not consistent, of course. This past December was wet and mild, but January was cooler and dry. Not cold—not until this past week, anyway— just dry instead of wet.

I can live with that. In fact, I like it. But I know it’s because the climate is changing and this is the new normal and the new normal is generally going to be Very Bad for humans and so I feel guilty for enjoying it.

But I still enjoy it.

So I no longer curse the damn snow, because while it can be more persistent than before, winters are overall a lot nicer than they used to be, even if it means we as a species are probably doomed. You take the good with the bad.

Photo of the Day, February 10, 2019

A few hours into the first big snow of the winter, as seen from the entrance to the condo building mid-Sunday afternoon.

Mysterious book recommendations

Today I got my daily newsletter from Kobo with the usual list of enticements for me to peruse, along with a section specifically tailored for me, based on my reading habits/purchase history. Two small issues, though.

First, “recos”? No one uses the word “recos.” Or no one should, anyway.

Second, two of the books appear to be mystery titles. Or rather, the books themselves are mysterious due to their rather generic depiction. I thought it was because they are obscure books that have no ebook covers, but they appear to have covers when you click the serenely blank exterior of each to find them on the Kobo site. (For the record, they are Britain and Victory in the Great War and a collection of essays called The White Album. I’m not entirely sure why either is on my list of recommendations, but I can sort of see the logic if I chase after it a bit.)

Anyway, I’m not going to buy any of the RECOS because I have a virtual pile of unread books that would reach to my chin without adding even more. No, that’s a lie. I will buy more books. Just not these specific ones. Probably.

A drawing per…month?

One of the things I did when making my resolutions for 2019 was lower the bar. In some cases I didn’t just lower the bar, I gently set it down on the ground. I wanted as little friction as possible to make progress, hoping the ease in doing so would provide sufficient psychological boost to push me beyond my terribly modest goals and reach for the sky, or at least something that requires me to stand on my toes.

One might make the argument that since I obviously know I’m trying to “trick myself” into improvement, it will never work. And that’s possible. But I like to think I’m at least willing to meet my brain halfway on this.

And so I am adding another resolution for the remaining 11 months of 2019: A drawing per month. Not one per week or day, just one every month–a modest goal that can be built on.

I have 20 days to keep pace going forward. Will I draw a blank (lol)? Find out on February 28! Or hopefully sooner. You never know.

Pigeons: 1, SkyTrain: 0

The SkyTrain was delayed a bit when I transferred to the Expo Line at Waterfront station this afternoon, something that is happening more frequently, though with no discernible pattern. But today’s delay was a little different.

There was a track intrusion alert at Commercial-Broadway station and SkyTrain staff had to hold all trains until they could verify that the track was not, in fact, being intruded upon. Tracks hate it when you intrude upon them.

As it turns out, the cause was pigeon poop. Yes, pigeon poop.

I refer to the newly-remodeled Commercial-Broadway station as The Aviary, because the large pillars, with upward-pointing clusters of lights that are part of the new platform, have proven extremely popular for roosting among the local pigeon population. They have since added spiky wires to most of the good perching spots, but the pigeons have not been fully dissuaded from hanging around. And like the best of us, pigeons must, from time to time, relieve themselves. Being pigeons, they do this wherever they are perched, which in this case, is above and around the just-opened Platform 5.

It was more likely an actual pigeon triggered the intrusion alert, though possibly apocryphal stories suggest it was the poop itself, perhaps plopping down directly on a sensor in the track from above. In any event, it’s remarkable how these silly birds have become such a problem for the transit system.

This Daily Hive story posted earlier today notes that they are using pigeon birth control to reduce the problem by literally reducing the number of pigeons (over time). Plus netting, spikes and a falcon for good measure, too.

For the moment, though, the pigeons clearly have the upper…wing.

Book review: Contagious

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a short book that feels a bit like a magazine article that got padded out, but it is accessible and both provides explanations for why things are popular, along with tips on how to make your own product/event/thing popular. It generally manages to not feel too much like a sales pitch.

While a lot of what Berger offers seems obvious when he explains it–people are more likely to remember something and share it (“go viral”) if the product is an inextricable part of the message you craft, rather than not being connected at all to an otherwise clever ad, for example–I was left feeling that you can do everything right and still not have your whatever-it-is catch on. Call it luck, karma, coincidence, or something else, it still seems that most products, stunts, messages and so on get put out to the public and die quiet deaths, no matter how carefully they have been created and nurtured to become successes.

Berger outlines the mnemonic STEPPS as the key to how things catch on: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value and Stories. Each makes sense. For example, we are by nature inclined to enjoy narratives, so a good story can be an effective way to transmit a message (one of the examples used is the story of the Trojan Horse and how it serves as a warning to be suspicious when an enemy turns friendly without cause). There is also some pop psychology fun in examining how easy it can be to manipulate people (line-ups = product good, no line-ups = product bad), but in a way it’s also a bit depressing to realize how much of everything we see and experience hasn’t just been made for us to enjoy, it’s been crafted in a calculated, even cynical way, to work on our emotions.

Although not especially revelatory, Contagious is a quick, easy read.

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