In no particular order

This isn’t a real post.

Lately, I’ve been trying to make my Friday posts more informative or generally useful, so that this blog of mine isn’t solely a collection of barely-coherent, stream-of-consciousness rants. And I’ve got one of those posts ready to go, but this week? Enough random things have irked me that writing a barely-coherent, stream-of-consciousness rant seems like exactly the sort of thing I need right now.

So without further ado, and in no particular order…

Social media sucks.

Twitter and Facebook have both become that weird uncle your parents warned you about. They’ve never been particularly good, per se, but over the last year they’ve really devolved.

I’d do away with them altogether (and actually have, in past), but the simple, hideous fact of the matter is this: if you have any pretensions at all of running a business in this, the year 2017, you need to be on social media. Sure, you might be able to get by without it, but those who use it are provably better off.

This sucks, of course, but it’s reality. We can (and perhaps should) work to change that reality, but we have to work with reality as it actually is in the meantime. And so, Monday through Friday, I’m on the socials.

The weekends, though, I’m taking off.

It’s my way of separating my needs as an alleged professional something or other, from my needs as a thinking and feeling human being.

Updates suck.

I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom on my phone for a couple of months now, and have been reasonably happy with it. It crashed a bit more often than I’d like, but each incremental update (about one every couple of weeks) has improved its stability. As of a week ago, it hardly crashed at all, and was just about perfect.

So, of course, Adobe went and turned it inside out with the big, 2018 update to their Creative Cloud suite. Now it’s called “Lightroom CC,” and it’s gone back to being crash-happy.

Eff. Emm. Ell.

I suck.

Despite the ongoing process of boiling down all of my priorities to the bare minimum, and focusing on what’s really important to me, I still feel like I’m missing the mark somehow. More specifically, it’s still rare that I go to bed thinking I made the best possible use of my day.

I can accept that, a bit, because I’m still not done cleaning house. But…I’d hoped to start feeling the effects of my new, “efficient” life choices by now.

I mean, think about it this way: you’re carrying a hundred pounds of crap for a while, finally decide to drop fifty, and…the weight feels no different? It’s not a perfect analogy, to be sure, but it works well enough. I don’t feel significantly more productive, though I do feel a little less stress.

Basically, this whole paring-down process has kind of been anti-climactic.

That said, though, I’m mostly doing okay. So I don’t really think I suck, as this section’s heading claims. I just sort of wanted to keep the “_____ sucks” theme going.

Enjoy your weekend.

A Requiem for Amateur Radio

Electronics have always fascinated me. Not electronic gadgets themselves (those usually just irritate me), but the engineering and design behind them.

The how of their circuits, more than the what.

I took a very basic electronics course in high school, but until a few years ago, I hadn’t felt a need to really dig into circuit theory and understand how it all works.

And when that need struck, I decided the best “excuse” I could have to learn and practice this stuff, was to get an amateur or “ham” radio license.

There’s a huge number of ham radio enthusiasts who get their kicks from designing, building, and operating their own equipment. And there’s an equally-huge body of free or cheaply-obtained documentation and “HOW-TOs” out there, many of which will teach you the theory, and walk you through practical projects.

So, I studied up, took a couple of exams, and obtained my license. I also started hanging out with a local ham radio club filled with friendly and helpful people. Unfortunately, within a few months of obtaining my license, I learned there was a flaw in my plan: doing electronics, particularly radio-frequency stuff, is crazy expensive.

This sounds strange, at first, since if you search about online, you’ll see a plethora of detailed plans and parts lists for simple radios you can build for around five bucks worth of components. You can even get full-fledged kits with all the components and boards you need, starting at around fifteen bucks.

And that all sounds super cheap. The problem, though, is you need tools. Tools like a soldering iron. And an oscilloscope. Oh, and a spectrum analyzer would super helpful. Or you can use a fully-assembled, factory-built radio for testing.

Oh, you do have a well-lit, well-ventilated work area large enough to accommodate all of these things, don’t you?

As the months wore on, and I learned more and more about radio-frequency electronics, I also learned that those five dollar projects really only cost five dollars if you already had a twenty-thousand-dollar electronics lab.

So that sucked.

Still, I never really gave up thinking about it as a hobby. I kept it up on a high shelf of my mind, and every once and a while I’d take it down, dust it off, and see if there was a way to make it work. Then I’d put it back on the shelf for another day.

Now, though, I think it’s time to just pack it up and throw it in permanent storage. It’s an interest that might have made sense once, but I can’t see me doing anything at all with it now, even if I did have a spare $20,000 laying around.

Besides, given the luck I have with technology, I’d probably end up burning my house down anyway.

Wherein I Say “Goodbye” to Linux

Last weekend, I officially bid Linux “adieu,” and installed Windows 10 on my laptop. And while this may not seem like a big deal to you, it’s a fairly significant milestone in my life.

Since ’96 or ’97, I have always had at least one computer running some derivative of UNIX. And since about 2002, that’s meant a GNU/Linux distribution. Well, there was that year I owned a Mac Mini, but the less said about that the better.

Twenty years of Emacs, binutils, and a shell that made sense. But also twenty years of hardware woes, incompatible file formats, and moving-target user interfaces.

Well, things change.

My level of patience, for one.

I have a six-month-old Canon printer in the other room which only barely works under Linux.

Half the time, I have to power cycle both the printer and my laptop to get it to work, and Linux has not once condescended to allow any other computer in the house to even see it.

My printer is also rumored to be a scanner, but anyone who has ever gotten a scanner working under Linux should probably be burned as a witch.

And yes, I’m sure there are solutions to these printer/scanner issues, just as I’m sure there are solutions to all of the dozens of problems—both big and small—which have plagued me for years.

But that’s just it: we’re talking years. Twenty of them.

And after twenty years of reading HOW-TOs, digging through mailing list archives, and suffering through “helpful” advice like “switch distros” whenever something’s broken, I just want to plug a printer into my computer and have it work right the first time.

So, over the last few months, I weened myself off of all those things I’ve used Linux for, and last weekend I pulled the trigger.

I’ll miss the good things a nerd-friendly OS gives you. The lack of Emacs alone is something my therapist and I will probably be talking about for some time. I’ll cope, though.

And my printer will work.

The Dark Misery of Tech

Everything sucks, it’s a miracle anything works, and I think we should all take a moment to seriously consider setting our every scrap of technology on fire and heading back up into the trees.

I got up this morning with the best of intentions—get an hour of writing done, maybe spend an hour organizing my growing collection of photos in Lightroom, then get outside to enjoy the weather. I really, really, really just wanted to do the bare minimum amount of work to assuage my guilt, then blow off the rest of the day with my daughter.

But no.


Instead, I had to spend that hour or two dealing with a bunch of computer bullshit, and a tech support person I could barely hear over the phone.

What the hell were we thinking, turning our lives and livelihoods over to these poorly-understood, frequently-dysfunctional, little black boxes?

What was I thinking?