Adventures in NOT buying things

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I’ve been thinking about external storage for the last few days, for our iOS devices. When we bought my wife’s iPhone XS Max, we made the mistake of going for the 64 GB option. Pretty soon, tired of a filled-to-the-brim phone, she opted for Apple’s 50GB iCloud solution, priced at $1/mo, to both backup her photos and to shut up Apple’s continuous prompts about a full iCloud.

This solution has been serving her well. Somehow, her photo storage needs have landed at about a 100 GB, which sits well between her phone and the cloud.

But more and more, I’ve been thinking that I want to get rid of the dollar a month charge. For that, the obvious way would be to have daily backups and cleanup, but the question becomes, “to what?”

Dropbox seems like an obvious choice. So does OneDrive. But there’s something irksome about cloud storage. It feels like a gambit – these cloud providers want more of your money, and getting us hooked on Dropbox’s initial awesomeness and then baiting-and-switching to the shitty version of the company they’ve become leaves just an odd taste in my mouth.

So I started thinking of some sort of hardware solution. Many companies have come and gone (see pogoplug), but there’s a product from a few years ago that instantly popped into my mind – the SanDisk iXpand flash drive. This is a little widget that connects to your iPhone through a lighting connector and sucks out all your photos. Compared to when I first saw it, the pricing seems affordable now – 256 GB sets you back $60. The device is actually pretty neat because the other end is a USB-A port, so you can plug it into your computer when it’s time to backup your backups.

But then I started thinking – maybe 256 GB is enough, but the lightning port certainly is not. What if I move to Android one day? Or Apple dumps this port for a USB-C in the future? That’s what freezes me – the what-ifs. Instead of living (and spending) in the now, I worry that my choices might be proven wrong in the future.

So I started looking for wireless storage devices, the kind that can connect through wifi and an app, and work with a majority of devices. First hit – LaCie FUEL 1TB – for $136 on Amazon. Holy crabapples! Twice the price and 4x the storage? Ridiculous! The second result? WD 4TB My Passport Wireless Pro for $190. Oof. I need to do more research! What if I opt for the 4 TB and just around the corner (on the second page of the search results) is a 12 TB one for just a bit more? Storage is a strange world.

These external storage options aren’t without their issues though – sometimes their apps haven’t been updated in a few years, meaning they don’t support new features or even new iOS versions. Most of the apps I looked at (WD My Cloud Home being one) don’t seem to support background uploading. Google Photos and Dropbox can upload your photos to the cloud when charging, but WD has trouble uploading to the HDD sitting next to your phone. Cool.

So, once again, I’m frozen. I know the iXpand is not the best solution. The market has moved on, there is more storage available for a better price, and the future-proofing aspect of using wireless just makes sense.

But there’s one more weird thing at the back of my mind – why fix something that isn’t broken? If my wife’s current storage needs are met at $12/year, then why spend upwards of a hundred dollars to solve it in a worse way (if background uploads don’t work). If I just tell myself that I’m paying $1/month for “external storage”, I’m a much happier person. Aren’t I?

Do you, dear reader, use any external wireless mobile storage? Which one? Are you happy with it? What quirks does it have?

Refreshing my RSS feeds list

Welp, I’ve done it this time. I was fiddling with some settings in my current feed reader of choice – Fiery Feeds – and I hit a sync button that’s meant to download everything from iCloud and rebuild the database. Turns out, iCloud is, as usual, not good at actually saving important data. Part of this is my fault. I have had some 14,000 unread items in there, and about 900 feeds. Sync would often time out and almost never complete.

So I lost all my feeds. As I stared at it dumbly, waiting for the feeds to come back, a calm came over me. This is what inbox zero feels like. When, after multiple forced syncs later, nothing happened, I was relieved.

I thought about it. The last OPML export I have is from December of 2019. I’ve added maybe 20 feeds since then, which are now lost. If I import the OPML, I’ll get back my starred items and general state, but I’ll not get back the calm.

So, I’ve decided to do an overhaul of my feeds. I know a lot of sites I’ve subscribed to either don’t exist any more, or haven’t updated in a while. So it’s time to shed the load.

Working through this large an OPML file is a chore. First, I tried to do it manually. Too much work. Then I tried to find tools to help. I found a six year old github repo to find dead feeds. It found a few, but mostly got it wrong. Instead, I’ve imported the OPML to my Firefox LiveMarks extension. It’s not the perfect solution, but at least I’m able to go through the list faster and cull it satisfactorily.

Other than the feeds that are dead, I’m also striving to shed some weight. At some point, I subbed to some GTD and Productivity feeds. Deleted those. It’s no longer my area of interest. Older still are feeds related to Network Engineering. It’s what my MS is in, but it’s no longer my main area of concern. So I’ve removed those. I’m also removing webcomics that haven’t been updated since mid-2019. There are quite a few of those. Frankly, it’s fine if the authors want to take a break. I, too, don’t update my blog often. But there are other ways for me to discover their content. Tapas and Instagram are doing a good job, so I’m going to lean on those for my comic needs. This doesn’t mean all webcomics are going away from my feeds. On the contrary, I’m keeping most of them, specially long-running stories that I follow keenly, like Gaia comic, and Slack Wyrm. But others are out.

At some point I also subscribed to a lot of programming related blogs. Those are nice navel-gazing, but ultimately worthless to me. I’m not a programmer, I’m a scripter. I’m not into deep programming concepts even on the languages that are my bread, butter, and jam – python and JavaScript. So for me to sub to serious computer scientists and programmers was a mistake then, and is a mistake now. It’s not that I won’t glean something off them, just that I don’t need to, right now.

This is tough work, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Recently, I found out that a friend has a very strict gate on who she follows on Instagram. She has a roster of 99 people and whenever she has to follow someone new, she forces herself to remove one person from the list. I’ve never, ever removed a feed from my list. This is the same list I’ve been carrying around since my first RSS feed reader – Fever – and some items are even carried forward from Google Reader. I’ve always thought that at best, the feeds that die are not much extra weight than some processing cycles, and at worst, the items I don’t read get deleted at the end of my 15 days, one month, two months, 90 days limit. That moving limit is part of the cause of all this trouble I’m in.

But the largest forcing function is my feed reader. Fiery Feeds is an awesome piece of software and Lukas Burgstaller is an exceptional dev, and a highly responsive support person. But I made a conscious choice at one point to move away from all server-side RSS feed services and use Fiery Feeds’ native, on-device accounts. I’m paying for the app because I love and want to support it, so I might as well use the biggest feature Lukas has introduced. But this on-device, synced-via-iCloud system has its drawbacks, and this means that I can’t be an ignorant buffoon about my feeds any more. I have to shed, cull, strip, whatever you want to call it.

One very interesting thing I’ve done over time is to use kill-the-newsletter.com to the best of its abilities. I do not like newsletters, but there’s a LOT of content that’s going to email newsletters exclusively nowadays, and that sucks. Kill The Newsletter converts these emails to RSS feed items. It’s not a perfect solution, specially since it’s a bit of a blackbox, but it works just fine for now and it’s FOSS, so I’m happy. So, these are a guilty pleasure I’m not getting rid of. We’ll see how this decision pans out. Maybe I’ll have to figure out a way to merge all newsletters into one RSS feed. Or use a dedicated app to read newsletters on my iPhone. There are a few of those out there now.

All in all, this is an exercise in refreshing and rethinking what I consume online. Hopefully, it’ll lead to a better feed reading experience for me.

How to use nmap to ping scan which IPs are up in a subnet

TL/DR –

nmap -sP 192.168.10.0/24

Source – How to Scan an IP Network Range with NMAP

Story –

I love Angry IP Scanner for all my ping check needs. It’s nice, simple, and fast. But I like it mainly because I’ve used it since a very long time, and because it’s maintained by a guy named angryziber (get it? An Angry Zebra?)

But today, when I tried to install it on my Mac, it threw an error that I need to install JDK. Java. No.

So, I need a new way to pingscan. Turns out, angry IP is primarily a simplification of nmap. Since I’m more CLI than GUI nowadays, that fits perfectly. Also, shot in the dark – I didn’t have nmap installed on my mac, so I just did –

brew install nmap

and that worked! I’m a little surprised that it did, but that’s the power of homebrew, I guess.

Further, I’m surprised at how versatile nmap is when it comes to IP range input. You can do any of the following, they all work!

nmap -sP 192.168.10.0/24
nmap -sP 192.168.10.0-10
nmap -sP 192.168.10.1 192.168.10.2 192.168.10.3
nmap -sP 192.168.10.*

Cool discovery of the day. If only the IPs I scanned had any free IPs, I’d be on my way! Alright, back to work.

Things the YouTube Apple TV app needs to improve

black remote control

Just a short list of things that’s wrong with the Apple TV YouTube app –

1. Every time you pause and play a video the entire video interface comes up and doesn’t go away for a good ten seconds. Users have to hit the back button to get rid of that shitty interface. Learning this behavior is bad, because NO OTHER app does this and then the reinforced behavior causes a lot of headache when using other, better apps.

2. There’s no fast switching between user profiles. This is true for other apps as well, but particularly needed for YouTube, where since a very long time we’ll all had separate profiles and thus the algorithm has learnt to show us different things. Going from one profile to another is just irritatingly long a process.

3. There’s no way to quickly refresh the recommendations the algorithm throws at us. There are some recommendations that we get shown for days at end, and we have to just watch the video to get rid of it. There needs to be a clear refresh button that just washes the slate clean.

4. There’s no “Live” section. In today’s day and age, there are a LOT of livestreams going on and we’d like to see them. Right now, the only way you can see them is if you search for them with the keyword “live” and hope to see it in the results, or if the algorithm shows them to you. There’s a section for “gaming”, which we NEVER see, but clearly they’ve not made the sections “learnable”.

5. When you’re watching a video and you want to interact with the “interface”, you can’t pause the video and interact with it. As soon as you move your cursor, the video starts playing. This is highly unwieldy.

6. Their end-of-video interface is shit. SOOOO many videos have content all the way till the end, but they wash over the last ten or fifteen seconds with the “in-video links”, thereby destroying my ability to see the content all the way to the end. This also creates a learning for channel owners to add a goodbye template at the end, which major news channels do, but this is not a good learning for when you’re watching a video on mobile or desktop. So for YouTube to do this, just focusing on Apple TV, is terrible!

There are some good things too –

1. The keyword search is epic. Much better than other apps and well integrated into the Apple TV search by voice model (here’s looking at your shitty search HBO). Though I’d like for the search to be deeper, with more sections to separate the searched content as “Live”, “popular”, “recent”, etc.

2. They’ve finally added a quick button to access the Channel from the video interface, but they’ve hidden the like/dislike buttons behind the “additional options” section in the video interface. This is, I guess, a move to trust the algorithm more, but it’s terrible, because I’d LOVE to downvote some videos after watching them.

3. The algorithm is actually doing well in recommending similar content over time. Not in the immediate instance, but over time.

That’s all for now. If you’ve been watching the news, you know that the police in the US has been attacking and arresting peaceful protestors all over the country, so please consider donating to the National Bail Fund Network here.

Who cares for you on the Internet?

I saw a post about VSCO on Colin Devroe’s Blog and it got me thinking about how awesome it is that services like VSCO and MicroBlog are finally dropping chasing mainstream social networks and just going their way. They proudly proclaim that if you want better social networks, more support, and good features, please pay up.

It’s not just where innovation will happen, but also where users will be happier and developers more satisfied. There is always the threat of the whims of the developers taking over the wishes of the users, but it’s not as if Google, Facebook, and Twitter have helplines you can call to give suggestions and understand their policies. So it’s either the whims of large corporations with strange and often lopsided goals or the whims of people more closer to earth.

It’s also in line with the trends of newsletters and blogs going paid, and Patreon taking over the creative process. All of this shows these segments maturing.

It’s like with forums on the previous iteration of the Internet – first they started off with free and then became paid and closed and in many ways, that was great.

People often look at the iOS App Store as a success story when it went from free apps to paid, to freemium, to ad-based, to finally subscriptions. It’s not just that subscriptions are more sustainable, but that they mean that the people on the other end are more cognizant of your time and value.

Money changing hands somehow adds value to the relationship online. This is good. But it’s not just that. It’s also about these little players just giving up on the constantly changing aims of big players and signaling to users – “they don’t have their best interests in mind; we do. We care, they don’t. Who would you rather be with?”

The Open Web can learn comment moderation from Instagram

Instagram

Starting today, you can protect your account from unwanted interactions with a new feature called Restrict. Bullying is a complex issue, and we know that young people face a disproportionate amount…

Source: Empowering Our Community to Stand up to Bullying – Instagram

 

Bullying is about power and perception. When someone cyberbullies you, the idea that other people can see the comments and choose to ignore them, which makes bullying banal, or even someone else’s comedy, that idea is sometimes more hurtful than the comments themselves.

What’s interesting to me is that Restrict is a rehashing of a system that has existed since forever on the Open Web – comment moderation. The ability for a blog to not show a person’s comments has existed forever, and due to the lack of transparency and user-feedback in companies like Facebook and Google, has largely been ignored until they get to it.

However, Restrict is an improvement, depending on how they’ve implemented it. In blog comment moderation, the bully/poster sees and knows that their comment is under moderation. This gives them cause to go and continue their bullying on some other platform.

Restrict seems to make it so that the bully will not find out they are under review. This is a powerful tool, because the perception for the bully will be that other people saw their comment and ignored it, thereby removing the feedback loop that pushes them to bully more. Simultaneously, for the bullied, it will tell their subconscious that their community has not abandoned them in favor of the bully, because the community can’t even see the bully’s comments.

If this is how it’s implemented, and if it is successful, I’d say this is a good thing for the Open Web and for comment systems like Disqus and WordPress to also implement. Taking power from the bully means letting them think that their ‘hot takes’ have been ignored by bystanders. In this case, perception is power, and the bullied should be able to wield it.

Magzter Gold vs Apple News+

Today, I got an email from Magzter, a digital magazine subscription service, telling me of their Magzter Gold service, which, for $100/year, gives me access to more than five thousand magazines. The offer is that instead of a cool hundred, you can get the subscription for half off for the first year.

When I looked at the email, I balked.

Last year, I ran an experiment. I signed up for quite a few paper magazine subscriptions, through DiscountMags, a service that gives us huge discounts on physical magazines, in exchange for yearly subscriptions. I set myself an upper limit of $100 arbitrarily, and wanted to see how many magazines I could subscribe to, and how many I actually read out of them. I stopped at $60, because most of the magazines I saw at the QFC checkout stand and felt like I wanted to read were no more than a couple bucks for the yearly subscription, while their retail prices were well over ten bucks per issue.

I got all the big ones – NatGeo, Forbes, Vogue, Wired, Vanity Fair, and some trashy mags too, for good measure.

I read almost none of them. A few articles here or there, which I was aware of, or some covers that pulled me in. But other than that, each magazine was a mess of ads, pop-out ads, subscription offers for other magazines, and sponsored posts. Finding the content was a pain. Comparatively, with RSS feeds, I can find relevant articles in a few seconds, and just dive into reading it instead of flipping pages.

So when Apple News+ came along at some point, and my brother raved about it, I said I’ll pass. It’d be the same crap all over again.

But then I see this Magzter offer, and I’m thinking about this world again. Digital magazines are easier to navigate than paper, but only if they’ve been built to be so. If you’re an Apple News+ user, you might have noticed that each magazine is a different style, some letting you bounce around, and giving you dedicated views for articles, while others looking like a literal PDF imported into the app. That’s because they are.

Apple News+ is not a new service. Apple acquired a company called Texture (or rather, it’s parent company Next Issue Media) to build their portfolio, and these companies – Next Issue, Magzter, Readly – they all give huge amounts of creative control to the magazine owners to show their content how they want to, within certain bounds. So while some companies have put in the money to create digital versions of their content, a lot of them just can’t be bothered.

Which is why, when you look at offers such as Magzter’s half off for the first year, or Readly’s first month for a buck, you might want to go for it. Recently, I finally let myself be convinced to get Apple News+ through family sharing. I’m not a fan of Apple’s family sharing implementation, but they’ve been getting better at it. So I finally got a look at Apple News+ and realized that at $10/mo, it’s not really anything different than what the other services are offering.

Apple News is pretty well integrated with iOS, with Apple letting you share links to articles that open directly in the News app. But when you share a News+ link, it mostly ends up opening just the magazine instead of the exact article you want to share. So that integration really doesn’t go anywhere.

Apple has done some work on the News app interface, making it snappier, but when the crux of the interface sits with the content, and your content providers are magazine dinosaurs, there’s no hope there. No matter what Apple does, they’re beholden to the likes of American Media and Future PLC for the content, and while sometimes they move to make things better, don’t expect them to embrace digital journalism with gusto.

At that point, each of these services has done a good enough job, supporting multiple platforms (Apple News+ is the only one in the space that doesn’t have an Android app), giving you a solid interface, and constantly updating their features to make magazine reading just a little bit saner.

If you’re thinking about Apple News+, or have a subscription to it, just know that you’re paying $120 a year for something you could be getting at $50 through Magzter Gold.

A few days with the Echo Auto

I got the chance to buy the new Echo Auto from Amazon recently. I could only order one, so I’m playing with it now and will pass it on to my brother soon.

Some thoughts on this new product from Amazon –

1. Terrible packaging – Amazon has this idea of basic packaging for their products. I was recently in the Amazon 4-Star Store in Seattle and noticed that they’re selling their Kindle Paperwhite in an blue (cardboard? paper?) box with bare-minimum packaging. This is both great, because we’re reducing waste, and terrible, because the overall experience is cheap for a >$100 product. The same is true for the Echo Auto. It came in a black box that barely fit the product, charging setup, and a booklet as cozily as possible. The unboxing experience was not impressive.

2. Not-so-good setup, partly because of the app and partly because of Bluetooth – The Amazon Alexa app is your be-all for the Echo line of products. I updated the app before trying to connect the Echo Auto with it and the setup experience was meh. The app is janky and does an OK job of connecting with the device. The problem for me was two-fold – first, the idea that the Echo Auto doesn’t directly connect with the bluetooth of the car, but goes through the app. This has the effect that if you’re in an underground parking, or if your phone has killed the backgrounded app, the Echo Auto gives you an impolite beep as soon as the Accessories come on in your car, to tell you that the Echo Auto has lost the connection with the app and whenever you can, you should start the app so that the process can be completed. I park in an underground parking. This happens every, single, time. This dependence is a boon, because you’re not buying a data plan for yet another product, and you’re not constantly worried about an expensive product being stolen from your car, and because somehow, apps like Spotify work perfectly through this setup, but the impatience shown by the device to connect to its conduit is irritating. The second issue is that BMW doesn’t seem to have a good bluetooth vendor. Their bluetooth is one of the worst I’ve ever used in a car. But hey, this is a post about the Echo Auto, so let’s focus on that.

3. The wait for the beep is funny – when I setup the Echo Auto, the setup explained that I must wait for the beep of the device before I give it a command. So I followed the instructions – Say “Alexa”, wait for a few seconds for the beep, and then give it a command. Nope, not worth it. I have first gen Echo Dots and Google Home Minis and they launch a lot faster than this! I guess this has to do with the device first confirming that the connection with the app is present, and then letting me give it a command. But here’s the thing – after only the first few commands, I stopped waiting for the beep, and lo and behold, it still works! So even if you don’t wait for the beep, the Echo Auto passes everything you say to the app and understands the command. This is both great, and weird. If it starts recording as soon as you say the magic word, then the beep is nothing more than an unnecessary audio feedback, specially since the device also lights up LED to confirm that it’s listening. If this is about a11y, give me the option to turn off the beep.

4. It listens to any Alexa word on sentence – It seems like the Echo Auto doesn’t have a filter for conversations. I can be talking about Alexa in a sentence and the Echo Dots don’t pick it up, but the Echo Auto does, and then complains loudly when it doesn’t understand the command that I didn’t give to it. It’s a first gen Echo Auto, so these are issues that can be ironed out, but it’s not a first gen Echo, so these issues shouldn’t exist to begin with.

5. The air vent is dumb. Just dumb. – When I got the package, it came in a typical Amazon yellow jacket, with not one but two things in it. The Echo Auto in a black box, and the Echo Auto air vent mount, in a blue box. This $15 accessory came free, and I set it up, and took it down within a day. First of all, all air vent mounts are dumb. If I’ve got a thousand dollar phone on an air vent, and it’s freezing cold outside, my expensive phone is being blasted with super hot air on its back. That is NOT how you treat your electronics. So I have it out against air vent mounts in general. On top of this, the wiring is just ugly and inconvenient. I understand that the Echo Auto needs to be in a place where it’s easy to use, and centrally located to hear all voices, and should not cause the driver to move their eyes off the road, but instead of the air vent, I just placed it next to the BMW media controls and it felt just right over there. A weak 3M adhesive strip would work wonders, but even that is not needed, as the USB power cord can just be reeled in and used as a leash for the Echo Auto. So Amazon, thanks for the $15 freebie, but it’s useless.

Overall, the Echo Auto is an interesting product. It conquers the one place Amazon hasn’t fully reached yet – your privacy in your car. It works great with apps and services that the Echo line has tied up well with – ask it for the news, or tell it to change music on Spotify, and, thanks basically to Spotify’s absurdly good API, it all works smoothly. But the device itself is jerky. It’s dependence on your phone, its imperfect listening skills, all need an update. So if you want to play with it, sure, go for it, but maybe wait for v2 or v3 to come along.

I give it two out of five stars.

Four years with the Apple Watch

Recently, I completed four years of owning the Apple Watch, and today, my watch told me that I’m 75% of the way to completing a thousand move goals.

I think it’s a good time to talk about the Apple Watch. I own the original, first-gen, Series Zero, the one that doesn’t support the latest WatchOS, and doesn’t calculate resting heart rate, because, according to Apple, it doesn’t have the battery to support that function. But that’s OK. I can’t miss something I’ve never had.

Very soon into owning the Apple Watch, I knew I had to make some compromises. Only a few days in, I had to turn off notifications for WhatsApp, because watchOS had no notion of grouping notifications. Progressive improvements may have made things better, but this year is anyways the year when I’ve sworn to remove as many notifications as possible from every device I own.

I also realized, as the watchOS version number increased as frequently as it did, that there is probably a hard stop to when my watch will no longer be supported. I think iOS 13 is that time. The watch might still work, but OS support will drop, apps will stop working, and eventually, Apple will kick this device to the curb. My next phone might not even support this elegant piece of hardware that I’ve strapped to myself for most of the last four years.

But till that happens, I can enjoy what I’ve got – the watch is pretty great at recording my calorie burn – I’ve compared it with OrangeTheory’s Mio Link devices and I can’t say whether that’s a testament to Mio Link or the Apple Watch. The watch is also great at notifications for things that are timely. Sometimes, I’ve noticed that when I’m intensely focused on something, I’ll ignore notifications, even though I’ve set them on the highest vibration. But other times, noticing a notification right as I need it is great!

Over time, I’ve removed apps and features from the watch. I used to let the Watch app install pretty much every iOS app’s corollary to the watch, but that’s just taking space, unnecessary processing, and battery. After removing all but the most essential apps, the battery life almost doubled for me. At this moment, I have a total of three third-party apps on the Watch, out of which one is for near-daily use, while the other two are purely for navel gazing.

Apple introduced some new features to the WatchOS at some point, including a feature called theater mode. The reasoning was that the watch would turn on at inconvenient times, say in the dark, when watching a movie, and this would prevent that. I have a few thoughts on that. First of all, within a few days of owning the watch, while on a walk, I tried to raise my wrist to wake the screen. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to work! Somehow, my walking was completely negating the action of raising my wrist. I had to hard stop to get the watch to work, and I wasn’t even walking fast, it was a leisurely stroll. Since that day, I’ve had this gripe – the Apple Watch needs to grow up and join other watches in letting me see the time any time of the day. Until that happens, until Apple launches an OLED version that includes always-on (something that is glaringly missing in the latest, most expensive iPhones ever), the Apple Watch is NOT a watch.

Secondly, what kind of execs and movie-goers work at Apple? What amount of gesticulating do you do in your average movie? Just wondering.

Lastly, Apple advertised the watch as being able to wake up 90 times in an 18 hour day. This is nice, specially since that’s far more than the number of times you probably actually look at the time on your watch. But all those times that the watch misfires because it didn’t read your intent correctly are lost chances, are they not? So instead of releasing theater mode, I’d much rather Apple work on improving battery life. Now that Mr. Thinner-than-before is out the door, maybe this will come to pass? (Incidentally, turning off raise-to-wake is one of the things recommended by blogs to improve your watch’s battery life, and frankly, that is a stupid and terrible idea. If you have to tap the device every, single, time, to look at the time, just use your iPhone.)

The Apple Watch is a great piece of technology, but there’s one more thing that irks me to this day – that the time is relegated to the side. I don’t know if this is a patent issue, or just a design philosophy, where the time is the time, but the other features are what are supposed to matter. But the fact that Apple embraces this idea that the digital watchface must put everything other than the time in the center is a far cry from what I expected the Apple Watch ethos to be.

This is not an ode to the Apple Watch, nor, hopefully, just a list of gripes. I love this watch. It’s got a simple set of features that matter to me, and the price is just right for something I’ve worn for four years and can continue wearing for another four at least. A few years ago, I wanted the milanese loop band pretty badly, so I bought one off Amazon for a couple bucks. You know, those ones that ship from China and take a couple weeks to get here. It was such a bad experience that I swore off third party bands completely, wearing only the original that came with the watch. Recently, I changed bands, and this new band, though it is a complete mismatch for the watch color, feels pretty great and sits well! I feel like I’ve given the watch a new lease of life, even though the original band still works perfectly and sits on my side-table, vacantly staring into the abyss.

There’s not much else to say about the Apple Watch at this time – the latest hardware features that Apple introduced – the larger screen, and the ECG, are novelties which I wouldn’t ‘upgrade’ for. If they introduce something like a glucose monitor, or, like, a thermometer – anything that enables an elevated level of idle introspection – then I’ll consider buying the next watch that comes out, and only when this one is all but dead.

Till that day, I charge it every day, even though nowadays the battery lasts me a day and a half (I’ve reduced animations on the watch, which greatly helped my sanity, and the battery), wear it every day, and still grumble when it dies on me mid-hikes. I wanted to write exclusively about the Apple Watch, without once mentioning traditional watches, but I want to say just one thing – I’ve seen this watch on almost every wrist lately – from service industry workers, to gig economy laborers, to bloggers, to world travelers. The Apple Watch is versatile, but maybe it’s still attractive only to those people who have always worn watches. After all, keeping track of time is not something everyone bothers with, is it?

Blog Experiments

I did two things this week regarding my blog –

  1. I read a lot on Instapaper, mostly non-fiction articles. I make a lot of notes and highlights and all of those come over to this blog. Why? Well, at some point I thought it would be a good idea to write articles based on my readings. It’s also a way of preserving all of those thoughts in case Instapaper some day goes kaput. But the fact that I have all of this text sitting in my blog, counting against my word count, and not contributing to my readership has been irritating me ever since I started the practice.

    A few days ago, I setup a new blog on WordPress – https://nitinsnotes.home.blog/ with the objective of posting everything there instead of here. If I can build a readership for the ideas and quotes I publish there, I figured, I can bring over the readers back to this blog eventually and grow the kind of things I write about.

    There’s only one problem – I read a lot of varied topics, but the one I write notes most about is politics. I’ve never been comfortable airing my views on politics. It was never taught to me to be overtly political, and the environment I’m in now doesn’t allow for many public mistakes. Whether this is a perceived threat or a real one, I do not care to find out.

    So, within a day of creating the blog, I’ve abandoned it. All my comments are still coming to this blog and hiding in plain site – they are only visible to logged in users. So if you’re curious as to what I write about, ask me and I’ll create an account for you on my blog and let you in. Otherwise, I’m happy writing those thoughts for myself for now.
  2. The other thing that happened was that I noticed that my blogs were running into some technical difficulties. I was not able to update plugins or open MySQL in the browser to take a look at it. Turns out, my VPS thinks it’s run out of space, despite the fact that I recently updates from a 20 GB node to a 50 GB one. I noticed that the /var/mail folder was choked up with thousands of files, and the ibdata1 file has overgrown. I cleared up the former with a nice ‘find -delete’ command, and for the former, I’ve got a script that takes the backup of all my blogs, deletes the ibdata1 file, and reups the backups to bring everything back online. In the end, it tells me how much space it saved me.

    The last time I ran this, maybe last year or so, I regained about 5 GB. So I ran it again. Turns out, I’ve updated my MySQL version somewhere in between and the thing completely broke, without giving me back my two blogs! Gulp!

    Luckily, I read through the script and recovered my blogs, without losing much uptime or any data. But this sort of thing is exactly what scares me. I’ve got scripts that take backups regularly, but it never feels enough.

    Regardless, has anyone else dealt with large ibdata1 files? What can I do about that? Also, I still don’t know why my system thought it’s run out of space. Maybe the sheer number of files in /var/mail? Due to the assumed lack of space, MySQL crashed and wouldn’t launch back up, until I deleted the mail folder’s contents. So I’m not sure I want to be in this situation again!