Addiction: A Cautionary Tale

Today’s post is all about addiction. You may remember last month I posted a plea asking for podcast recommendations. Well, you guys really came through! I listened to at least one podcast from every one of your suggestions, and as I searched for those I even added a few more that popped up in the searches and looked interesting. As a result I have added 22 new shows to my podcast lineup! And because I’m an obsessive freak when it comes to these things and seem to really enjoy listening to podcasts from many years ago (it’s like an oral history of geekdom!) I am going to listen to all of these podcasts from the beginning. That means I now have 1,287 individual podcasts to listen to! I will never want for podcasts again! Thank you!

Here comes the cautionary part of this tale: Today when I started to take my daily photos my phone told me I couldn’t take them anymore because of “insufficient space.” That’s never happened to me before, and I’ve gone on some pretty epic photo binges in the past (I also make sure to clear up my camera roll between binges). I checked my usage stats and it turns out my beloved podcasts are now taking up 36 GB of space. So, if you’re going to become a podcast addict like me, you may want to change your podcast settings so it doesn’t auto-download every episode you add to your player. I’m not 100% clear on what all those settings mean, but I’m pretty sure that as long as you’re within wi-fi range you can still listen to all those podcasts without them being downloaded to your player. Now excuse me while I go hit “remove download” on 1,287 podcasts.

Today’s photo also deals with addiction. I drink Coke. I drink A LOT of Coke. It helps keep the migraines away, I swear. I don’t know exactly how or why and I haven’t really bothered to look into it because Coke is delicious and I’m not complaining.

Staging and lighting: I decided to go for the kitchen counter this time. I pulled out all the empty Coke cans from the recycling basket (last emptied on Sunday) and piled them up behind a glass. The light sources are the overhead light in the kitchen (one of which is burnt out) and the under cabinet lights (which apparently need cleaning).

IMG_4585 IMG_4587 IMG_4588

For the Instagram photo I cropped out the outlet, used the little sun button which appears to be some sort of brightness/enhance tool, and used the Sierra filter with a border.

For the computer edit I cropped it, enhanced it, increased the exposure a bit, decreased the yellow a bit, and decreased the contrast until the badger on the glass showed up.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

I don’t know what exactly that sun button in Instagram does, but it sure did help the badger show up! I couldn’t really replicate it in iPhoto. I tried every single slider to see if any of them would help and the only one was the contrast. This was as far as I could get without the rest of the photo looking really washed out.

Tech Tuesday: Sometimes You Need More Wires to Go Wireless

For the record, I just made up “Tech Tuesday” ’cause it sounded cool. It’s not going to be a regular post or anything because frankly, I have no business commenting on techie stuff. I’m going to do it anyway though, just for today.

SO. Backups. Backups are important. Keeping a regular backup schedule for your computer is a good idea for so many reasons, not the least of which being it’s good to have just in case your computer gets stolen while you’re on vacation. Ahem.

However, your backups are only helpful if you actually do them. Equally important is making sure the external hard drive you’re backing up to is actually working properly. I was running into trouble with my backups on both of these points.

The old external hard drive that I used with my old (now stolen) laptop needs to be plugged into a power supply and connected to the laptop via USB port in order to work. It lives at my desk, where plugs are readily available and it’s less likely to be knocked over by a cat. The problem is, I rarely use my laptop at my desk. I prefer to work in front of the TV on a comfy couch or recliner, so if I want to back up my laptop I have to leave my laptop open and awake at my desk for an extended period of time.

Why awake, you ask? Well, because whenever the computer goes to sleep so does the external hard drive. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how to make it stop. It doesn’t seem to matter much anyway because even when the computer stays awake, the external hard drive has a tendency to fall asleep and interrupt the back up. I don’t think it’s ever fully completed a back up of my new laptop.

That made me very nervous, as it should. As soon as my tax return came in I decided to use it to buy a new external hard drive that would be more cooperative. I also decided that I should look for something that would perform wireless backups since I tend to roam around with my laptop so much. That Time Machine feature that saves a backup of your work every hour so you can retrieve stuff if you make a terrible mistake will only work if I’m actually connected to a back up drive while I work.

I went out and bought a LaCie CloudBox at the recommendation of the techie people at the techie store ($120). It was supposed to be easy to install, Mac-friendly, and wireless! Hooray!

Just hook this up and away we...wait a minute. Hook it up WHERE?

Just hook this up and away we…wait a minute. Hook it up WHERE?

As soon as I tried to install it though, I ran into a problem…the wireless external hard drive still needs to be wired to the wireless router…and the router was already full.

No vacancy.

Wireless router: No vacancy.

Every available plug was already in use. There was the cable going from the modem to the wireless router so that the router could connect to our internet.

If the modem had more than one plug we might be in business. But no. That would be too easy.

If the modem had more than one plug we might be in business. But no. That would be too easy.

Then there was the cable going from the wireless router to my sister’s ancient desktop computer which does not have wireless capabilities (shocking, I know). There was nowhere to plug in the wireless external hard drive.

Not having enough wires to use my wireless stuff is a maddening dilemma. I went back to the techie people at the techie store and told them of my plight. They told me I needed a “switch” ($35) and yet another cable ($22) in order to get everything to work together. So I bought a “switch” (which is seriously the most generically-named techie device I’ve ever encountered…that could describe so many things). For those of you counting along, this whole debacle cost me $177 (actually more like $193 after taxes, but other states may be more kind).

So many holes....

So many holes….

Once I got home I had a puzzle to put together. I had 4 cables to juggle and 5 devices that needed to be plugged in to things:

  • Sister’s desktop computer
  • modem
  • wireless router
  • external hard drive
  • “switch”

But what plugs into what? After studying the previous configuration and the manual for the “switch” extensively I took a stab at it and succeeded on the first try! If you’re ever in a similar position, let me try to explain what goes where…

Cable 1: goes from the computer to the switch

Cable 2: goes from the switch to the external hard drive

Cable 3: goes from the switch to the wireless router

Cable 4: goes from the wireless router to the modem

In summary, if you’re planning on going wireless, prepare to deal with a bunch of wires and have a sort of “base station” where you keep all of your wireless devices wired together. Maybe one day the techie people will figure out how to make things actually wireless and we can avoid all this crap.

Now back to your regularly scheduled knitting posts.

How My Sister Saved My Hands

Way back in December I had to take a break from blogging because my hands were hurting. I blamed the new laptop since that was the only new activity my hands had been engaged in. At the time I thought my hand posture was to blame, and I took some photos of my hand interacting with the trackpad to see if I could spot any problems.

one finger clicking

one finger clicking

Here is a top view of the one finger click.

IMG_9569

And here is the side view. This motion involved pressing down on the trackpad with a single finger (usually my index finger). The sharpest pain I was experiencing was in every joint of my index finger, so I suspected this motion could be the culprit.

Another motion I performed quite a bit, mostly during photo editing, was the click-and-drag.

click and drag

click-and-drag

Here is the top view of the click-and-drag.

IMG_9572

And here is the side view. Some other areas where I was experiencing pain were a little less obvious. My middle finger joints also had some pain, though not as much as the index finger. My wrist was hurting, but not in the usual areas that get fatigued from knitting too long. Also, my forearm was sore. After much trial and error of moving my hands and fingers around trying to pinpoint the motions that triggered the most pain, the click-and-drag seemed to be the likeliest suspect.

After reviewing the photos, I concluded that I really need to trim my nails. I tried clicking with my finger positioned more vertical to the trackpad, which my long fingernails prevented me from doing before. That only seemed to make the middle joint of my finger hurt worse than the first joint. Other than that, I really couldn’t find any other positions that would still perform the functions I needed.

The next time I was in the Apple store I asked if there was any way to solve my ergonomics problem. Their only suggestion was to get a graphics tablet. Like I have an extra $300 lying around.

After that I tried limiting the amount of time I spent on the computer, paying particular attention to anything that required a lot of clicking. This meant I couldn’t do photo editing for more than 5 minutes at a time. Considering how much photo editing I needed to do, this was a PROBLEM.

Finally, I borrowed my sister’s Wacom Intuos tablet (I have no idea which version this is, but it’s at least 4 years old) so I could get some serious editing done.

IMG_1005

Since my sister spends all day every day on her computer and has long since forgotten how to use a mouse, I assured her that I would limit my use of her tablet. I just performed the most taxing function in photo editing – cropping. It’s the click-and-drag on steroids. Unfortunately I had over 1,000 photos to work through, so it still took quite a while.

It was a little awkward to use on my lap, but most of the time I really can’t be bothered to do anything at the desk – there’s no TV there! – so I made it work. The software didn’t work with my Mac, so all it really did was make the clicks and click-and-drag motions easier on my hands. I still had to reach up to the keyboard to perform some of the editing functions. The newer Wacom tablets supposedly do work with Macs, so if I got a tablet for myself this wouldn’t be an issue. Sadly, I still have not found an extra $300 or so lying around.

In the process of trying to get the tablet set up on my computer I discovered something in the system preferences that the Apple store employees really should have mentioned when I asked about this months ago: I can adjust the trackpad settings so I can just tap to click! Instead of pressing down with the full force of my finger, I can just tap on the trackpad. Waaaaay easier on my hands! It still doesn’t solve the click-and-drag problem, but at least with the discovery of the tap-to-click setting it has made it so I can do small-batch photo editing (about 20 minutes at a time) without the graphics tablet. I suppose I can just keep stealing my sister’s tablet for larger batches. Preferably when she’s sleeping.

Progress!

I’ve been quiet lately, which means I’ve been busy. Unfortunately the things I’ve been busy doing aren’t very interesting so I’ll spare you the details. Lots of the doing has involved things I’ve already blogged about, and much progress has been made.

  1. The iPhone is now my bitch. It has been replaced, wi-fi is working, and Siri and I seem to be on the same page.
  2. There is an end in sight for the Endless Ends. I only have 8 more yarn tails to weave in! Then I need to block it…
  3. I am nearly done figuring out how to use all the programs on my MacBook. I have an iTunes lesson on Friday, and then I can finally leave the poor Apple employees alone for a while.
  4. I cleaned my room and have my light box set up again, which means I can slowly start working through my backlog of yarn and project photography.
  5. All of my needle felting supplies have finally arrived, so now I can start felting all of the fun toys my Indiegogo contributors have requested!
  6. I exercised! Twice! OK, that’s really pathetic, I’ll try harder.
  7. After digging through my external hard drive for what felt like an eternity, I have located the vast majority of my knitting patterns and all of my knitting ebooks! I even found a bunch of missing yarn photos! They weren’t in my latest back-up AT ALL. They were hiding in a previous back-up, which means any brand-spanking-new patterns I might have had are gone. Luckily I think the only things I might be missing are a few club patterns, which I can easily get new copies of from the club distributors. Now I just need to figure out what’s missing…

How I Spent My Weekend (Hint: Technology Still Hates Me)

I have no news on the knitting front, because for the past several days I haven’t done any knitting. Instead I have been getting to know my new iPhone 5. The initial introduction did not go well.

On Wednesday we picked up our new phones from the Verizon store. My mother and I got iPhone 5s (hers a 16 GB, mine a 64 GB), and for a mere $1 my sister upgraded from her regular phone to her first smartphone – an iPhone 4. As soon as we got home we hunted down our Wi-Fi network password (I intelligently wrote it down for future reference – it’s almost like I knew it would be important later…), connected to our Wi-Fi network, and proceeded to download apps to play with. My sister and I both decided the My Little Pony app was our first priority, so off we went to play Ponies.

Approximately 8 hours later (yes I played Ponies for that long – don’t judge) I got a text alert informing me that I had used 50% of my allotted data for the month. Alarmed, I exited Ponies and checked my Wi-Fi connection on the phone. Sure enough it was no longer connected to Wi-Fi and had been using data to play Ponies for god knows how long. It hadn’t simply dropped my Wi-Fi connection though, it had entirely forgotten it. I had to re-enter the password and everything to get connected again.

After that I continued to play Ponies, but now I had a purpose. Every few minutes I returned to the home screen to check the status of my wireless connection. In the space of several hours I had to re-enter the Wi-Fi network password at least 3 times. When my mother came home from work she had to re-enter the Wi-Fi password too. Any time one of us turned off the phone and turned it back on we had to pull out that piece of paper with the password and enter it yet again. We checked in with my sister who reported zero problems with her iPhone 4 and cackled with glee at our troubles with our shiny new expensive iPhone 5s. Any time my mother or I complained her response would be to declare “Mine was a dollar!” while grinning maniacally. I think I deserve a medal for not punching her.

It didn’t seem to be a problem with our wireless network. My sister’s phone was working fine, my BlackBerry had worked fine the day before as had my mother’s Android. My laptop had no trouble connecting to the internet, neither did the Wii or the PS3. It was JUST the iPhone 5s. What the balls was going on? I Googled to see if anyone else was having trouble with Wi-Fi on their iPhone 5s and found that we were definitely not alone. Of course Apple has yet to actually admit to the problem, but thousands of customers can’t be wrong. Many theories about what could be causing the problem are floating around (including that iPhone cases are to blame which certainly doesn’t apply in our scenario since our cases have yet to arrive from Amazon), but the fact remains that the iPhone 5 seems to have trouble connecting to, staying connected to, and/or remembering it ever connected to Wi-Fi networks.

Since we bought our phones from Verizon we started by directing our calls there. The rep I talked to had heard about problems like this with the iPhone 5 and ended up connecting me to an AppleCare rep after promising to reimburse us for the extra data we’ve been using. The AppleCare rep gave us some homework to do so we could pinpoint whether the problem truly was the phone or if it had something to do with our wireless network.

We spent all day Saturday dutifully completing our homework. We restarted our router and modem, we turned off our phones and turned them back on, we turned off the wireless on the phones and turned it back on…no change. We then went scouting to see if other wireless routers produced the same result.

We went to Starbucks to test their free Wi-Fi. I played Ponies while enjoying their new Vanilla Spice Latte and was booted off their Wi-Fi no less than three times.

Starbucks

We went to Barnes & Noble where I admired their Game of Thrones display and could barely hold a Wi-Fi signal for more than a minute.

Barnes & Noble

We went to my boyfriend’s house to watch him brew up some homemade root beer for us and I was kicked off their Wi-Fi at least once an hour.

Root Beer

In every one of these locations my mother’s phone exhibited problems as well, but not nearly as often as I did. The problem was NOT our wireless router. When we returned home we re-entered our Wi-Fi password (now memorized) and awaited the callback from AppleCare to report our findings.

This time the AppleCare rep had new instructions for us: we needed to restore our iPhones. Seemed like an odd thing to have to do with phones that are only a few days old, but we complied. I followed the instructions for backing up the phones, restoring them to new condition, and then restoring the backups. The restore on my phone went smoothly. My mother’s did not. Her phone seemed to insist that the backup could not be restored without a valid iCloud email address…which she had. Oddly enough the few pictures and what-not that she DID have on her phone were restored just fine, the only thing missing were the apps she had downloaded. While in the middle of trying to resolve the weird iCloud issue the AppleCare rep attempted to put me on hold and hung up on me instead. He did try to call me back twice, but every time I answered nothing happened. When I tried to call the AppleCare number it said their offices were closed. So that ended that “helpful” consultation.

After all of that, there was still no change. We were still having to re-enter our wireless password any time we left the house or turned the phones off.

Several hours later we seemed to enter a new circle of technology hell when my mother’s missing apps mysteriously appeared on MY phone while it wasn’t even connected to the computer. WTF?! Surely this was iCloud at work, but how? We have two separate iCloud accounts…

Sometime during the chaos of Saturday we also discovered that our wireless printer doesn’t want anything to do with my MacBook. I can print stuff, but only if I plug the printer directly into my laptop. If I ever want to print things wirelessly from my laptop, or if we want to print things from our phones EVER, we need a new printer. Fabulous.

Sunday. A new day, with a new call to AppleCare. I once again had to re-hash the entire history of our phone problems with a new AppleCare rep despite having a case number (what the hell are those for if not to prevent having to re-tell everything?) and for added fun, before I even had a chance to describe the problems the rep tried to sell me additional AppleCare coverage. I told him as politely as possible to shove it. After listening to his helpful suggestions to try turning the phones on and off again and try restoring the phones and perhaps our wireless network was to blame I informed him that all of these things had been attempted and unless the Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and another household’s wireless was ALSO to blame, the common denominator here was the iPhone 5. Finally he conceded that perhaps the phones needed to be replaced and how odd that BOTH phones are doing this. He made an appointment for us at the Apple store (30 minutes away, mind you) and off we went.

Apple Store

At the Apple Store we had to endure yet another round of Apple employees trying to figure out how they can avoid replacing our phones. This time it was the added charm that the employee absolutely refused to accept that there was any problem whatsoever with the product, that our TWO phones were simply a fluke and all of those customers complaining ON THE APPLE FORUMS are just trolls. They were able to replace my mother’s phone right then and there, but since mine is a speshul snowflake 64 GB they have to order my replacement.

Knowing there were some oddities involved with restoring my mother’s back-up I brought my laptop with me so we could do the restore right then and there and get some help when things started to go wrong. Trouble was, when the iCloud backup started to go awry the “helpful” Apple employee proclaimed that his next appointment was here and just left us! Awkwardly for him, his next appointment was sitting across the table from us, so we got to harass him until he brought out someone else to finish his job. The next person was immeasurable more helpful, but we’re still a bit mystified about what exactly went wrong. At least now we have some work-arounds to use which should (hopefully) prevent it from happening again.

We returned home, mom with a brand new iPhone 5, and me stuck with my (4 day) old iPhone 5. We connected her new phone with to our wireless network. Then, holding our breath, we turned her phone off and turned it back on again. And we waited. And waited. And waited. We waited more than five minutes after it finished restarting and still it had not recognized our wireless network. She had re-enter the password AGAIN. Could it really be that all THREE iPhone 5s we have been in contact with are faulty? Or is it just ALL of them?

Among the rumors floating around the internet about what may be causing this epic Wi-Fi failure are rumors for how it can be fixed. One rumor that seemed to hold the most weight and logic behind it was that while the problem really isn’t the wireless router, that these phones really should not be so sensitive that they can’t interact with the majority of routers out in the world, perhaps they would have a lot less trouble communicating with an Apple router. Since it is an Apple product it would be beyond ridiculous if it wouldn’t work with an Apple router, and certainly they would have tested their product with their routers (though it appears that is where their testing stopped).

We barely had enough room in the budget to upgrade to these phones and running out to buy a $100 router was not part of that budget. Nevertheless, we were so desperate to make this nightmare stop that we had resorted to throwing money at the problem. Mom went out on a mission to find an Apple wireless router (pretentiously named AirPort Express Base Station cause it’s the fuuuuuuuuture). Online Best Buy claimed it was in stock at our local store, but of course it wasn’t. The Best Buy iPhone “specialist” then confirmed to her that the iPhone 5 had a serious flaw that Apple had not yet admitted to. The “specialist” also said that getting a new router wouldn’t help (and really, they are there to sell stuff, so telling her NOT to buy something is very telling) and that we would probably be better off returning the phones and getting something else. After taking a break to sob uncontrollably in the car my mother returned and ventured into the interior of the mall to visit “The Mac Store” to see if they carried this elusive AirPort Express Base Station. They did. After being reassured that it could be returned for a full refund if this did not resolve the problem she bought it and returned home.

New Router

I spent several hours swearing like a sailor while trying to get the router set up and finally triumphed. Once a new wireless connection had been established, mom turned her iPhone 5 off. We held our breath and she turned it back on. Within seconds she had a wireless signal without having to re-enter the password! I tried it on my phone, and same result! Finally, after 4 days, 3 AppleCare calls, a tour of local Wi-Fi spots, a trip to the Apple Store, a trip to the local Best Buy/mall, and $100 later we have a stable Wi-Fi connection on our fancy new iPhone 5s. And my sister STILL has zero issues with her iPhone 4. Hers was a dollar.

I will still be replacing my iPhone as soon as the 64GB comes in since my Wi-Fi connections during our field trip seemed to be about twice as unstable as my mother’s. In the meantime I am taking a break from wrestling with technology for a few days. I need to knit. And drink. A lot.